Pitch Awards Organizers Confident Super Eagles Can Achieve Great Things

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 *Osimhen, Oshoala, Sanwo-Olu, AITEO emerge winners of 8th edition

By; AYO OJESOKUN, Lagos 

President of Matchmakers Consult International, organizers of the annual Nigeria Pitch Awards, Mr. Shina Philips has expressed confidence in the present Super Eagles’ squad to go ahead and accomplish great things in the near future, despite the team’s failure to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals.

Philips insisted in Abuja at the weekend, that the present squad has all the qualities to succeed, including youthfulness, talent, zest, ability and enterprise. “The Super Eagles’ team as presently constituted can still win a handful of laurels for Nigeria. I see a team with so much potential and capacity to deliver. They narrowly missed the World Cup ticket but that does not mean we have a poor team. They only lost on the away goal rule and that is a technicality that can undo any great team.

“I want to respectfully call on all Nigerians to continue to support the team. The Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers are right here in a number of weeks and I am sure the players are eager to make amends.”

Super Eagles’ forward Victor Osimhen emerged the biggest winner of the 8th edition of the Nigeria Pitch Awards held in Abuja on Tuesday. The player, who was confirmed Player of the Month for March in the Serie A, emerged the Striker of the Year and the King of the Pitch, making him Nigeria’s Most Valuable Player for 2021.

Super Falcons and FC Barcelona Femení goal-poacher, Asisat Oshoala continued her dominance of the women’s awards category as she was named the Queen of the Pitch for the fourth time.

Welcoming guests to the annual show, Philips encouraged Nigerians to put the disappointment of the inability of the country to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar behind them and look forward to a better future with the Super Eagles.

He stated that organizers were not oblivious of the mood of the nation. “We understand that many Nigerians are disappointed but we wish to remind Nigerians that the nation has won many football matches and competitions and we ought to continue to encourage the players by rewarding them for their commitment, industry and display of talent in 2021.”

The ceremony, anchored by legendary Nollywood actor, Segun Arinze lived up the expectations of guests, players, nominees and voters. In the Goalkeeper of the Year category, Maduka Okoye emerged winner while Super Eagles Captain, William Troost-Ekong beat Nigerian team mates Olisa Ndah and Leon Balogun to win the Defender of the Year award for the third time. 

Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City FC was named the Midfielder of the Year and Victor Osimhen staved off competition from Genk FC’s Paul Onuachu and Leicester City FC’s Kelechi Iheanacho to lift the Striker of the Year award.

In other categories, 2021 League winners, Akwa United and Coach Kennedy Boboye were voted the Team of the Year and Coach of the Year respectively.

NFF 1st Vice President, Barr. Seyi Akinwunmi, emerged the winner of the Sam Okwaraji Award for Commitment to Nigeria Football. Continuing in her dominance, Lagos State again won the Award for the State with the Best Grassroots Football Development Programme as His Excellency, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of the State was voted the Football Friendly Governor of the Year.

In the media category, Punch Newspapers’ Johnny Edwards and Brila 88.9 FM’s Tony Bekederemo emerged winners in the Football Journalist of the Year (Print) and Football Journalist of the Year (Radio) respectively. Cecilia Omorogbe of Channels TV and Shina Oludare of Goal.com carted home the Football Journalist of the Year awards in the TV and Online categories respectively.

Among the major highlights of the night was the presentation of the Sportsmanship Award to the Inspector General of Nigeria Police, Usman Alkali Baba for his tactical use of peace overtures in fighting crime across the nation. Receiving the award on his behalf, AIG Hafiz Inuwa, the Force Secretary of the Nigeria Police said the IGP would like to encourage Nigerians to shake-off the disappointment of the nation’s loss of a World Cup ticket and focus on what the future holds.

Another interesting highlight was the presentation of the Achievement in Sports Award to business mogul, Sir Kesington Adebukola Adebutu also popularly known as Baba Ijebu. He was honoured for his contributions to the development of grassroots football through his sponsorship of the annual Sir Kesington Adebukola Adebutu Competition for boys and girls. The competition has been going on for 11 years.

Nigeria’s leading energy solutions company, AITEO won the Corporate Sponsor of Football award on the night.

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