Super Eagles forward, Victor Osimhen, emerged the biggest winner of the 8th edition of the Nigeria Pitch Awards. The Napoli FC’s goal poacher, 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 scorer, Asisat Oshoala continued her dominance of the women’s award category as she was named the Queen of the Pitch for the fourth time.
The 8th edition of the Nigeria Pitch Awards Ceremony which started three hours after the World Cup Qualifier encounter between Nigeria and Ghana lasted until the early hours of the 30th March 2022. The gathering observed a minute’s silence in honour of those who lost their lives during the attack on the ill-fated Kaduna bound train on Monday 28.
Welcoming guests to the Award, Shina Philips, President of the Nigeria Pitch Awards, encouraged Nigerians to put the disappointment of the inability of the country to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier in Qatar behind them and look forward to a better future with the Super Eagles.
“Nigerians love football and always expect to win in every game, Philips said. Continuing, he noted, “The reality however is that every football match can end in a win, a draw or a loss. We will move on and become stronger in future. We have been champions before and will be champions again in future.”
Philips 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,” Philips concluded.
The ceremony which was anchored by legendary Nollywood actor, Segun Arinze lived up to the expectations of guests, players, nominees and voters. In the Goalkeeper of the year category, Maduka Emilio Okoye emerged the winner while Super Eagles Captain, William Troost-Ekong beat fellow compatriots, Olisa Ndah and Lean 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 starved 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.
Seyi Akinwunmi, NFF First Vice President emerged as the winner of the Sam Okwaraji Award for commitment to Nigerian 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 charted home the Football Journalist of the Year awards in the TV and Online categories’ respectively.
The major highlight of the night was the presentation of the Sportsmanship Award to the Inspector General of 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 Sport 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.