Expectations are high. The stars have arrived and everything is set for Africa’s most prestigious sports award, the Aiteo CAF Footballer of the Year Awards, which will see the continent’s best players rewarded for their efforts in the 2018 season.
Already, the stage has been set for the event, which will also see Africa’s best musicians and other artistes entertaining the audience at the Centre international de conférences Abdou Diouf (CICAD) to the best of African music and dance.
Two renowned media personalities, Isha Sesay and Aboubacry Ba will take the audience through the ceremony featuring the crème de la crème of football stakeholders on the continent. They are here to celebrate key actors who distinguished themselves in their respective fields during the year under review.
Before the awards, Africa’s top football legends, including Senegal’s El-Hadji Diouf and Habib Beye, Mark Fish of South Africa, Nigerian superstars, Austin Okocha and Kanu Nwakwo, as well as Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o will play a charity match in honour of former Senegal Captain, Jules Bocande, who died six years ago aged 53.
According to CAF Deputy General Secretary, Anthony Baffoe, the game is in line with the vision of the leadership to get more former players involved in the affairs of African football at the highest level and celebrate them for their efforts.
He revealed that the match would be organized annually in the host country of the awards ceremony with CAF using the opportunity to engage directly with the former players on issues affecting the game.
“This match to be played annually is part of the promise by CAF President Ahmad to get more of former footballers involved in the affairs of CAF.
“The legends must be celebrated and CAF is taking the lead with such matches for us to celebrate the role their have played in making Africa football better.
“This will also give CAF the chance to directly connect with the former players as their experience and expertise will be sought to improve the game in Africa.”
Among the contestants in the awards are reigning African Footballer of the Year, Egypt international, Mohamed Salah, his Liverpool team-mate, Sadio Mane of Senegal and Gabon’s striker, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who plays for Arsenal.
Salah, who was named the BBC’s African Footballer of the Year for a second time in December, won the Confederation of African Football (Caf) award last year. It was an identical shortlist with Salah emerging as the winner.
In the women category are two Nigerians, Asisat Oshoala, the reigning queen, and Francesca Ordega, as well as South Africa’s Thembi Kgatlana.
Oshoala has won the last two awards and three in total, and along with Ordega helped the Super Falcons win the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2018.
Kgatlana was the Most Valuable Player and top-scorer at the Nations Cup as Banyana Banyana narrowly lost out to Nigeria on penalties in the final.
According to the programme released by CFA yesterday, the awards will start by 7.00 p.m. Senegalese time and run till 8.40 p.m. when the winners will converge at the mixed zone to share their thoughts on the ceremony.