The NFF-AITEO Awards Bring Together Big Men Them Way Pay The Game For 1994 And Many Around Africa As Nigeria Celebrate Football
It was a gathering of the biggest names in African football on Monday at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos where the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) rewarded its best ambassadors and associates.
Tagged, ‘The NFF-AITEO Awards,’ the event drew 18 presidents of Confederation of African Football’s member nations, legends of African football, including the revered 1994 squad, stakeholders in the industry, some states’ governors and sports journalists, as well as fans of the game. FIFA Secretary-General, Fatma Samoura (the first African/first woman to occupy the position), who was honoured with the NFF Order of Merit Award, was also present at the event.
Super Eagles’ stand-in captain Ahmed Musa and Super Falcons’ opposite number Onome Ebi took the big gongs at the second edition of the AITEO-NFF Football Awards.
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The event featured awards to the outstanding Nigerian footballers, coaches and fans in the 2018 season, with some of the country’s best musicians on hand to entertain the audience. But the highlight of the show was the presentation of the 1994 class of the Super Eagles, who have been regarded as the golden team of Nigerian football.
Members of the squad considered as the greatest team in the history of Nigerian football, were present, safe for their late colleagues that include Wilfred Agbonavbare, Rashidi Yekini, Uche Okafor, Thompson Oliha and Skipper Stephen Keshi.
In attendance were Sunday Oliseh, Austin Eguavoen, Uche Okechukwu, Peter Rufai, Aloy Agu, Austin Okocha, Edema Fuludu, Nduka Ugbade, Samson Siasia, Ben Iroha, Daniel Amokachi, Finidi George and Mutiu Adepoju.
Mike Emenalo, Victor Ikpeba, Chidi Nwanu, Efan Ekoku, Emeka Ezeugo and Emmanuel Amuneke were unavoidably absent.
The stars, with Sunday Oliseh and Austin Eguavoen as their front men, took the audience back to memory lane, regaling them on what made the team one solid structure. But it was Eguavoen’s emotional plea to the Federal Government that got a rousing applause from the crowd.
The zolex recalls that at the end of the Tunisia 1994 African Nations Cup, which the Super Eagles won, the then Federal Government led by Gen. Sani Abacha had promised to reward every member of the team with a house each in Abuja. But while some of the players have received theirs, Eguavoen said some of his teammates were yet to receive their houses own 25 years after.
Lamenting the effects of the failed promise on the psyche of the players, Eguavoen said: “NFF should please help us talk to the right quarter in government to release those houses for our members who are yet to get theirs.
“Five of our colleagues have died. Rashidi Yekini, Uche Okafor, Thompson Oliha, Wilfred Agbonavbare, and Stephen Keshi are no more with us. We don’t want their labour to be in vain.
“If any one of our dead colleagues is yet to get the house before he died, they have children they left behind. Let them get the houses.”
He pointed at the stanza of the national anthem, which preaches ‘the labour of our heroes past shall not be in vain,’ to strengthen his plea.
Oliseh revealed that the group of 1994 has a planned reunion slated for this month.
Earlier, NFF President and First Vice President of CAF, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, once more eulogised the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for providing the conducive environment for football to thrive and for total support for the NFF and the various national teams, while calling on Nigeria’s other billionaires and well-heeled companies to emulate AITEO Group and boost the development of football in Nigeria.
AITEO is the Official Optimum Partner of the NFF and sponsors of the Federation Cup. It also bankrolls the yearly African Football Awards organised by CAF. Its team on Monday night was led by Deputy Managing Director, Mr. Francis Peters and included the Executive Director, Mr. Andrew Onyearu.