Africa’s most populous nation added another feather to its sporting cap on December 11, 2023. It was the night of the CAF (Confederation of African Football) awards, where Nigeria showed up and showed off. The country won many awards, including the major ones, breaking and setting several records.
Nigeria dominates the CAF awards.
On Monday night in the Moroccan city of Marrakech, Nigeria went home smiling with the most awards. The Men’s and Women’s national teams both won awards, pipping their fellow nominees to the top honours. In addition, the African Giants swept up the two most prominent individual awards for the best Men’s and Women’s player of the year.
The first award won for the country on the night was for the 2023 National Team of the Year for Women. The World Cup Round of 16 finalists pipped Morocco and South Africa to the podium. Then, Chiamaka Nnadozie won the Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year ahead of Khadija Er-Rmichi (Morocco) and Andile Dlamini (South Africa), a first for the Super Falcon’s goalie.
Victor Osimhen was the only Nigerian in the Best XI Men’s team, joined by Andre Onana, Achraf Hakimi, Chancel Mbemba, Kalidou Koulibaly, Thomas Partey, Andre Zambo-Anguissa, Sofyan Amrabat, Mohammed Kudus, Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah. Osimhen also won the Men’s Player of the Year, the first for the country since 1999 when Nwankwo Kanu’s took it home.
It was a remarkable feat, considering he led his club (Napoli) to their first league title since 1990, over three decades ago. On a personal note, the striker also won the top-scorer award in Italy (Capocannoniere) for his 26 league goals. He scored five more in the Uefa Champions League, where Napoli crashed out in the quarterfinals, scoring 31 goals out of 39 games in all competitions last season.
Three Nigerians made the cut for the Female’s Best XI: Michelle Alozie, Osinachi Ohale, and Asisat Oshoala. They were joined by Andile Dlamini, Bambani Mbane, Lebohang Ramalepe, Fatima Tagnaout, Linda Matlhalo, Refiloe Jane, Barbra Banda, and Tabitha Chwainga,Asisat Oshoala also won the most prestigious prize for the Women’s Player of the Year ahead of Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa) and Barbra Banda (Zambia). The Barcelona striker took home the award for the sixth time, setting an unprecedented record in the process.
Deborah Abiodun finished second in the ranking for the Women’s Youth Player of the Year. She was behind Nesryne El Chad (Morocco) and ahead of Comfort Yeboah (Ghana). It was Nigeria’s only second-place finish in the night.
Nigeria: Giant of African Football?
Overall, Nigeria had a successful outing at the CAF 2023 awards show, winning seven top individual awards — the Men’s Player of the Year, Women’s Player of the Year, Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year, one best XI finish for the Men (Osimhen), three best XI finishes for the Women (Alozie, Ohale and Oshoala), Women’s Goalkeeper of the Year (Nnadozie) and one team award for Women’s Team of the Year.
It was a historic night for the Super Eagles and Super Falcons as both teams made history. Osimhen won the Men’s Player of the Year, the first in 24 years; Oshoala won her sixth Women’s Player of the Year, the highest ever, and the Super Falcons extended their team win to five, the highest in history.
After the euphoria of last night, the onus would be on the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) to ensure both teams begin to enjoy a progressive environment for the sport to thrive. Over the years, both teams have suffered corruption and toxicity at the biggest stages, which cast a cloud over the NFF’s ability to lead judiciously.
Many Nigerians and general football enthusiasts hope that the historic event at the CAF awards will signal a new direction for football in Nigeria. It could lead to a total seismic shift on all levels of football in the country, from grassroots to the top. Then, Nigeria could be worthy of being called the giant of African football.
This article was written by – Bolu Ibosiola