By Bonny Kant
January 4, 2018 will hardly be forgotten hastily by millions of people across Africa. That is the day the Aiteo CAF Awards was staged at Ghana’s International Conference Centre in Accra.
The International Conference Centre itself was constructed to serve as a melting pot for Pan-African activity, and has done so since 1991. On that cool January evening, the fact that the nations of Africa were gathered into the building, whether physically or remotely, was in itself symbolic and in some way fulfilling one of Kwame Nkrumah’s dreams.
On that day, not only were the new kings and queens of Africa football crowned, but there were a lot of underlying currents which made the event right in a number of ways. The music was right. The food was right. The speeches were right and underscored not just football, but ways to develop other aspects of African life.
In particular, the executive vice chairman of Aiteo, Mr. Benedict Peters painted a picture of an Africa whose youth were empowered enough to drive positive change on the continent.
Many at the event were surprised that Aiteo was sponsoring the event for the very first time considering what was on ground. Here are the things the emerging energy power house, Aiteo did right.
Tribute was given to African football legends
There was deliberate effort to highlight those who have won the African footballer of the Year Award in the past. Beginning from Abedi Pele Ayew in 1992 to Riyad Mahrez who won in 2016, care was taken to highlight the previous winners on the walls and branding paraphernalia at the event.
Before the presentation of the awards, the picture of every previous winner were flashed on large LED screens during the programme. Those pictures brought nostalgic feeling. When the pictures of Yekini, Drogba, Samuel Etoo were beamed to the audience, there was applause and a milk scream.
Care was also taken to involve previous winners in moderating the event, giving of gifts and other activities that took place that day.
Bringing together all nominees
Unlike in the past, the Aiteo CAF Awards brought together all the nominees across all categories. There were instances in the past when only the winners were invited to the event because of cost considerations. However, Aiteo gave a sense of belonging and a place to all nominees at the event. All female nominees were invited, unlike in the past. They all stood on the podium and were appreciated in one way or the other.
Local content in entertainment
The entertainment bore the hallmark of African culture. The dancers were dressed in beautifully coloured costumes that bore the signatures of African culture and designs. Entertainment came from across Africa. Chiefly from Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Congo.
In a certain way, the songs were used to spread messages about African beauty, values, struggles and hope.
Sponsors and players were brought together
This time the guests were a mix of people drawn from across African society. There were political leaders, past and present; as well as sports administrators.
Guests were drawn from the arts, journalism, academia, and footballers obviously. What the organisers probably put into consideration is that football is a game not just from the elite or players on the field or youth, but for everyone across divides. They therefore picked guests from across these backgrounds.
Guests met together to hear the story of football in Africa; how it is changing, its challenges, its prospects as well as the projections for the sport.
African football was projected to the world
Above all, the event served as a tool to sell African football to the world. Aiteo made an effort to beam the event to the world and by that token send a strong message across the world that “African football has come of age.”
More than 200 journalists were on ground, a number of them were drawn from global media power houses including the BBC, CNN, France24, among others.
There is no doubt that the multitude which was at the International conference centre was satisfied at the end of the event which lasted for less than four hours.
But in the next Aiteo CAF awards, one thing which should be given attention is the projection of those women who have broken the glass ceiling and projected themselves as female football legends in Africa. Their faces should also grace huge bill boards and speak to exploits they have done in eras past.
A sports analyst, Kant lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.