Nigeria Pitch Awards: 10 years of service to Nigerian football

In Nigeria’s eventful and colourful football history, the Nigeria Pitch Awards has attained the epochal status of the longest running and most enduring platform for the recognition of deserving  personalities in the country.

Since its maiden Awards Ceremony on November 16, 2013, in Calabar, Cross River state, the media and, indeed, many lovers of the game have described the Awards as Nigeria’s most credible, consistent and transparent sports awards ever instituted.

The Nigeria Pitch Awards, an initiative of Lenders Consult International (formerly Matchmakers Consult International) is fully endorsed and supported by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the Federal Ministry of Sports. The award platform identifies and honours present and past men and women footballers, coaches/managers, teams, administrators, states, governors, journalists and other key stakeholders in Nigerian football.

Its annual award ceremony attracts the superstars of the Super Eagles, members of other national football teams, the President and other top echelon of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), key stakeholders, corporate bodies and football fans across the nation. Award Ceremonies have been held in Calabar (2013), Kaduna (2014, 2015), Uyo (2016), Port Harcourt (2017), Asaba (2018), Lagos (2019) and Abuja FCT (2021 and 2022) and Uyo 2023.

Organisers identify the need to promote the achievements and values of Nigerian football and footballers; establish a football award(s) which will be widely accepted as a platform for identifying and rewarding individual talents in football in Nigeria; organise an awards ceremony which will inspire healthy competition among footballers and other off-the-pitch football stakeholders and highlight the invaluable contributions of other football stakeholders who make useful contributions to the success of our football as key motivation for initiating and organising the Nigeria Pitch Awards

The uniqueness of the award process has endeared the Nigeria Pitch Awards to football stakeholders and fans. Decisions on award winners are made by over 100 sports editors, correspondents, columnists, analysts and journalists from the print, radio, television and online platforms across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

The entire voting process is securely managed by one of Nigeria’s foremost indigenous accounting firms, SIAO Partners Limited. All votes are transmitted online directly to SIAO Partners’ online portal where a team of accountants and auditors collate, audit and verify the results before they are released to the media.

The names of top three highest scoring nominees in each category are announced at a Press Conference, while the nominee with the highest score is announced as winner at the well attended Awards Ceremony. This has earned the awards accolades from all quarters especially the media.

The process has been adjudged transparent and credible leading to the wide acceptance of award decisions and winners. Till date, no result on this platform has been contested..

Awards categories on the platform are Goalkeeper of the Year, Defender of the Year, Midfielder of the Year, Striker of the Year, Queen of the Pitch and King of the Pitch. Others are Team of the Year, Coach of the Year, the Sam Okwaraji Award, State with the Best Grassroots Football Development Programme, Football Friendly Governor of the Year, Best Corporate Sponsor of Football Award, the Football Pitch of the Year, Sportsmanship Award and the Football Journalist of the Year in the Print, Television, Radio and Online media. 

At the 10th Awards Ceremony, Victor Osimhen, the Napoli FC and Super Eagles forward sensation, made history as he starved off competition from teammate, Victor Boniface, Robert Mizo of Bayelsa United and Emeka Obiora of Enyimba International FC to emerge the Striker of the Year and King of the Pitch for the third straight year, making him the first player to achieve this feat on the platform of the prestigious Nigeria Pitch Awards.

Asisat Oshoala, the African Football Queen was voted the Queen of the Pitch ahead of Rasheedat Ajibade of Atlético de Madrid Femenino and Chiamaka Nnadozi, the Paris FC Goalkeeper.

The Awards Ceremony began with a very colourful, energetic and exciting dance display by the Akwabio Cultural Group. Leading the long list of dignitaries were Ibrahim Musa Gusau, President of the Nigeria Football Federation; Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, the General Secretary of the Federation; CP Patrick Ateyero, the CP Sports of the Nigeria Police Force who was standing in for the Inspector-General of Police; Nigerian Ex-international and the 1997 CAF African Footballer of the Year, Victor Ikpeba; CP Waheed Ayilara, Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Police; Mr Oluwadare Ojelade, a Director in SIAO Partners; Finidi George and the entire technical crew, all members of the Super Eagles present in Uyo, representives of MTN Nigeria, GTI and other nominees.

The NFF President, Ibrahim Musa Gusau, reiterated the Federation’s support for the Nigerian Pitch Awards while hailing organisers for the transparency and credibility displayed in the awards process.

Speaking on Nigeria’s 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualification on the heels of the Nigeria – South Africa qualifier match played on June 7, 2024, at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo, Ibrahim Gusau, while appealing for support and prayers, assured Nigerians of the determination of the Federation and the players to secure a World Cup slot.

Speaking on the awards process, Mr Oluwadare, the SIAO representative, stated that voting for the 2023 edition of the Nigeria Pitch Awards commenced on Monday December 11, 2023 and closed on Friday, January 19,  2024.

“The results”, he noted, “passed through three levels of scrutiny: They were collated and reviewed by a team set up specifically to handle this process … A second level of verification was done by another independent unit and thirdly ‘Quality Control’s Arm of the firm completes the rigorous but exciting exercise”.

Organisers also honoured IGP Kayode Egbetokun, the Inspector-General of Police, who pioneered the introduction of football as an event in the finals of the 14th BIPOGA in Ibadan in February, 2024. Also honoured were John Momoh, Chairman and CEO of Channels for the Channels Kids Cup initiative and Ibrahim Gusau, the NFF President.

In the Goalkeeper of the Year category, Ojo Olorunleke emerged winner ahead of Amas Obasogie of Bendel Insurance FC and Kayode Bankole of Remo Stars FC.

Ola Aina, Nottingham Forest FC and Super Eagles left full back was voted Defender of the Year to beat his teammates Calvin Bassey of Fulham FC who won it last year and Bright Osayi-Samuel, Fenerbahçe SK.

Alex Iwobi, in form Fulham FC midfielder, emerged Midfielder of the Year ahead of Wilfred Ndidi, Leicester City FC defensive midfielder and Al Hassan Yusuf of Royal Antwerp FC.

Super Eagles Manager was voted the Coach of the Year 2023 for his exploits while he was Coach of Enyimba International FC where he led the team to finish top of the NPFL league.

MTN Nigeria was voted Best Corporate Sponsor of Football 2023 as the brand saw off competition from GTI Financial and Nigeria’s sports betting giant, Bet9ja.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State was voted the Football Friendly Governor of the Year, while Lagos State emerged the State with the Best Grassroots Football Development Programme in the country in 2023.

The highly competitive Sam Okwaraji Award for commitment to the development of Nigerian football for 2023 went to Hon. Kunle Soname, the chairman of Remo Stars FC.

Below is the list of awardees at a glance:

  • Goalkeeper of the Year:

Ojo Olorunleke – Enyimba FC

  • Defender of the Year:

Ola Aina – Nottingham Forest FC –

  • Midfielder of the Year:

Alex Iwobi – Fulham FC

  • Striker of the Year:

Victor Osimhen – Napoli FC

  • Queen of the Pitch:

Asisat Oshoala – Bay FC

  • King of the Pitch:

Victor Osimhen – Napoli FC

  • Team of the Year:          

Enyimba International FC                

  • Coach of the Year:

Finidi George – Enyimba FC

  • Sam Okwaraji Award:

Kunle Soname – Chairman, Remo Stars

  • State with the Best Grassroots Football Development Programme:

Lagos State

  • Football Pitch of the Year:

Godswill Akpabio Int’l Stadium

  • Football Friendly Governor of the Year:

Babajide Sanwo-Olu  of Lagos State

  • Best Corporate Sponsor of Football Award:

 MTN Nigeria

  • Sportsmanship Award:

Hon. Kunle Sonamem, Chairman, Remo Stars FC

  • Football Journalist of the Year – Print:

Johnny Edward – Punch Newspapers

  • Football Journalist of the Year – Tv:

Mozez Praiz – Supersport

  • Football Journalist of the Year – Radio:

Anthony Bekederemo – Brila 88.9 FM

  • Football Journalist of the Year – Online:

Tobi Adepoju – Oganla Media