The 9th edition of the Nigeria Pitch Awards was held on March 24, 2023, at the Johnwood Hotel in Abuja. Despite the Super Eagles’ unexpected loss to Guinea-Bissau, the organizers of the awards ceremony were committed to staging the event, and it was a well-attended and colorful affair.
Victor Osimhen, the top scorer in the Italian Serie A and a key player for the Super Eagles, was named the King of the Pitch, while Asisat Oshoala, who has been in impressive form for FC Barcelona Femeni, was crowned the Queen of the Pitch. The President of the Nigeria Pitch Awards, Shina Philips, emphasized that one loss by the Super Eagles should not diminish the achievements of the players and the entire team.
In addition to recognizing the achievements of the players, the Nigeria Pitch Awards also honored local coaches, administrators, football sponsors, and journalists. The ceremony was attended by high-ranking officials, including AIG Aishatu Abubakar, the highest-ranking woman police officer in the NPF, and AIG Olukayode Egbetokun, AIG Zone 7.
Apart from the King and Queen of the Pitch awards, other categories included Goalkeeper of the Year, Defender of the Year, Midfielder of the Year, Striker of the Year, Team of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Corporate Sponsor of Football Award.
Francis Uzoho, the AC Omonoia Nicosia FC goalkeeper, won the Goalkeeper of the Year award, while AFC Ajax left-back Calvin Bassey emerged as the Defender of the Year. Alex Iwobi, who plays for Everton FC in the English Premier League, won the Midfielder of the Year award, and Victor Osimhen also picked up the Striker of the Year award for the second season in a row.
Rivers United, the NPFL defending champions, won the Team of the Year award, and their coach, Stanley Eguma, was named Coach of the Year. Barr. Seyi Akinwunmi, former 1st Vice-President of the NFF and organizer of the Seyi Akinwunmi Charity Foundation Mini-Tournament, won the Sam Okwaraji Award for commitment to Nigerian football for the second year in a row.
The awards ceremony also recognized media professionals in categories such as Football Journalist of the Year – Print, Football Journalist of the Year – TV, Football Journalist of the Year – Radio, and Football Journalist of the Year – Online. The Nigeria Pitch Awards has been staged annually since its maiden edition in 2013, and it is one of the few audited awards in Africa.
In conclusion, the Nigeria Pitch Awards 2023 was a celebration of the achievements of Nigerian footballers, coaches, administrators, sponsors and journalists. The event was a reminder of the country’s rich footballing heritage and the importance of recognizing and rewarding excellence in the sport.