By Michael McCann
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On Thursday night the Best of Africa (BOA) 2015 awards, in association with The Sports People’s Think Tank (SPTT), were held at Africa House, Miscon De Reya, to celebrate the achievements of African footballers.
Members from across the football family, including high-profile African players, managers, and coaches attended, all united by their commitment to positive change in the representation of Africa in football.
Awards were given to acknowledge the work of numerous individuals in promoting Africa within the game, with multiple current Premiership and Championship players amongst those present.
The awards ceremony was co-hosted by SPTT founding member, Leon Mann, alongside business and leadership expert, Rene Carayol.
Cameroon international and Norwich City centre-half Sebastian Bassong spoke of the events positivity in helping to spread wider awareness about the good work done by Africans in football.
“This event is important because it shows the world that we, as African players, are trying to get the best out of ourselves and that the work we put into improving on and off the field is not for nothing.
“Rome was not build in a day but step-by-step we are trying to make the world share in Africa and we are on the right track – it feels really great because it shows that we can all work together, and are all looking at the issue the same way.”
Crystal Palace and Democratic Republic of Congo winger Yannick Bolasie, who won the Baobab award for his fortitude of sprit through adversity, was thoroughly impressed by proceedings.
“This brings everyone together, it is the first time I’ve attended a BOA evening and there’s been a really nice feel about it – I cannot wait to attend more in the future.
“The awards were dished out to special people and everyone that is trying to do something for Africa in a positive way – it has been eye-opening.
“As I get older, I realise that I am not playing for myself, I am playing for Africa, and that can only be better for helping me achieve more as a man and a person.”
Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton, one just six black and ethnic minority first-team bosses in the Football League, said the event was vital.
“It’s a wonderful event and it pays tribute to a lot of the African players in the Premiership and Championship by the honouring the amount of charitable work, often in their home countries, that people don’t see.
“If people do not see it they often do not recognise it and with any type of foundation or charity it needs recognition and events like this are significant to spread the word.
“There are a few high-profile players that you sometimes hear about, but there are also those who perhaps have not reached those levels yet will spend their time, effort and money to help wherever they can.”
Former Manchester United and France striker Louis Saha, who won the outstanding achievement in business awards through his work with Axis Stars to helping players seek opportunities, praised the evening.
“When you have such a talented community and so many people doing well they need to be recognised for it – Africa has so much to offer and so much to achieve.
“This brings people together to discuss of how we can improve, but I am pleased with the amount of charity work going on.”
SPTT founding member and Cardiff City under-21 assistant coach, Michael Johnson, says it is crucial for the organisation to be an active presence at events such as the BOA awards to build long-term partnerships.
“It is important for the SPTT to be at events like this, which represent people from diverse backgrounds who have done well in their recognised sport, to give our thoughts and encouragement.
“The SPTT is built to represent the views of sports people from a wide range of diverse backgrounds, so we hope this partnership will lead to even more people becoming part of our movement.”
Best of Africa 2015 was organised by The A Plus Club, in association with The SPTT.
FULL LIST OF BOA AWARD WINNERS
Philanthropic Endeavour: Leadership – Yaya Toure
For Yaya’s work with the UN Environment Programme, FIFA’s anti- discrimination task force and European football’s equality network, FARE.
Philanthropic Endeavour: Advocacy – Odion Ighalo
For Odion’s work with charities in Nigeria helping young people, schools and widows.
Outstanding Achievement: New Female Player – Asisat Oshoala
In recognition of Asisat’s performances for Liverpool and Nigeria, which also saw her win the BBC Women’s Player of the Year.
Outstanding Achievement: Business – Louis Saha
In recognition of Louis’ business, Axis Stars, being nominated for Wealth Management innovator of the year.
Outstanding Achievement: International Manager – Avram Grant
For Avram’s achievements as the manager of the Ghana national team.
Philanthropic Endeavour: Community Action – Emmanuel Adebayor
For Emmanuel’s work with charities in Ghana and Togo.
Lifetime Achievement: Career – Eniola Aluko
Eniola has won the league and cup double with Chelsea and finished 3rd at the World Cup with England. Off the field she has shown leadership as a fully qualified lawyer and equality campaigner.
The Baobab Award: Yannick Bolasie
Yannick has represented his club, country and community with great distinction having risen from non-league level to international recognition on the CAF award shortlist and making the AFCON 2015 team of the tournament.
Lifetime Achievement: Career – Kolo Toure
For fortitude of spirit and inspirational professionalism through an incredible career with Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool and his country – Ivory Coast.