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Sports awards in Ethiopia – a positive start

Sports awards in Ethiopia – a positive start

Besides competing in various renowned sports venues around the world it is a great privilege for sports personalities to get national recognition for hoisting their country’s flag high in these global events. Olympic and world championship teams in various sports disciplines are usually the ones getting most of the attention in their home countries. Such recognitions, however, happen following major sports events and depending upon the achievement of the entire national team in such events; not the performance of the individual athlete.

Nevertheless, there are award and recognition ceremonies which are more frequent and conducted by largely institutionalized sports bodies. Particularly, football fans around the world are very much attached to such kind of award platforms. Fans eagerly await the announcement of winners of these prestigious global awards, every year. Wondering who will be crowned as “world player of the year”, “world coach of the year” or “Best goal of the year”.

However, in the international football arena, specifically in European Leagues winning best player of the year award either in The Best FIFA Football Award, the Ballon d’Or, UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, FIFPro Player of the Year and few other awards carry a bigger weight.

Ballon d’Or is an annual association football award presented by France Football, a French weekly magazine with sports coverage from around the world. This award has been held since 1956, before it was merged with FIFA World Player of The Year (now renamed The Best FIFA Football Award), between 2010 and 2015, to form the most prestigious football award there is in the world—the FIFA Ballon d'Or Award.

On the other hand, in 2009, International Federation of Professional Footballers, commonly referred to as FIFPro decided to merge its FIFPro Player of the Year and FIFA FIFPro World XI (the best men’s team of the year) with with FIFA World Player of The Year making the FIFA Ballon d'Or Award even greater.

Michel Platini won the Ballon d’Or three times in succession while Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, took home, four and five awards, respectively.

Started by sports writer, Gabreil Hanot, the Ballon d’ or recognizes players and coaches who performed exceptionally in the previous football season. Football journalists hold an exclusive right to vote the World Player and coach of the Year, every year. Before 1995, only European players were considered for the Ballon d’Or, but later the award was expanded to include all players at European clubs and, in 2007 to all players around the world.

Nevertheless, the male player of the year is the highlight of the award ceremony, given annually to the player who is thought to be the best in the world. It’s a very special moment for players winning the annual award. Every year, it is a big time to know the winner for fans all over the world. At the end of sport competitions all media out lets are busy looking for vote for players comparing them in their playing positions and according to their performance in competitions.

Meanwhile, such kind of programs is very rare in Ethiopian sports. Actually, the Ethiopian football governing body, Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF), has been naming the best player of the season, top scorer of the year, best coach and best goal keeper of year at the end of every Ethiopian Premier League (EPL) season. Those players are not voted by fans only selected by experts. Elsewhere, Ethiopian Athletics Federation (EAF) also has been awarding gold medalist athletes with prize of money and plot of land.

Recently, some media organizations are providing such opportunities for audiences and fans to vote for their best player of the year. The recent award ceremony held at the Sheraton Addis Hotel was the first of its kind. The organizers, Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), honored best athletes and footballers of the years which they have selected based on the audience vote.

Nevertheless, this event was marred by controversy from the beginning. Following the announcement made by EBC, advertising to the audience that it has started to accept votes for the would be players and athletes of the year, the EFF responded with staunch opposition claiming that broadcaster does not have the right to hold such ceremonies. The Federation held that it would not recognize such events and that it would not like to be associated with the award ceremony.

Apart from the debate regarding the right of the broadcaster to hold such competitions, the federation was irritated by the timing of the event since it has already inked an agreement contracting another company— Nathaniam Advertizing and Event Organizer—to hold similar award ceremony in the football sector. According to reports, by the time EBC has announced the starting of the tallying process, Nathaniam has already started to send questionnaires to the public via SMS. This brought the two institutions (EBC and EAF) in direct conflict to one another and later promoted the EAF to boycott the award ceremony altogether in protest to EBC’s decision to proceed with event, unilaterally.

The nominees for “best player” of the 2016/17 EPL season were forward Salahdin Seid (St. George), defender Aschalew Tamene (St. George) and Dedebit top goal scorer Getaneh Kebede. On the other hand, in “best women player” category top goal scorer of women EPL, Loza Abera, midfield Senait Bogale and defender Woinshet Tsegaye (Dedebit) were nominated to take the title. Based on public votes, Loza Abera and Aschalew Tamene were awarded best female and male players of the year.

Meanwhile, male nominees for athletics include the 2017 IAAF 5000 meters World Champion, Muktar Edris, another 5k runner, Yomif Kejelicha and silver medalist in marathon in the same competition, Tamriat Tola. With regard to women athletes, the 10k superstar, Almaz Ayana, silver medalist in London, Tirunesh Dibaba and another 5k and middle distance runner, Sembere Tefere were three nominees. World 10k record holder Almaz and 5k champion Muktar were honored by the 2017 EBC award prize. Four of the winners were also award 75 thousands birr each.

During award ceremony EBC executive manager stated that the award will continue annually and the award also increases the interest of players to become competent and have a value to develop sport in general.

According to sports experts, the award program has a big value in terms of developing sports in Ethiopia. The only Ethiopian sport journalist who is voting in annual Ballon d’Or awards, Mensur Abdulkine believed that “Everybody have the right to award professional sportspersons in any way and these awards will encourage our players or athletes to be competent”.

Unlike Ethiopian footballer’s, Ethiopian athletes have had better recognition in several international award categories. So far, five Ethiopian athletes won the IAAF Athlete of the year award: Haile Gebresillasie (1998), Kenenisa Bekele (2004-2005), Meseret Difar(2007), Genzebe Dibaba (2015) and Almaz Ayana. IAAF World Athlete of the year award is organized by international athletic foundation of the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF).

Meanwhile, Almaz Ayan was nominated for Laures World Sport Awards 2017, among Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and short distance runner nine time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt. Bolt and Almaz have been named male and female world athletes of the year at the IAAF athletics Awards in 2016. Formerly, in 2015, the legend long distance runner Haile Gebresillassie has won the Abebe Bikila Award. It is annual prize given by the New York Runners’ club to honors individuals who have made a significant contribution to the sport of long distance running. The award is named in honor of the two-time Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia.