The Federal Government has congratulated Nigerian duo of Victor Osimhen and Asisat Oshoala for clinching the nomination for 2023 Ballon d’Or awards in the male and female categories, making Nigeria the first-ever African country to have nominees in both categories in the same year.
The Honourable Minister of Sports Development, Senator John Enoh, while congratulating the nominees today in his office in Abuja, stated that President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the entire Federal Executive Council as well as all sports loving Nigerians felicitate with them for becoming one of the few players from the country to have achieved the feat.
He informed that both players enjoyed an incredible year for their clubs and country with Osimhen, currently a leading scorer in the African Cup of Nations qualifying series, having seven goals. This, the Minister added, makes him the first male Nigerian footballer to be shortlisted for the award in 24 years, apart from Kanu Nwankwo who was the last Nigerian player to be shortlisted for the award in 1999.
Senator Enoh explained that the 24-year-old made history as the first African to be crowned Capocannoniere last season in the Serie A when he scored 25 league goals last term, beating off Lautaro Martinez of Inter Milan and AC Milan’s Rafael Leao to scoop the prize for the Best Striker in Serie A.
He noted that Osimhen also helped the team reach the quarter-final of the UEFA Champions League and was instrumental to the sealing of a ticket by the Super Eagles to the delayed 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
This feat, the Minister said earned the 24-year-old player, the accolade as the first African to top the Serie A scorers’ chart.
According to him, the Nigerian Sports Icon broke George Weah’s record for the highest goals scored by an African in the Italian league with the achievement, while the Napoli striker was the first from the continent to achieve the feat, adding that the player also won the Scudetto after scoring 26 Serie A goals (31 goals in 39 games across all competitions).
Senator Enoh stated further that Oshoala, on her part ,earned her consecutive nomination after a successful campaign with Barcelona Femeni where she won the Women’s Champions League.
Last year, he said, “she became the first African to be nominated for the Women’s Ballon d’Or and this time, she is the only African player listed in the women’s category.”
The Minister who disclosed that the 28-year-old was the top scorer for Barcelona Femeni last season after she notched 26 goals (21 league goals and five in the Women’s Champions League) in all competitions, noted that Oshoala was also instrumental to Barcelona Femeni winning the league title and the Women’s Champions League last season.
The nomination of the duo for the awards, he added, not only made Nigeria proud globally, but will also spur the present administration to invest more in the development of sports with a view to ensuring that the country joins the Committee of sporting nations.
While urging the Athletes to continue to make the country proud through podium finishes, Senator Enoh called on relevant stakeholders in the sporting industry to join hands with the government, not only for the purpose of the development of the sector, but also to ensure economic growth of our nation.
The prestigious ceremony for the final award is expected to be held in Paris on October 30, 2023.