Nigeria Pitch Awards Will Compete With Ballon d’Or And Others Someday- Shina Phillips
By Taiwo Adelu
London, June 19, 2019 (AltAfrica)-Basking in the euphoria of Pitch Awards, the successes attained and the standard sustained in the last six editions, President of Nigeria Pitch Awards, Mr. Shina Philips, has predicted that the awards would compete someday with world’s top football based awards such as the prestigious Ballon d’Or.
The Ballon d’Or is an annual football award presented by France Football. It has been instituted since 1956.
To Phillips, who is also a FIFA licence players’ agent, the Nigeria Pitch Awards has continued to grow since its first edition in Calabar, Cross River State and between then and the last edition in Asaba, Delta State on Saturday, 8 June, 2019, the organisation of the awards has never deviated from its tradition, character and philosophy of its existence.
Philips told Alternative Africa in an exclusive interview in Lagos that “when you are doing something that stands out among others, you will definitely want to compete with others with the like minds around the world. For us at the Matchmakers Consult International and our partners, we believe we would grow Nigeria Pitch Awards into competing favourable with Ballon d’Or and other tops football awards across the world.
I want to say that Nigeria Pitch Awards will stand in the calendar of major awards around the world someday. We are a platform that decided to do things that will meet up with best international practice. This means we are open to scrutiny from any international investigation to ascertain the integrity and transparency of what we are doing. Nigeria Pitch Awards has what it takes to compete with the Balon d’Or of this world. Nigeria is the greatest among black nations in the world so we must be able stand out and do unique things that must meet up international standard. Nigeria Pitch Awards has become a unique brand and I strongly believe that other countries in Africa will want to go for this brand very soon
“In fact, I’m glad to say that because we have been able to sustain our core values of transparency, credibility and integrity in the last six editions, Nigeria Pitch Awards has been rated one of the ten best awards in Nigeria on Google Search and it has also been quoted on world online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.com. The Nigeria Pitch Awards is arguably the only audited awards in Nigeria. From the first edition to the 6th edition, we have the records of the voters and how they voted. These can be checked and are there for verification. We started with a British accounting firm and now we are with the SIAO Partners, a wholly owned Nigerian accounting firm, which has been in charge of independently collation of votes,” Phillips said.
Going memory lane, Phillips, who is also a security consultant and an international assessor for Security Watch Africa told Alternative Africa that he was inspired by God to organise the Nigeria Pitch Awards, adding that the idea had been with him for a very long time, until the time that God inspired him to bring it to reality.
“I grew up as a football lover and a player to a certain period. I also had strong background in Nigerian movie industry, the Nollywood. I later got involved in players transfer where I got a licence as a player agent with FIFA. I could remember that sometime in 2009 while in Italy I discovered the players transfer department of Nigeria Football Federation had a problem. It was not functional and to make matter worse, Nigeria was banned for two years from sitting for yearly players agent examinations by FIFA for alleged malpractices. While nationals of other countries sat for the exam, Nigerians were absence. I must confess, this really affected Nigeria and it was painful to me.
“I talked to some people in FIFA and back home in Nigeria I discussed with the management of NFF who saw reason in what I planned to do. This led to the first NFF/FIFA Players Workshop which was held in Abuja for two days. This was done with no financial assistance from the NFF. I solely sponsored it. FIFA sent representative so also was the British High Commission in Nigeria. It was well attended. The success of this prompted FIFA to lift ban on Nigeria and it also opened relationship and partnership between my company and the NFF.
“The relationship and partnership prompted me to bring to reality the dream of Nigeria Pitch Award. I got the NFF endorsement, which was the first of its kind that the NFF would publicly endorse a sports award platform in Nigeria. I must say that Nigeria Pitch Awards came to reality on the strength of the success of the NFF/FIFA Players Workshop.
“I showed the NFF the blueprint and I made it clear to the NFF that the body won’t have inputs in the organisation of the awards. These are inputs relating to the choice of voters, the choice of who wins and non interference with the voters. The only role the NFF played was the endorsement and I also told the officials that they can only recommend for recognition any outstanding officials within the NFF.
“I am happy to say that the NFF has not in any way influence us in the organisation of Nigeria Pitch Awards since inception. I have also received no financial assistance to package the awards since the first edition. The Nigeria Pitch Awards is independent of the NFF. I thank the NFF for their understanding since inception,” he said.
To Phillip, the journey of Nigeria Pitch Awards from Day One has been so challenging and adventurous.
“Is there anything that change from the first edition to the sixth edition we recently had? I will say no because the foundation was right from the first day. We did not grow to the standard, we started with the standard. In Nigeria today, the concept of awards is that you can get it with influence and money. But with Nigeria Pitch Awards, there is science to the organisation of awards. If we say it is an award of excellence for merit, then let it be meritable.
“The two characters of Nigeria Pitch Awards are credibility and transparency. These we have sustained and maintained since the first edition. Nigeria Pitch Awards is not an award ceremony where the panel of two to five people will decide who wins the awards, Can a panel of two to five people know the performance of Nigerian players around the world? The answer is no. We have put in place a painstaking process that meets international standard. The ingenuity and methodology of Nigeria Pitch Awards make it stands out from others.
“We look at the people saddled with the responsibility of looking over the professional life of these players on daily basis, watching them closely, holding daily discussants on these players, criticise and write reports on them without being emotive and biased. The people who fit into these are the media. These are the responsibilities that only the men and women in the media could do. It is their jobs to say the truth about how these players are performing in their different clubs across the world. The best way to get unbiased results is to partner with the media. The media are our voters. This is the respect we bestowed on them to determine who win the Nigeria Pitch Awards from the first edition. What we also did was to leave the nomination forms blank for the voters to decide who their choices are in each category with the first preferred choice getting five points. You can see that a winner that will be nominated as first choices by majority of our 100 voters, that person really deserves the honour.
“If we are after instant monetary gains, we would have made the awards fans base or general voting. By this, we would have partnered with one or two telecommunication companies and the money will start rolling in, but the credibility won’t be there again.
“We also look at it that Matchmakers Consult International should not be directly involved in how the winners are emerged or be part of the voting process, we should only play the role of a midwife. After voting by a college of voters, the auditing firm, SIAO Partners, would do the collations of votes from where the eventual winners in each category will emerge through the highest points scored. The auditing firm through the votes cast announce the three nominees at a media conference before the award ceremony, and on the award nite announce the winners. The college of voters consists of reputable names, seasoned journalists and editors who are not willing to compromise and our auditing firm is a company ready to do the right thing and ready to take responsibility should there be any error in any of the categories of winners announced.
“I can say that if there is anything that has not changed it is the character of the awards. What we are trying to improve on is those things outside this character. We want to improve on the ceremony of the award nite, but in doing this we won’t water down the credibility of what we are doing. Our award nite is always not up to one hour, It is strictly business devoid of all the unnecessary ceremony.
“In the area of sponsorship, we are having little challenges which I believe that will be taken care in a matter of time. Having put in our own resources and few other individuals who are not even in sports, the sponsors will come soon. Corporate entities who see the quality of what we are doing will surely buy in. We are looking for sponsor who will understand the process and not want to influence it because of their brands or products. The players themselves are ready to flaunt the awards with joy. You can see what the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifenayi Okowa did after he was presented with his award, he had to go on social media to flaunt his own award. It was not an honorary award, it was keenly competed for. What do you think has kept the Grammy Awards going all these years? It is the credibility. Apart from the players, we also have the media awards. What we did was to let the journalists decide their own fate. As a voter you can vote for yourself and be voted for. It is quite interesting and intriguing,” he said.
Outside the business of Nigeria Pitch Awards, Phillips told Alternative Africa that he had handled the transfers of notable Nigerian players such as the legendary Nwankwo Kanu, John Utaka, Apam Onyekachi, Simon Vazenkin and others, but the pitch awards has taken most of its time,” he said.
Phillips revealed that he is planning for other bigger things that will have the outlook beyond Nigeria. “We are working on Africa Pitch Awards, which will be a studio based event. It will focus on just five categories. We have another one coming up soon. It is called African Lamps Awards. The acronyms stand for Legends of Arts, Management, Politics, Science, Security and Sports. We have been on this in the last five years. It took us the fifth year for us to get the right logo for the awards. It is a six category-based award with 15 winners.
“Africa Lamps Award is designed to discover Africans who have through knowledge impacted not just Africa but the world. We want to project those sons and daughters of Africa who have through knowledge do exceptional things to affect humanity positively. We want to tell the world that we have something good coming out from Africa not the one of violence, disease and other bad things being displayed for the world to see about us. The solution of what is affecting us is in the hands of Africans and we still have solutions for other continents.
The major resource a nation needs to manage its resources is the people. We have first a resourceful people who have what it takes to manage our continent. Africa is not just a continent for some people to come and explore and exploit, but an enabling ground not just for tourism, but the ground full of expertise which can be imported to other continent as solution providers,” Phillips concluded.