“It was almost unbelievable,” Fiifi Anaman says.

In 2018, writer and broadcaster Anaman was given an incomplete proposal for an idea called ‘Ghana Football Awards’ to develop, and in the course of his research, discovered that Ghana had not had a major football-specific awards scheme – or at least one that lasted.

It is what he refers to as “unbelievable”, “especially considering that football is one of Ghana’s major identities.” “It was almost surreal to realise the size of the vacuum we were going to fill,” he adds.

Anaman and a team of creative content producers, working with AE Mediacom, got together to birth the first-ever Ghana Football Awards, which was officially launched in May 2018 and had its first edition in July 2018.

“The idea had been at AE Media for years, but for some reason, it had neither been developed nor executed,” he recalls. “In January 2018, when I joined, I was due to take on my primary responsibility of hosting a show called Sports Xtra, but the show was on a break until March. My bosses asked my team and I to work on the Football Awards proposal in an attempt to keep us occupied, I guess.”

The work began in earnest. The proposal was ready by February, but if it was to happen in 2018, it had to be executed within the June/July window, to take advantage of the pre-season period which would see most of Ghana’s superstar footballers back home for the holidays. Given the short timeframe, the easy option was to procrastinate, Anaman says, but there was a prevailing sense of ambition and adrenaline to boot.

“We figured, if not now, when? We can always make excuses,” he explains. “So we decided to start from somewhere. I remember the first thing we did was to constitute a board that would govern the awards. We had to call industry people and pitch the idea to them, and then organize a meeting from there.”

Some people who responded to the calls were former Ghana internationals Augustine Ahinful, Abukari Damba and John Paintsil, as well as celebrated Ghana referee Alex Kotey. The board was chaired by the veteran sports journalist Karl Tufuoh.

Things took off, and before long, the launch approached.

“The sheer volume of funds and resources needed was daunting,” Anaman says. “We knew we could make mistakes and incur a lot of cost, but we saw the bigger picture of sacrificing to establish a tradition that would eventually become a major event on the Ghanaian calendar.”

This year, the scheme, which rewards players and other stakeholders within the Ghanaian football industry, returns for its third cycle.

The Awards features nine competitive categories – with honours for the Team, Goal, Goalkeeper, Coach, Future Star, Women’s, Home-Based, Foreign-Based and Ghana Footballer of the Year. The shortlisted nominations for each category is determined by the board, with the winners determined by an electoral college (consisting of journalists, coaches and captains of national teams and top-flight Ghanaian clubs) and the general public.

“A lot of people question why we empowered an electoral college with 80% of the determining power and left the 20% for fans,” Anaman grins. “Well, the idea is simple. Football will always be for fans, but the power to judge a footballers performance has traditionally been more suited to the game’s main actors and chroniclers – the coaches, players and journalists, especially journalists. Football’s most revered individual award, the Ballon d’Or, was actually started by and voted for by journalists, for instance.”

There are also three special awards determined solely by the Awards board – the Living Legend Award, the Thumbs Up Award and the Ghana Dream Team.

Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey has done a back to back sweep of the flagship Ghana Footballer of the Year Award so far, seeing off competition from Jordan Ayew in 2018 and from Mukarama Abdulai last year.

At each of the ceremonies, hosted at the Accra Marriott Hotel, invited guests have been treated to an experience ranging from an arrival (sponsored by Land Rover Ghana last year), cocktail, and a straight-to-the-point awards gala punctuated by musical performances (carried live by Kwese TV in 2018 and by Joy Prime last year).

“What made us believe we have something special going on was how well-attended the first edition was despite it happening a few weeks after the Number 12 corruption investigation by Anas,” Anaman says.

“Football is sacred in Ghana, and people love to see their heroes honoured. We are just happy to have contributed to creating this experience. It is neither for us nor about us, but about the beautiful game and preserving its essence in this country for many generations to come.”