Former captain of the senior national football team Stephen Appiah has been honoured with the Order of the Star Award for his massive contributions to Ghana football at the third edition of the Calcio Trade Ball (CTB) held last Sunday in Accra.
The CTB is an annual awards ceremony organised by football agency Arthur Legacy in collaboration with the Italian Embassy in Ghana which aims to celebrate former and current Ghanaian footballers who have plied their trade in the various Italian football leagues for their contributions to Ghana.
On a night where eight awards were handed out, the former Juventus midfielder Appiah scooped the topmost gong - the Order of the Star Award - in front of an audience which included former and current national team footballers predominantly based in Italy and members of the diplomatic corps at a glitzy Italian-themed ceremony.
The citation which accompanied the award lauded Appiah for being the first national team skipper to lead the nation to its first FIFA World Cup appearance in 2006.
In his acceptance speech, Appiah expressed gratitude to former Ghanaian international midfielder Mohammed Gargo for pulling all the stops at the start of his (Appiah's) professional career for him to become a success in the Italian Serie A.
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Appiah who also turned out for Parma and Brescia during his stint in Italy recalled how Gargo feigned injury just so he (Appiah) could make his debut as a 17-year-old trialist at Udinese.
"I came in late in the game, the game was 1-1 and from 35 yards I received a pass and smashed in a shot and we won the game 2-1. Indeed after that day, I was signed by the club five days later," Appiah recalled.
Another big winner on the night was Richmond Boakye Yiadom, now with Chinese Super League team Jiangsu Suning who was named the CTB Football Icon of the Year after a free-scoring 2017-2018 season with former club Red Star Belgrade where he banged in 39 goals in just over a year.
Other winners on the night included; Isaac Coffie rewarded for his consistency with with Genoa in Serie A, starlet Brian Oddei - the best U-17 player in Italy- clinched the Rising Star Award for a 22-goal season with Sassuolo Youth Youth team while Kwadwo Asamoah former Juventus utility man and the most successful Ghanaian player to play in the Serie A won the CTB Community Service Award for his charity work with Ghanaian prisoners at the James Camp Prison, Roman Ridge.
The remaining winners were the Head of Mission of the Italian Embassy, Lorenzo Pinelli, rewarded for his contributions to the organisation of the CTB, Founder of Bechem United, Kingsley Owusu Achau who received a Lifetime Outstanding Achievement Award and Theresa Aboma, mother of Black Stars midfielder Emmanuel Agyemang Badu who claimed the Parent's Impact Award.
In an address, the Italian Ambassador to Ghana, His Excellency Giovanni Favilli lauded the over 100 Ghanaian footballers plying their trade in Italy for their contributions to the development of Ghana through remittances to their families.
Ambassador Favilli stated that the remittances of these footballers and other Ghanaian workers in Italy had made the country the fourth highest contributors of remittances to Ghana - $145million behind the United States of America, Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
He said: “The number of Ghanaian players in Italy is nearly 100 in all the different series. It is the highest number of Ghanaian football players outside Ghana, a fantastic number. Another number that I often give is the amount of money from Italy that goes back to Ghana, of course it is not only the footballers (who send back these monies). Italy is the fourth country, in terms of remittances to Ghana. The theme of this year is also a very important one. I believe Calcio football is also a sports that teaches you how to behave in life".