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CAF Awards reveal Ahmad Ahmad's commitment to change

CRISTINA ALDEHUELA/AFP/Getty Images

Thursday's CAF awards ceremony in Accra was the first major statement by the confederation president Ahmad Ahmad in his quest to overhaul the African football governing body's longstanding traditions.

It wasn't a perfect event by any means -- there were the issues with the lighting, some confusion over the hosts, and a lack of social media presence leading up to the evening - but at least there's evidence that Ahmad's influence is being felt.

Last year, Malagasy administrator Ahmad unexpectedly supplanted long-serving CAF supremo Issa Hayatou in one of the most pivotal elections on the continent, and not just in sport.

Ahmad's electoral victory was driven by an agenda of change, a departure from the past, a severing of ties with the old way of doing things and a promise for a brand new future for African football.

In the months since that election, there has been a lot of 'motion', but little that can be classified as tangible movement.

However, when the CAF ceremony's longstanding sponsorship partner unexpectedly pulled out of their deal, it presented Ahmad with an opportunity.

Nigerian energy giants Aiteo were signed as replacements, and with former Black Stars captain Anthony Baffoe as the tip of the spear, CAF set about getting former players involved in Thursday's celebration.

In that attempt, there was as much cause for praise as room for marked improvement, although it's important to remember that these are still the tottering first steps of an administration starting almost from ground zero.

Didier Drogba was tapped to host an event where a big part of his legend was scripted, while four-time African Player of the Year Samuel Eto'o presented an award, as did 1993 winner Emmanuel Amunike.

Victor Ikpeba, winner in 1997, sat in among other dignitaries, and Noko Matlou, Africa's best woman in 2008, handed Asisat Oshoala her third trophy.

Ahmad has vowed to integrate former players into Africa's biggest off-field celebration - a failing of the previous regime - and he certainly succeeded at his first attempt.

He also included fans in the voting process, a more controversial decision which meant that - bizarrely - only one of CAF's final 11-man shortlist for the African Player of the Year award made it into the African XI of the year.

This, predictably, left CAF's communications department scrambling to spin their way out of self-inflicted harm!

As a first test of the delivery of political promise, Thursday night's celebration showed the good intentions behind the conception of ideas, but also exposed unflattering gaps between idea and execution.

Those issues were among the many failings during the organisation of this year's event.

Hollywood power couple Boris Kodjoe and his wife Nicole Ari Parker had star power but looked uncomfortable in the unfamiliar settings and harsh lights, while by contrast, Carol Tshabalala thrived, along with Drogba.

The Kodjoes were the ones holding hands as they anchored the show, but it was Tshabalala's figurative hand-holding of Drogba that saw the former striker blossom in his new role as CAF's face for this stand-out show.

Of course, there was some grumbling about the plethora of musical performances and the length of the entire show, but do CAF and their sponsors really deserve criticism for gathering some of Africa's top entertainers into one event?

Beyond the failings, however, this was a successful evening and did enough to offer hope for CAF's future under Ahmad's guidance.

We've been waiting for the new man to make his presence felt, but finally we're beginning to see his influence.

Bring on the 2018 Awards!