by Yomi Kazeem
Everywhere you look, sports is big business. The global appeal is clear to see when major events take center-stage and Nigeria is not left out of the frenzy. Behind the scenes, or sometimes as main actors in the show, these young Nigerians have set themselves, a class apart, from the rest and we can’t help but notice their sterling achievements.
John Mikel Obi is the most recent Nigerian footballer to win the UEFA Champions League after helping Chelsea to a dramatic triumph in May 2012. Undisputedly one of the mainstays of the Super Eagles, Mikel’s early potential when he won the Silver Shoe award at the 2005 U-20 World Cup was evident as he, alongside his team-mates, conquered Africa in February 2013. Many regard him as a future captain of the team and it is almost a certainty – if he maintains this level of performance.
Victor Moses: Nigerian coaches have a knack for trying to lure foreign internationals who have made youth debuts for other national sides to exploit a FIFA ruling that will see them play for the Eagles. So far, Moses has made the chase worth it. Shining at the African Cup of Nations in South Africa where he was arguably the best player on display, Moses outshone mega stars like Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure. A summer move to European Champions, Chelsea only underlined his immense ability.
Joseph Yobo: He may not have starred regularly at the Nations Cup but Yobo is still a big name in Nigerian sports. Since 1999, when he was part of the U-20 World Cup squad, he has remained in the team and has made his mark in Europe’s finest leagues including the Barclays Premier League and the French Ligue1
Yagazie Chika Chukwumerije is one of the very few athletes who are subjects of positive headlines in an Olympic year. Although disappointing at London 2012 Olympics, Yagazie’s bronze medal winning showing in Taekwando at Beijing 2008 will remain high on Nigeria’s list of Olympic highs over the last decade. In 2009 Chukwumerije was inducted into the World’s Taekwondo Hall of Fame in New Jersey as an Outstanding Male African Olympic Player and he continues to help the sport grow in Nigeria through the Chika Chukwumerije Sports Foundation.
Vincent Enyeama: A string of errors in qualifying games put Enyeama’s starting place in jeopardy but an injury to second choice, Austin Ejide ensured that Enyeama retained his place between the sticks and, when it mattered, he did not let the nation down. Conceding only four goals, Enyeama rolled back the years and reminded everyone why he has been number one since 2003. Also a household name in Israeli football, Enyeama was named the best player in the Israeli league a few seasons ago.
UK based Ayo Alli doubles as an agent for players in the Barclays Premier League and a sports entrepreneur. Ayo Alli has worked previously as Business Development Consultant for Goal.com in West Africa, where he was tasked with monetization of the huge amount of traffic from West Africa, especially in Nigeria via mobile to the international football website. Ayo’s ILLA Sports Media is set to launch a mobile social network for football fans called Gbamm! in August 2013.
Emmanuel Emenike: Not since the late Rashidi Yekini has Nigeria had a striker that could be relied upon for goals consistently. Russian-based Emenike seems the answer to that problem not least after sharing the Golden Boot award at the Nations Cup with Ghana’s Mubarak Wakaso. A certain starter at his club Spartak Moscow, Emenike’s move to one of Europe’s elite leagues is not a matter of ‘if’, it is a matter of ‘when’.
The first ever female FIFA licensed agent in Nigeria, Chisom Mbonu is one of the most popular faces on TV. As a presenter on SuperSport Nigeria, she anchors some of the biggest league games in the world and also finds time to perform other roles that have, at some point, included being the Media Officer of the female national football team.
As CEO of Elev8 Sports, Biola Kazeem oversees a sports media consultancy firm that sees him involved in sports content provision and production, sports marketing and sports PR for Nigeria’s leading brands. He has done editorial work for the official Manchester United magazine, One United, HiTV as well as the BBC World Service and most recently handled exclusive coverage of the 2013 Nations Cup for GTBank’s Ndani TV.
Samson Adamu is the son of former member of CAF and FIFA executive committees, Amos Adamu. Just like his father, Samson is involved in the sports business and is the brain behind the hugely successful Copa Lagos beach soccer event that has been a subject of glowing media reviews worldwide.
Age limit is 18 – 35