Opinion: How to make Nigerian football attractive in a digital age

by Temitope Adigun

Several years ago, most Nigerians were strangers to the advancing age of digitalization, especially that of the online; doubting their viability in a nation coupled with lack of knowledge of the internet.

It is baffling to notice that upon the drastic change in the technological system of the world, in which Nigeria is not an exception, Nigeria football continues to fail digitally. This now led to this one million dollar question a friend asked me one day as we were watching one of the Nigerian football league matches, “What do we really need in Nigeria?”

Rhetorically, my friend’s question in the context it was asked does not actually demanded an answer from me; it was a response to his view and probably all Nigerians, to the bad state of Nigerian football league which makes it less attractive to her citizens.

No doubt, football has been the only game that brings people of different backgrounds together, not minding their cultures, ethnicity, norms, values and beliefs. When football fans discuss soccer, a non-partisan or disinterested person will be amazed by the passion and gusto with which the fans argue. The fan try as much as possible to defend their team reeling out incredible match statistics, trophies won and names of players. You will think they are being paid but alas, it is a platform for purgation from stress and escape from their daily routine.

In regards to this, an average football-loving Nigerian can name about 10 teams in the English Premier League without stress, identify their various club jerseys and even go on ‘pilgrimage’ to the stadium of their favourite teams in Europe, but reverse is the case here for Nigeria football league because hardly will you find them having that same passion for the Nigerian League and its teams. What then could be the causes of this less-attractiveness of Nigerian football in this digital era?

Soccer pundits have criticized Nigerian football to less media coverage. We all know the role of the media in the European leagues and other western leagues. Even here in Nigeria; on radio, television and sports pages of newspaper, reporters prefer to report foreign leagues.

Surprisingly, on radio sports show, many so called sports analyst do not have information about the Nigerian tournaments compared to the unlimited statistics at their fingertips on European leagues. Without effective media coverage, the Nigerian football league will continue to decline. If the media can give as much attention as they give to European leagues, it will go a long way in developing the league.

It is aptly said that a good stadium attracts good football and this can be linked to the European football, which makes it attractive to the fans. These stadiums not only have beautiful playing surfaces, they also have side attractions like museums and other things that can make a tour memorable.

Despite the fact the League Management Company (LMC) has placed bans on some stadiums in Nigeria; this has not changed the face of stadiums in Nigeria. The state at which many of these stadiums are is nothing to write home about, the natural grass is not well nurtured. The LMC should support the clubs to upgrade these stadiums to make television complaint.

However, we can give kudos to the world-class stadium of the Akwa Ibom State (Nest of Champions) and having such stadium across the nation could further spur the interest of the general public and make it more attractive.

Another issue which needs to be address is that of the players’ welfare. The players are often owed salaries due to government bureaucracy and their responsibilities in other important issues of the state. This issue has been really neglected to the extent that it resulted in players going on strike.

Owing players is a great distraction to the league and if the league must be attractive, it is pertinent that government sell-out the clubs to private-individuals or organizations, which might bring effective management and structure to the league.

Lastly, concerted efforts should be forwarded to online presence of all the clubs in Nigerian football league. This will help sport journalists to access information to write their stories and also give a greater percent of coverage for the league.

Nigeria is known as ‘giant of Africa’, but these are just words on the lips, as our league has nothing to show for it.

Hopefully, things are going to be better and coming 2018 World Cup, we shall be celebrated as the real giant of Africa and the world in general.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

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