I had always thought that watching football could be compared to drinking beer and said it a lot of times on my radio shows in Port Harcourt from Cool FM to Today FM and now Wish FM.
This is not a research topic and there will certainly be no empirical backing but I for a long time believed that the relationship between football and beer is symbiotic and I will explain.
Apart from watching in stadia, football is watched at home and in bars. In a bar, beer flows freely as you watch; there is also hardly a time when you watch football at home, especially with friends that a beer or two would not go round.
Then again, beer is sold freely at stadia all over the world, but that is not the point of this piece.
Certainly football is like drinking beer
I had always campaigned on the radio that there should be more fans at the stadium (in Port Harcourt) to watch Sharks and Dolphins (at the time) and now Rivers United and Go Round FC in Omoku.
And while the Port Harcourt fan is usually a spoiled brat who will not watch games unless the gates are thrown open, I often used to wonder how people can drink beer freely at bars but want to watch football for free.
At “pump price” in bars in Port Harcourt, beer is sold for three hundred naira per bottle or can (except Heineken and Budweiser who think they are a special breed).
At “black market rate” beer is sold for between five hundred to two thousand naira per bottle or can at bars in Port Harcourt.
I have also seen Port Harcourt boys drink beer (Of course I have been with Port Harcourt boys drinking beer) and the scene is never for the faint of heart.
So if a person can on a regular drink three to four bottles of beer in one outing why does that same person want a free two hundred naira ticket to watch a football game in Port Harcourt?
Is beer better than football? Why would you spend on beer and not on football? Even when the biggest brand, the Super Eagles are in town, Port Harcourt people, for example, do not want to pay one thousand naira to watch the game, unless they have a free ticket, plus transportation.
Yet these boys can spend loads of cash drinking beer for the fun of it (not even like they are celebrating the birth of a new child or acquiring a new job).
So my cry on the radio to Port Harcourt people had always been that they could spend two hundred naira to watch Sharks and Dolphins with ease if they drink beer at bars, but I seemed to be talking to a brick wall.
At least I get some validation
When you want to mention league venues that have massive turn out of fans, Kano, Aba, Jos and maybe, Enugu will be top picks.
However, it seemed the Enyimba fans stayed away from their last Champions League game against Al Hilal in Aba, leaving the club chairman, Anyansi Agwu to cry out.
He wondered why the fans did not turn out as they usually did and then he asked the question I had been asking for nine years.
“You call yourself a true supporter of the team and you do not come out to watch a match, an international match that has cost so much money to organise.
“It is just a token, a simple token. How much does a bottle of beer cost? If you go to watch a movie for two hours, how much do you spend? And you can’t get the same feeling,” Anyansi asked in amazement as he saw the poor turnout at the Enyimba International Stadium.
“People should understand and not think that football should be for free.” Anyansi added.
So it brings me back to my first postulation.
Should football really be like drinking beer?
Well, it should be used as a good example to encourage fans to come out and watch the Nigerian League and the football clubs in the country. Beer drinkers really spend a lot to feed their craving and tickets to watch a Nigerian League game costs less than a bottle of beer.
However, can we really make a case? In other parts, of the world, maybe we can use this analogy but I have studied Nigeria and Nigerian football for so long and certain things just do not add up.
If I want to buy a beer in Port Harcourt, I know where to go and I will get a beer. Same as you, you and you reading this. You know where to get a beer if you want to buy one.
But please, where do you watch Nigerian football or the league, if you want to?
National team games are hardly on television these days so what does a fan do? In the early 80s when I was in secondary school I watched almost every game NNB FC played in the WAFU Cup home and away and they were live on NTA. I also watched on television the likes of Benji Nzeakor at Sharks and Spartans, Barrass Orugbani and the rest on television, but these days we hardly watch our clubs play on television.
In the late 80s and 90s I would make my way to the Civic Center, now known as Sharks FC Stadium to watch League games because I loved football, but these days we cannot because there is no league to be watched these days, and you know what is most annoying? We do not even know why there is no league to be watched, so you know what we did? We took our passion somewhere else.
In Port Harcourt we focused on watching European football at bars whilst drinking beer and arguing loudly. We also focused on sports betting… of course, betting on European football where we can win money in return. We focused on things we were sure of, things that had a schedule, things that will not be postponed or had no regular calendar.
This year the league has failed to start and no reason has been given yet we are comparing beer to Nigerian Football? No, we will not! We will spend our time on things that will not disappoint us, like Beer, Sports betting and European Football.
Now let us really compare these things
A man and his beer are buddies for life. When a man is happy, he goes to his beer; when he is sad he goes to the same beer and when he is lonely it is the beer that keeps him company.
Remember, even in depression, he first goes to his beer. The beer is man’s best friend, even better than the dog.
Nigerian football is so inconsistent that a man depending on it will cut short his life. So how can you go to what does not exist, or what is inconsistent?
Dear Felix Anyansi Agwu, we were wrong. Football can never be like drinking beer. A beer or movie is always available to you when you want it or can afford it. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same of Nigerian football. We do not know where it is or where to find it.
The fans in Aba realised too late what the fans in Port Harcourt found out many years ago. Beer is more reliable than a Nigerian League match. The Port Harcourt fans moved on long ago. Fans in many other parts of the country are moving on. The Football writers are moving on too. The Aba fans are just late to the party.
We will drink our beer, you can wait on Nigerian football. We do not care any more.
Football is not and can never be like drinking a beer. Beer is available, but football is not.