More than five hundred million people watched the UEFA Champions League final last week between Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich, a very conservative estimate.
When one considers that due to the COVID 19 pandemic, there was no football for three months and no one could travel to the venue or even enter the stadium, you would have expected much higher figures, so I agree that this is very conservative. You also have to be told that it is an estimate since the official television figures had not been made public a the time of writing this.
In Nigeria, may be, 5-10 million people watched the game, either at home on cable TV or live streaming, still at home, or some in hotels and bars.
Again, consideration must be made that viewing centers still remain officially locked by most state governments in Nigeria.
What were the television figures for the last Cup final in Nigeria? I think it was Kano Pillars v Niger Tornadoes… How many people cared? What would be the TV numbers when the Nigeria Professional Football League resumes and back on television?
Do you know why more Nigerians will watch the European Champions League and not any thing from Nigeria? Let me help you.
As footballers of Bayern Munich, I was sure they slept well before the game knowing that their performance would count. They did not have go and ask their captain to go and remind the coach and Team Manager that they had to see the referees before the game (Whatever that means).
As coaches, Flick and Tuchel knew that they could spend their free time working and reworking formations and tactics, rather than sit in the office of the sports commissioner to ensure that money approved for certain untoward things are paid for, sometimes even recommending themselves to pay it.
As a Team Managers, none of them travelled ahead of time to Portugal because they had been told that there was a particular group of area boys that they have to pay for them to shout for their clubs and at the referees.
The presidents of both clubs or chairmen also did not spend time calling members of UEFA and trying to fix nocturnal meetings with them asking for the right referees or a soft landing so they can win the Cup.
The fans were also rest assured that none of these scenarios would present themselves so they expected a good game which they got, but what is the case in Nigeria?
Now, I want to believe situations like these do not happen in Nigeria anymore, but how do you survive a bad reputation? How do people know that things are changing?
That argument in the bar
Those who are close to me know I am not a drinker but I love to hang out in bars. Yes, that is me.
One day, few years ago, I was in a bar or somewhere meeting friends and an argument or discussion started. There were Chelsea fans, Arsenal fans, Liverpool fans and Real Madrid fans and it was very heated. In fact there were fans of European football there and we just argued on and on.
One of the fellows there who was class mates with me in secondary school in the 80s turned to me, whispered, shaking his head and said, “But you know that twenty five years ago, this argument would have been about Sharks, Iwuanyanwu Nationale and Bendel Insurance?”
I agreed with him, then shook my head sadly, but I continued in the discussion.
Can we go back to where we used to be?
This is the battle I know we have lost and I fear we will eventually lose the war for the soul of Nigerian football.
We must face the fact that our generation is completely lost. Our generation, my age and those older are the current managers in banks and companies; they are senators, ministers etc. they grew up watching the Nigerian league but will not go back to any stadium in the country.
When you sit with them over drinks, they discuss great times they had watching Rangers v Vasco Dagama, Stationery Stores v Shooting Stars of Raccah Rovers v JIB Rocks, but they have never watched a game between, say, Rivers United and FC Ifeanyi Ubah… That is the lost generation.
We have lost the next two generations following us. The group between 20- 35 years old hardly even know that there is a football league in Nigeria. Imagine all the people, or half the people at various viewing centers watching EPL at our League venues? Those ones are gone.
The kids in primary school and early secondary school will never go to a Stadium to watch Rivers United or MFM because they do not know them.
My sons aged between 3 and 12 know almost all the players in the top clubs in the big European leagues but cannot name one player in the NPFL. We have lost them or are in the process of losing them.
Fix self first
At this point it will be very convenient to blame the League Management Company and say they have failed. You may right or even wrong, but I do not really care about that because that is not why I am writing this.
It is also more convenient to blame the Nigeria Football Federation and call them failures. You could also be right or wrong but it is also none of my business.
What have you as a football club done to make my son interested in you?
My sons have Liverpool jerseys, Facecaps, coffee mugs, flags and other memorabilia, but what do they have of Rivers United, Enyimba, Kano Pillars of Enugu Rangers? Nothing, because they do not exist.
I watch of EPL players take time off when they are not busy playing football to visit nearby schools, hospitals and homes in their areas to meet with the fans. There is quite a lot we can do to get the fans back. And please, by fans, I am not talking of the current criminals around home grounds for a purpose to ensure the home team wins by all means, I mean real fans.
The football mad country are just too excited to see European football back and will be hooked on the televisions and phones to follow it all, but are there those who care about the NPFL? What is the number?
For all that is bad about the NFF and LMC, it is simple that there will be change in Nigerian football the very day the clubs desire it. And not just the clubs.
The media is another group that have played big roles in pushing the young generation to Europe, but that is a discussion for another day.
Until then, let me go and pay for Compact Plus subscription on my DSTV so I can enjoy football on TV as European Football resumes.