Home to well over 200 million people, Nigeria represents the largest economy in Africa. Despite this, unemployment remains high in the country and a staggering 40% of the population found themselves living beneath the poverty line in 2019. Corruption, political instability, terrorism and poor infrastructure all combine to undermine the remarkable progress made in recent years.
As the most popular sport in Nigeria, football has contributed to this progress and continues to do so going forwards. Although many problems persist for everyday Nigerians, the beautiful game not only gives them something to cheer about, but it can also make a tangible difference to their economic well-being in concrete ways. Here are a handful of them.
Any successful footballing nation knows that the best way to achieve victory on the international stage is through funding the next generation of talents. City Sports Group is an organization which aims to train up promising young things and instill in them the values of hard work, respect and determination. The organization currently hosts hundreds of disadvantaged kids on a weekly basis, while in 2022 it succeeded in taking dozens of them to Europe to witness a different footballing culture and participate in trials at some of the continent’s clubs.
Sponsorship of talent
As well as pumping time and money into the Nigerian youth, football is also responsible for rewarding those at the very top of their profession. For example, chemicals and fluids company Eunisell sponsors the Nigerian football league’s Golden Boot. Every season, the corporation will pay 200,000 naira for each goal netted by the competition’s top scorer, with Chijoke Akuneto of Rivers United taking home 3.8 million naira for his 19 goals in the 2021/22 season. In the past, the award has even been shared by more than one individual, with both claiming the prize money.
Gambling has a lengthy history in Nigeria, with betting on football one of the most popular pastimes. Sites such as Sportsbet have proven to be extremely popular, which is hardly surprising given that Nigeria has an extremely youthful population which is comfortable using technology and finds itself in possession of more disposable income with each passing year. Since football is almost regarded as a way of life in Nigeria, it’s unsurprising that hundreds of millions of naira change hands through sports betting each year.
With more and more money being funnelled into grassroots Nigerian football, more and more young Nigerians are making the move to clubs in Europe and elsewhere. Nigeria might have the biggest economy in Africa, but the wages its clubs can pay pale in comparison to those found in the world’s top professional leagues. The diaspora are then able to send money back home to their families, thus creating indirect growth in the Nigerian economy as a whole.
Football is often seen as a unifying force which can bring people together, regardless of color or creed. In a country like Nigeria, where there are over 300 different tribes, that is all important in ensuring its economy pulls in the same direction.