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Igwe Thierry Henry, a visit and our fan culture






On the Ball

BY CHIOMA UZOIGWE                                         EMAIL:

Africans and indeed Nigerians’ behavioral patterns are like that of the biblical prophet that is not accepted in his own country. Every now and then we have foreign players visiting the continent, mostly on the invitation of foreign companies based on the continent or in pursuit of one thing and another.

Igwe Thierry Henry recently enriched the football viewing experience for all fans of the game regardless of team loyalties or nationality in Nigeria. He is Arsenal’s top scorer with 228 goals – This earned him the title “Igwe” (King) from football fans in Nigeria. He came on the invitation of Guinness Nigeria PLC.

Sometime in 2008, Rio Ferdinand of England, who led Manchester United to win both the 2008 English Premiership Shield and the Champions League Cup, was similarly invited to Nigeria by the Lagos State Government as a role model to inspire young ones for the Street Soccer Tournament that was organized by the state. Elsewhere on the continent, David Beckham, the former England captain also relishes the honor of having met Nelson Mandela at a visit to South Africa.

Evidently, the players that come to the continent on the invitation of foreign companies based here do so for obvious commercial reasons. Thierry Henry was here on the invitation of Guinness for obvious commercial reasons. The fans came out in their large numbers to meet him and this in turn created a large advertisement and publicity awareness for their products. This invariably boosts sales. Young people are also inspired by former superstar players. These players themselves earn a lot of money from these kinds of arrangements. This on the converse also translates into capital flight.

Be that as it may, from an economic point of view and in a continent in dire need of development, importation of anything at all including these football superstars if critically viewed, is a drain pipe that ultimately fosters the continuing reign of under-development. I am a great fan of football and very enthusiastic about the game, and I like footballers but we Africans proffer our diverse solutions every day on how to develop Africa. Nwankwo Kanu, unarguably, one of the most successful African players of our time, while assessing the idea of inviting Rio Ferdinand to a Lagos State Street Soccer Tournament organised for the youth  by the Governor Raji Fashola-led government at the time, said the purported amount used in flying in the Manchester United player to Lagos was a colossal waste.

Kanu, a UNICEF Ambassador, who was guest to Search and Groom and UNICEF at an event organised by the duo to mark the Children’s Day celebration, averred that taxpayers’ money, which was sunk into the venture of bringing Ferdinand to the country, should have been used to uplift the lives of the citizenry.

Why can’t we Africans learn to look inwards and celebrate our own? We do have footballers of international repute such as Kanu himself, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Austin Jay JayOkocha – and the list can go on and on – who have achieved a lot in the game on the international stage. These foreign companies that endorse stars for commercial purposes operate in our space and should be made took inwards to our own stars for whatever they want to achieve.

Charity always begins at home and this piece is also intended to be food for thought for our regulatory bodies.


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