For many years, Nigerian sports had to depend on foreign brands for all kinds of sporting and leisure wears. In doing this, Nigeria was also ceding to these countries the opportunities that came with the business of sports. None of these changed, until Africa for Africa (AFA) Sports started out in Nigeria years ago.
Recently on Nairametrics Business Half Hour show, Founder of Africa for Africa (AFA) Sports talked about how Nike’s rejection became the birth of an industry in Nigeria.
Ugo Udezue had come to Nigeria to establish the Continental Basketball League, (CBL) after spending 17 years with BDA Sports management in California. At this time, he saw sports as being “more about creating opportunities than just winning trophies”.
What he saw was the prospects of creating a whole economy built around the game – alternate relaxation options for workers who had spent long hours at work, and better opportunities for people to trade their wares and entertain guests during the games.
A major kitting challenge came up for the CBL, as most of the foreign brands did not seem to cater for the African climate. The kits and balls being used had been designed by foreign brands using their weather condition and environment as the guiding factor. Because of this, they could not cater to the needs of the Nigerian basketball players.
“The balls were not designed to absorb sweat and so the players kept dropping the balls. Even the jerseys and shoes had clearly not been designed for the African weather since we did not play the game in air-conditioned courts,” he explained.
When Udezue reached out to Nike to seek Apparel sponsorship for the CBL, he received the shocking news that “Africa was not in their plans at the time”.
This rejection, though a short term challenge, became the inspiration behind founding AFA Sports, done by Africans to cater to the sporting needs of Africans.
As you may well know, there were foreign companies sponsoring Nigerian teams at the time, making jerseys and other apparel. But because they were not producing these things locally, they were depriving the country of the opportunities and benefits which should have come with such ventures.
Gradually, Udezue and his team moved from the initial years of chaos and unprofitability, to growing AFA Sports into the biggest performing sports brand in Africa. The company’s products are now shipped to different countries.
In a couple of years, the dream started to materialise when AFA sports became the official apparel sponsor of the Nigerian National Basketball team D’Tigers during the Afro Basket 2017 competition. It was a major game-changer for sporting in Africa.
An industry waiting to explode
Manufacturing in Nigeria is often thought of along the lines or agricultural and industrial products, without much attention on the sporting and leisure industry. From jerseys to tracksuits, leisure wears, boots, balls, caps and others, there is a whole economy waiting to be explored.
“I saw sports as a way to create wealth. I realised that it was an opportunity to create jobs for Nigerians while meeting the need for football clothing, and for as long we keep sourcing these materials from the foreign brands, we will miss out on ways we could have used it to empower our economy,” Udezue said.
With these items produced locally at the factories and even exported to other countries, jobs are created for Nigerians. AFA sports, for instance, has three factories in Lagos state where it employs people to carry out its productions of sports and leisure wears.
Beyond saving Nigeria the cost implications of importing such products, the products are now being exported to other African countries bringing in some foreign exchange for Nigeria.
As Nigeria moves towards self-sufficiency, there is the need to pay attention to the sports economy and its attendant benefits. Much more than sponsorships, hosting games in local economy can turn the fortunes of small business owners in the locality, given them a wider market and increased income.
Top earning Nigerian footballers in Europe
Nigerian footballers are back in top clubs and earning competitive wages in European football.
Nigeria has produced some of the biggest and most talented footballers to ever played the game in Europe. Expectedly, this has come with immense wealth for these football stars, amounting from mouth-watering sign-on fees to handsome weekly wages.
Beginning in the 90s, football has been a path to riches for poor Nigerian boys like never before. Nigerian footballers like Nwankwo Kanu, Jay Jay Okocha, Finidi George, and a number of others left the Nigerian league for top European teams, where they went on to achieve greatness and immense wealth.
After a decline in football development in Nigeria, Nigerian footballers are back in top clubs and earning competitive wages in European football. This new crop of Nigerian-born football stars is generally perceived as a win for Nigeria, because not only are these footballers indirectly representing the country, they are also earning fat salaries that are almost similar to what top South American and European football talents earn. Needless to mention that a significant portion of these salaries earned by Nigerian football stars ends up being remitted back home ever so often. And this contributes towards stimulating the Nigerian economy.
That said, let us now focus on some of Nigeria’s highest-earning footballers.
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The highest-earning Nigerian footballers are:
1. Odion Ighalo (Manchester United): £125K a week
Recently, Ighalo transferred to Manchester United on loan from the Chinese Super League side Shangai Shenshua, becoming the first-ever Nigerian to play for Manchester United. Since his transfer, he has become a fan favorite with the EPL side, netting a total of 5 goals in 17 games for Manchester United so far. His weekly wages of £125K make him the highest-earning Nigerian footballer in Europe.
2. Victor Osimhen (Napoli): £96K a week
Just last month, the 21-year-old Nigerian football star, Victor Osimhen transferred to the Italian Serie-A side, Napoli. This is one of the most expensive African footballer transfers in European football.
Victor Osimhen to Napoli, confirmed and here we go! Tomorrow the deal will be completed for €50M + add ons to Lille. Osimhen is going to sign until June 2025 as new Napoli player. ✍🏻🔵 #transfers #Napoli https://t.co/4cHtH02uGr
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) July 27, 2020
Football Transfer news analyst, Fabrizio Romano announced that Osimhen would join Napoli from Lille, for the tune of €50 million+ add-ons to Lille, and he would sign a contract with the Naples side. This would keep him in Italy until 2025.
Osimhen is also expected to earn €5 million Euros a year (an average of £96K per week) in wages, image rights and bonuses which would make him the second highest-earning Nigerian footballer in Europe. This is a deserved fee for him after scoring 13 goals in 27 league games for Lille in the 2019/20 season.
3. Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City): £75K a week
The 23-year-old defensive midfielder joined the EPL side for a £17 million deal from Belgian club Genk and has become one of the most solid and well known defensive midfielders in European Football.
He has represented the Super eagles 36 times and may top the list one day as he attracts interest from bigger clubs in Europe.
4. Victor Moses ( Chelsea): £75K a week
Currently on loan from Chelsea at Inter Milan, the 29-year-old shares a spot with Wilfred Ndidi. He joined Chelsea in 2012 after he was signed from Wigan Atheltic. He is one of the few Nigerian footballers to win both the Premier League and a European title.
5. Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City): £60K a week
The FIFA Under-17 World Cup winner with Nigeria comes in 4th. He also won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup Golden Ball, which attracted the attention of Manchester City.
He made his league debut for Manchester City in the 2015-16 season and was sold 2 years later for £25 million to Leicester City. This made him the most expensive transfer of a Nigerian Footballer then, a record that was broken two years later by Alex Iwobi’s fee during his transfer to Everton.
6. Alex Iwobi (Everton): £50K a week
24-year-old Alex Iwobi comes in 5th place. He is a cousin to one of Nigeria’s greatest players of all time, Jay Jay Okocha. Iwobi started his career with Arsenal, making his league debut in the 2015/16 season. He played a total of 100 league games for Arsenal and helped the North London club secure the 2017 FA Cup trophy.
In 2019, he was sold to Everton in a five-year deal worth up to £34 million, signing a £50K a week deal with the Northern English club.
Chelsea Football Club owner sells gold mining stake for $1.4 billion
This could see the club have more funds for player transfers
Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football club and other investors have agreed to sell 40% of a stake in Russian gold mining firm, Highland Gold Mining for $1.4 billion to Fortiana Holdings Ltd.
It was also reported that Fortiana would offer the other existing shareholders of the firm the same offer of $3.94 per share at a 3.8% premium of the shareprice.
Backstory: This comes at a period of rallying gold prices as Nairametrics reported earlier that gold prices surged over $1,800 per ounce for the first time since 2011, as the year to date inflows into bullion-backed exchange-traded funds (ETF) have topped the record full-year total, which was set in 2009.
Gold prices also set a record of $2000 per ounce before dropping to just above $1900 earlier this week
The gold rally has made gold mining firms attractive for further M&A activity, as Fortiana Holdings, owned by Russian businessman, Vladislav Sviblov looks to enter fully into space with other firms eyeing up smaller gold mergers around the world.
Highland Mining directors have been urged by Citigroup to accept the offer as Fortiana says the deal would be financed through a loan from VTB Bank. Highland Mining firm as also risen with the gold rally as the stock price is up 47% year to date.
What this means: With the gold rally and economic uncertainty due to the global depressions caused by the pandemic, more gold mining firms are expected to be scooped up in M&A deals. For Chelsea fans, this could see the club having more funds for player transfers especially for a goalkeeper, as UEFA relaxed FFP regulations for clubs to afford players during the pandemic. Chelsea bought winger Ziyech from Ajax for a €40 million fee and also bought German Striker, Timow Werner for a €53 million fee from RB Leipzig.
Nigerian entrepreneur becomes first African woman to own a European club
Lusitano SAD is a Portuguese sports club competing in the Campeonato de Portugal.
Nneka Ede, a Nigerian entrepreneur has purchased Portuguese club side Lusitano Ginasio Clube, Futebol, SAD. A deal, which saw her become the first African woman to own a club in Europe.
According to the press release seen by Nairametrics, the club said, “After months of negotiations with different entities, an agreement has been reached with Mrs. Nneka Ede, a sports enthusiast and entrepreneur from Nigeria, a country filled with people as passionate and fiery about football as us and which incidentally share the same green and white in their flags, towards the transfer of the ownership of the SAD to the latter that will help us in our mission to take Lusitano to the next level.”
Nneka Ede in her statement, expressed excitement and hopes this deal will foster the great sporting relationship between the two countries.
She said, “I am excited about this opportunity and I hope that this new chapter will deepen the already great sporting relations between Nigeria and Portugal, continue with the rich history of Lusitano club and provide a pathway for young talent to develop and shine through.”
About Lusitano SAD
Lusitano Ginasio Clube, Futebol, SAD, also commonly known as Lusitano SAD or Lusitano de Evora, is a Portuguese sports club incorporated as a shareholding company since 2016 based in Evora and competing in the Campeonato de Portugal, third division of Portuguese football.
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Lusitano SAD is the result of the transformation in 2016 of the senior team of Lusitano Ginasio Clube, a well known and popular club founded on 11 November 1911.