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Memories or Value: Does playing in Lagos hold any significant meaning to the Super Eagles?

Lagos is the spiritual home of the Eagles, and it’s time they return home.

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Isima, Odegbami, Amiesimaka, Lawal, Chukwu, Owolabi, Ogedengbe. Names that will forever be revered in Nigeria, especially among the older ones who witnessed what was a footballing masterclass in 1980. Nigeria hosted the 12th edition of the biennial African Nations Cup tournament, beating Algeria 3-0 in the final courtesy of two goals from the wing wizard, Segun ‘The Mathematical’ Odegbami, and a strike from the mercurial Muda Lawal.

Lagos was the darling of Nigerian football fans, and the Green Eagles, as they were called back then, could do no wrong in the eyes of the teeming crowd at the National Stadium in Surulere, swatting aside opponents with relative ease. In 2000, the love between Lagos and the national team would reach a tipping point. The scene was the National Stadium. It was the final of the Ghana/Nigeria 2000 and the date was 13th, February 2000. Victor Ikpeba, the 1997 African Footballer Of The Year had just hit the bar from the spot in a penalty shootout, with Rigobert Song hitting the winner in front of a stunned and silent Lagos crowd. Nigeria had come from two goals down but ultimately lost when it mattered most in a game of sudden death.

READ: Super Eagles will get $75k for every goal scored – Dangote, Otedola

Losing to Cameroon in 2000 was the final straw, as they had defeated Nigeria in the 1984 and 1988 showpieces, and it is one loss Nigerians tend to remember the stadium with. The National Stadium since that time has been a relic of the past, playing host to just exhibition matches. Like its next-door neighbour, the Teslim Balogun Stadium got renovated and played host to international tournaments, most notably the 2009 U-17 World Cup.

Many factors have been attributed to Lagos seeing less of the Super Eagles. This article highlights 3 of such factors.

READ: Cadbury renews contract with NFF as partnership deals hit $50 million

Derelict infrastructure

Successive governments have allowed the National Stadium, Surulere to go into a state of disrepair. It has become a shadow of its former self and with many stadia across the country, the Football Federation had decided that Lagos won’t be the permanent home of the Eagles, taking games to Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Enugu, Calabar, Uyo, and lately, Benin, mainly to allow other parts of the country have a feel of what it is like to host the national team.

The absence of a government-owned football team in Lagos playing in the Nigerian Professional Football League has also led to this, as there has been no express need for the government to spend so much on a facility that isn’t even state-owned, and without the potential to generate enough income to offset the cost of refurbishing it.

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“You can’t please Lagos fans”

The pressure of playing in Lagos is extreme and most of the time gets to the players. Even while winning, songs of scoring more goals fill the air, with the players getting restless and breathless all in the name of pleasing the fans. The fans are eerily quiet when things are not going the team’s way, and for a team that only plays periodically, the players believe the fans should do more to support the team. This has made the football authorities play ‘safe’ by taking the games around the country, with not enough time spent at a particular place to allow fans to start becoming entitled, which ultimately leads to undue pressure on the players.

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The question of economic value

From a financial standpoint, what really is the value of playing in Lagos? Is it sponsorship? The authorities can get it from playing in different places, as long as there is viewership on TV and other media. One would argue about game-day revenue, but the apathy from Nigerian football fans to Nigerian teams is well known. What is the prospect of playing in a big stadium when fans won’t fill half of it?

There is also the question of what bringing the Super Eagles means to the local community. While the excitement and buzz are unlike anywhere in the country, does it translate in kind to the local community in terms of revenue? Tournaments could help in this regard, and not one-off games.

READ: Lagos commences disbursement of N1 billion to tourism practitioners, to establish film city

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Final Thoughts

Lagos is the spiritual home of the Eagles, and it’s time they return home. However, returning must mean that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and not just a sentimental or emotional decision. If it’s the former, it would be good, but if it’s the latter, it may be a permanent break from a place that once held happy memories for everyone associated with the green and white.

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    Sports

    Jose Mourinho to earn £16m From Tottenham sack

    This means the Portuguese manager will now have earned a total of £79million from just being sacked throughout his entire career.

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    English top-flight club, Tottenham Hotspur announced its decision to relieve Jose Mourinho from his managerial duties and his coaching staff which includes Joao Sacramento, Nuno Santos, Carlos Lalin and Giovanni Cerra. He was sacked 17 months into a three-and-a-half-year contract.

    Tottenham Chairman, Daniel Levy said the following in an official statement from the club: “Jose and his coaching staff have been with us through some of our most challenging times as a Club. Jose is a true professional who showed enormous resilience during the pandemic. On a personal level, I have enjoyed working with him and regret that things have not worked out as we both had envisaged. He will always be welcome here and we should like to thank him and his coaching staff for their contribution.”

    READ: European Champions, FC Bayern Munich taps into blockchain

    The club’s recent poor run of form is the major reason behind his sack. It was also reported that he had lost the dressing room. Tottenham Hotspur has suffered three defeats in their last six games and was also eliminated from the Europa League this season by Dynamo Zagreb after a comfortable 2-0 home lead in the first leg of the game.

    When rumours were all over regarding Jose Mourinho being relieved of his managerial duties, it was said that his compensation fee will be too much for the club to afford. According to The Independent, it is understood that the former Real Madrid and Chelsea manager will receive a £16m compensation fee.

    This means the Portuguese manager will now have earned a total of £79million from just being sacked throughout his entire career.

    READ: Manchester United announces Q2 2021 financial results, as net debt increases to £455.5m

    Mourinho received a compensation fee of £18m from Chelsea when he was sacked in 2007, which is five years before he also received a £17.5m payoff to leave Spanish giants, Real Madrid.

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    Mourinho was appointed as Chelsea’s manager again, he received £12.5m from the Blues when he left the Blues for the second time in 2015. He also earned £15m from Manchester United when he was sacked in December 2018. He will also receive £16m from today’s sack from Tottenham Hotspur.

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    A £250 million yearly payout too hot to handle for Europe’s biggest clubs

    UEFA has vehemently opposed the competition, which would obviously threaten the popularity and relevance of its own flagship competitions.

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    The football world was stunned late on Sunday evening when the European Super League announced its formation, with 12 teams from 3 European nations, namely England, Spain, and Italy confirming their participation, with no representatives from Germany and France.

    The founding teams are AC Milan, Arsenal, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur. Three more teams will announce their participation before the end of the season while there will be 5 slots for qualifying teams.

    The clubs will play midweek fixtures while continuing to play in their national leagues.

    The ESL: A background

    The competitive nature of the leagues around Europe has meant that a number of top teams miss out on playing in the Champions League, thereby affecting their finances, as well as the ability to attract top talent. Teams such as Arsenal and AC Milan, will mostly benefit from this, as they have been out of Europe’s top competition for a while, although they are European superpower teams.

    The ESL offers a lucrative incentive: they won’t need to worry about qualification, which means that income is almost guaranteed. The Super League also offers a chance of regularly playing against the best teams on the continent, which will offer timely reminders on the gaps to the best teams, and also showcase in real time what needs to be done to close this gap.

    Different schools of thought

    The formation of the European Super League has been met with a lot of criticism by different sections of the football world, namely fans, pundits, the press, former players, as well as other stakeholders. The argument is that it favours the big clubs who will permanently be at the top table regardless of their final league positions.

    The other condemnation is that it takes away the excitement many small clubs enjoy from testing their might against the big teams. Gone will be the archetypal fixtures of “good” vs evil”, a scenario in which a modest club through sheer financial prudence can test itself against teams who have oligarchs in charge with an almost inexhaustible pool of resources.

    UEFA’s stance

    UEFA released a strongly worded statement about its opposition to the competition, which would obviously threaten the popularity and relevance of its own flagship competitions, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. A part of its statement, also signed by the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A, reads, “If this were to happen, we wish to reiterate that we – UEFA, the English FA, RFEF, FIGC, the Premier League, LaLiga, Lega Serie A, but also FIFA and all our member associations – will remain united in our efforts to stop this cynical project, a project that is founded on the self-interest of a few clubs at a time when society needs solidarity more than ever.”

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    What the clubs stand to benefit

    In its inaugural statement, the ESL said that the new tournament would provide significantly greater economic growth and support for European football, as well as include uncapped solidarity payments, which would be substantially higher than those in the current European competition.

    Although the amount was not specified, it is believed that the amount will be expected to be in excess of €10bn (£8.6bn) during the “initial commitment period.” The founding clubs have also been promised a further €3.5bn (£3bn) for founding clubs to “support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic.” The Covid-19 pandemic affected the revenues of major European teams who rely on matchday revenues to augment other income streams.

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    The potential TV rights from the ESL is also an attractive proposition, as it hopes to generate €4bn (£3.5bn) annually from broadcasters, with the founding clubs taking the greatest slice.

    According to SkySports News reporter, Kaveh Solhekol, the European teams which make between £50-70 million a year from playing in the UEFA Champions League could be making as much as £250 million a year in the European Super League.

    Final Thoughts

    It is believed that the European Super League will not see the light of day due to stiff opposition from different quarters, but the groundworks have been laid already. If UEFA doesn’t try to make the big teams, who are the top draw of the competition, they would just become more disgruntled. It might not happen now, but it would, eventually. The incentives are too many to gloss over.

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