BY AUSTIN FAIR NWAULU
In less than a week’s time from today, the current season of the English Premier League [EPL] will come to an end. Two clubs, Manchester City and Liverpool FC are already neck to neck in contention for the coveted and highest English soccer trophy.
Although there are football leagues in other countries of the world, the English league [probably on account of massive hype] has unanimously been voted as the best and most followed in the world. In Nigeria today, it counts first to many and surprisingly, not just to the youths.
The debates in some quarters that the Spanish La Liga or Italian Serie A and any other foreign league, equally attract attention but as much as the first for obvious reasons. Go to any viewing centre and what you see are more crowds watching the EPL.
Every country has a football league. Yes, and Nigeria is not left out. But how many people actually know and reckon with it? In Africa as a whole, South Africa comes first albeit it is not because the country plays better football than Nigeria. It is because the annual soccer shindig is better organized and hyped there than other places. Through the Multichoice network which owns the DStv and co, South African leagues are shown live on television. And even as the country is a late comer in the round leather game, it has become a threat to other African nations, including Nigeria.
This means that something is fundamentally wrong with Nigerian football. After all said and done, the story remains the same every year. There is no attraction in the first place. Security arrangement is zero and sometimes even match officials are killed or maimed; officiating is doubtful – a club rarely loses at its home ground; players are not paid as at when due while it is still not covered live on television.
Good food, of course, sells itself. The argument is that Nigerian league matches should be shown live, security seen to be guaranteed and little glamour with ceaseless hype added to it, for Nigerians to go for it. Otherwise, foreign leagues would continue to dominate.
Just when will Nigerians start leaving their homes hurriedly, abandoning other engagements, to watch a Nigerian league match at a viewing centre? Sounds funny, isn’t it? But meetings, church activities, etc are shelved to watch the EPL! Even key officials of the League Management Committee oftentimes dump their own league for foreign ones.