Nigeria: Do Super Eagles Deserve Cash Rewards?

Published on 3rd March 2013

Super Eagles in action              Photo courtesy
Growing up in Nigeria, I thought that rewarding players should be a national responsibility because I thought that the world bowed to Nigeria for its superior talents in soccer. I saw Christian Chukwu as a president given his accomplishment in the sector. But then I came to US and observed the business of sports and how it impacts the economy of the local city where they are located and its overall contribution to national economic stats.
 
I am disappointed that the Nigeria government spoonfeeds the sports sector and every little win is reason for state and national dipping of hands into the treasury to 'DASH' money and embezzle as well.
 
If Nigeria is such a powerhouse of sports, its performance at the world stage has been dismal, only one appearance at a regular World Cup game - World Cup USA 94, no Olympics gold medals ever in track and field, Olympics gold for soccer in Atlanta 1996 - which is not much of a prestige for Olympics appearance.
 
If Nigerians are crazy about soccer, how come it has not mushroomed into an economic engine as a self-sustaining sector? It cannot because what plagues the leadership of the nation is evident in the way the sports sector is run - malfeasance and incompetence. In World Cup 94, I served as the Super Eagles Team Escort on behalf of FIFA, and had the unique opportunity to interact with the players and management. What transpired were shoddy conducts that it was a miracle Nigeria won their first game against Bulgaria in Dallas.
 
This latest win - AFCON, using the above underlined, not to burst your bubble, is not paid any attention in the world of sports economy given the revenue that accrued. It was not covered or reported in major media outlets worldwide, and Nigeria winning the champion against a little known country is like one celebrating a wrestling match against a handicap who has no hands.
 
It is rather insulting and callous/wicked that pensioners have to wait to get paid, civil servants have to depend on the benevolence of the federal and state leaderships to get paid, but soccer players who hardly contribute to national growth except the temporary insanity Nigerians indulge in when a game is won, are considered heroes. That is absolute nonsense but what does one expect in a country where anything to help escape the miseries are welcomed.
 
The Super Eagles should be taken off the national budget and be a self-sustaining entity. Carrying them on the federal budget is a waste and should by now be minimized. An oversight committee of a ministry may be appointed to assist them but no federal or state money should be used to sustain their existence. Within the crazy and potent 160m people, is a fan base that should be explored to help generate revenue stream for their existence. When they win a champion, the president may have them over for dinner and toast but no money should exchange hands. This idea of giving money to appease Nigerians is like bribery, that is why there is this huge sense of  ENTITLEMENT in the country. Everyone feels they are owed something for doing their job. Stop the nonsense. Even if they win the World Cup.
 
Nigerians are suffering and no section of the population should be singled out for reward. It’s time for sacrifice and not appeasement. Even if Nigeria were to win the World Cup, something I am sure may not happen soon, it will not wipe the reputation of Nigeria as a badly managed and administered nation.
 
Nigeria needs to get down to the serious business of doing what really matters and move away from all these celebrations. It portrays the world's most populous black nation as not serious - a banana republic whereby anything goes and in Nigeria it does.
 
What is the impact of Super Eagles winning AFCON on Nigeria's GDP? Answer, it makes the stock of NBL/Guinness go even higher as beer parlors are the ultimate beneficiaries. How much entered the federal budget as a result of their winning? Better imagined than described. It is more how much left the federal budget because governors and the president are undoing themselves doling out money, a lot which will never reach the players but will get lost in bureaucratic paperwork and then back to the governor's pocket as in PIMP - Put-In-My-Pocket' culture.
 
Since no one ever says their 'mama's soup is sour even when such stinks, the culture of temporary insanity and jamboree because of winning a non-descript champion that no one in the West accords 2 cents or makes sense of, does not do anything for Nigeria.
 
Nigeria they hail thee while the hell rages. May the Super Eagles win matches everyday, that is the wish of a lazy people looking for an escape from their misery. Winning feels good and there is nothing like it, but it has no collateral value when pensioners and civil servants have to beg to be paid.
 
Misplaced priorities are reasons why Nigeria is rudderless and the soccer craze aids and abates that.

By Ejike Okpa II   eokpa@post.harvard.edu
Dallas, Texas.


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