Why Nigerians support Arsenal (It’s not all about Iwobi)

IN DEFENCE OF THE NIGERIAN ARSENAL FAN by Abel

I would like to clear the air regarding ‘Nigerian fans’ of Arsenal and the EPL in general.

Football is the most widely followed sport in Africa and Nigeria is no exception. The EPL is the most watched sporting event in Nigeria. AFC has arguably the most followership, with Chelsea fans being regarded as the noisy neighbors due to their recent success. Spurs do not really have many Nigerian followers despite boasting a Nigerian-born current England international, Bamidele Alli, in their ranks. Liverpool and Manchester United do have good following, thanks largely to their successful cup hunting history. Manchester City has a few followers as well but are referred to as glory hunters. Nigerians are fiercely loyal to their chosen club-sides and place the club above any Nigerian player.

EPL fans in Nigeria have to shell out a premium to be able to watch live EPL games at home on satellite TV as DSTV acquired the sole rights to broadcasting these matches in Nigeria and Africa. This TV monies trickle back to Sky sports and BT Sports, who use it to pay the FA for the broadcasting rights. This then forms the bulk of the huge TV money which keeps premiership clubs competitive. Nigerian EPL fans also regularly buy club merchandise as well.

Nigerian EPL fans who are unable to afford the monthly subscription fees to watch live matches, often resort to watching live matches in crowded bars and in ‘viewing centers’ for a token amount of money per match viewed. These viewing centers are often overcrowded, uncomfortable and stuffy with poor ventilation and dangerous as it is essentially large make-shift shanties which leak water from the roof when it rains. However, none of these factors seem to deter EPL fans as they are oblivious of their surroundings as soon as the game kicks off. Often times, heated arguments erupt amongst fans of different EPL clubs, and these arguments, are usually good natured and rarely result in violence. In this vein, it can be said that each fan contributes his ‘widow’s mite’ to the cause. [Editor’s note – A small monetary contribution to the church made by one who is poor.] Thus it is quite unfair for other Arsenal fans to call Nigerian fans armchair fans simply because most of them are unable to make the long and expensive trip to watch Arsenal games at the Emirates.

The earliest Arsenal fans fell in love with the Gunners during the Wenger era in the early 90’s due to the exciting pattern of play with talented players like Anelka, Overmars, and Bergkamp. The Invincibles run cemented that love. The acquisition of Kanu Nwankwo was merely icing on the cake. There were already some Nigerians who had played for other clubs in the EPL prior to Kanu. Players like John Fashanu (who famously rejected the chance to play for Nigeria), Efan Ekoku who played for Wimbledon (now Mk Dons), Daniel ‘the bull’ Amokachi (Everton), Celestine Babayaro (Chelsea, Newcastle). Other Nigerians who played in EPL are; Osaze Odemwingie (West Brom), Yakubu Aiyegbeni (Everton, Portsmouth), Joseph Yobo (captained Everton), Ugo Ehiogu (captained Middlesbrough), Austin Jay-Jay Okocha (Bolton), Gabriel Agbonlahor (Aston villa), Ahmed Musa (Leicester), Odion Ighalo (Watford), John Mikel Obi (Chelsea) amongst others. Presently, there are quite a number of players of Nigerian descent plying their trade in various teams across the EPL namely; Dele Alli (Spurs), Dominic Solanke (Liverpool, Bournemouth), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester), Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal, Everton), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Henry Onyekuru (Everton, Monaco), Ademola Lukman (Everton, RB Leipzig), Kelechi Nwakali (Arsenal, Huesca), Chuba Akpom (Arsenal, PAOK), Isaac Success (Watford), Victor Moses (Wigan, Chelsea), Kenneth Omeruo (Chelsea), Ola Aina (Chelsea), Leon Balogun (Brighton) Xavier Amaechi (Arsenal, Hamburg).

From the above, It’s clearly inaccurate to claim that Nigerian fans of Arsenal are mainly fans because of Iwobi, and would now support Everton because he transferred there. African and Nigerian players have contributed and have continued to contribute to the EPL and Arsenal. Likewise, Nigerian and African fans love and support AFC regardless of who is at the helm or the nationality of the playing staff. Let’s all support all our players regardless of their declared nationalities or places of birth. Let’s respect everyone’s opinion as we all have a right to our opinions are not bound to agree with another’s.

by Abel

Updated: August 16, 2019 — 9:02 am

55 Comments

  1. Iwobi is gone just let the boy be. We have a game tomorrow we should be worried about that instead we are worried about Iwobi, he’s no longer our player he’s an Everton player now, whether he score on his debut or don’t it’s no longer our business unless you really have some kind of hate on him.If you can’t wish him well at his new club the least you can do is let him be.

    1. The Article isn’t about Iwobi. The Article is about Nigerian Arsenal fans

  2. I see reason for this to be put out here Abel so I appreciate your time and effort to clarify our misconstrued fanship. Thanks my bro

  3. Anyone who support the Arsenal because of a player is a fool and anyone who thinks that some people support The Arsenal because of a player is also a fool, am French but have wanted the club to sack wenger who also happens to be French a very long time ago(8 years ago to be precise)why, because I know Arsene wenger doesn’t have anything more to offer this great club, he was good for the club but lose touch on reality so I wanted the club to sack him 8years ago.So if anyone thinks some set of fans support iwobi (who happens to only played2 seasons as a first team player for Arsenal ) then the person is a fool.

  4. Great article. No doubt that Kanu is such a mythological figure, a big figure. However good teams like Liverpool and Man City are, and they get great points totals, the Arsenal Invincibles had a certain something that it’s hard to replicate. Cyclically Arsenal produce amazing teams, Bertie Mee’s Arsenal, George Graham’s Arsenal, but none had the magic of the Invincibles. Even Wenger could not recreate the ‘magic’ and he tried for the rest of his managerial career. Kanu is now immortalised in legend and deservedly so. He had ‘the magic’, and will always be a ‘God’ and a ‘Hero’. A wonderful player.

  5. No no no! You’re wrong to say the signing of Kanu was merely icing on the cake, that’s an understatement of the highest order.

    It can be said that the Nigeria and Arsenal love affair started with the signing of Papilo. That was the tipping point!

    Today we have Chelsea as our closest rivals in fan base but it wasn’t always like that.

    The signing of Mikel Obi changed everything and their Nigerian fan base grew very big because during that period Arsenal didn’t have any Nigerians.

    When Iwobi started featuring for the first team more, this new generation Nigerian epl fans started supporting arsenal.

    Everton has never had a big fan base in Nigeria but I feel that is about to change very soon. With Iwobi they can grow and Arsenal influence here will diminish.

    1. Ok-so we will now look forward to ground sharing with Leyton Orient just because we sold Iwobi.And Everton will build a 200,000 seater stadium now they have bought anArsenal squad player.I don’t think so.

    2. You are such a bigoted and uncritical individual. Your fanaticism and love for Iwobi simply tells me you are his relative or enjoy a special relationship with him.
      I’m a Nigerian and I can tell you that apart from when he plays for Nigeria, Iwobi is rated poorly amongst Nigerian fans.
      If you truly live in Nigeria, can you tell me of a football fan of another big club who desperately wants Iwobi in his club?
      Iwobi never attained the height of a consistent quality player at Arsenal.
      I was sooooo elated and ecstatic with his departure. I’ve not seen or met an Arsenal fan who mourned his departure in Nigeria.
      Don’t create a wrong narrative that we all cherish and adore him for other Arsenal fans worldwide.
      My loyalty to Arsenal supercede that of any Nigerian player. Even Chelsea fans derided Mikel Obi when he didn’t perform well. Don’t drag all Nigerians into your prejudiced mentality
      Thank you.

      1. Only a fool will put a square peg in a round hole and expect excellent results.

        The lad was never a winger, don’t JUDGE him as one unless you are a f00l.

        Iwobi never got his chance at Arsenal but I’m very delighted he’ll at Goodison In his preferred position.

        1. Let’s see where Everton play him shall we?They have decent players in their midfield so it will be interesting to see who you feel will be either dropped or played out wide to accommodate him.My guess?He will be on bench at best.Pretty much where he would have been at Arsenal.

          1. Phil, No lets not even worry where or even if Everton play him. The reason? Cos he is gone. Nuff said!

          2. See you at the end of this season… I’ve a screenshot of this comment.

        2. Its very sad your choice of words (fool for instance) in describing anyone who does not share your opinion ?! I am 48 years old and I have been supporting Arsenal long before Iwobi was even born and I have friends who supported Arsenal back then till now. we have a legend in Kanu (both for Nigeria and Arsenal) who even more popular in Nigeria and Africa and I am not sure Iwobi will ever be able to step into his shoes so I can’t understand your obsession with Iwobi

    3. TH14. You are incorrect. Many Nigerian Arsenal fans (the older guys i mean) were already arsenal fans before the era of Kanu. While Kanu was an endearing factor, he was never a sole nor an indispensable factor. There are a lot of young Arsenal fans out there too in Nigeria who were too young to remember Kanu’s days at Arsenal yet, they are Arsenal fans today. I agree Kanu was an Icing on the cake.

    4. You talk trash my fellow Nigerian… I wanted Iwobi out of the club, not me alone but majority of the Arsenal fan in Nigeria… Saying Iwobi brought about Arsenal increasing fan base is totally trash… Arsenal have been in my DNA even b4 Iwobi was given birth too

      And with the level of his performance I don’t think any young Nigeria will want to imitate his style of play… Like we all did for Okocha ND Kanu

    5. Th14……..with respect mate, you really think Arsenal`s enormous fan base in Nigeria will diminish ?……………..we have some unbelievable youngsters coming through at Arsenal of Nigerian heritage who will be just as good and probably better than Iwoibi…….Saka for instance !………….get real mate !

      1. I’m goer butt in here … everyone knows my opinion of Iwobi
        But I will give credit to TH14 who as never brought racism into the subject matter .. like quite few who I won’t name .. I’ve always had a good joke with him and for a that I salute him ?

      2. Bros Abael I dey hail o, you see the problem is not the talent the boy has it in abundance but the so called English for fans because they were so disgusted that the boy choose to play for Nigeria instead of England at international level,had the boy choose to play for England you will imagine the kind of hype he will be receiving by now just look at Tammy Abraham, Iwobi is far more talented but just he chose to play for England look at the hype he is getting.bros Abel carry go na Dem go tire

  6. The great players who were the foundation of the eventual ‘invincibles’, and were perhaps the great entertainers, and Kanu himself laid a foundation that cannot be forgotten for the Arsenal who later would be the only undefeated league team of the present era . Nowadays a few magic footballers are around, Messi, Ronaldo and one or two others. But in a way Kanu was one of the first, with Dennis Bergkamp, and Marc Overmars, magicians who created the foundation for the later great ‘invincibles’.

  7. We support Arsenal because of Mesut Ozil, Mesut is the greatest player to have ever played the game, if you disagree then you don’t understand football

    1. Speak for yourself mate.. Carzorla,Rosicky,even Diaby and Alex. Song > Ozil in my opinion

  8. @Sean
    What a kind appreciation for King KANU. Bless you soul!

  9. Bamidele Alli was born in England and he just has a Nigerian father

    I doubt Iwobi and Alli can speak a Nigerian native language fluently

    1. Your last sentence is just some cliché, stereotypical thought.

      Lived in Nigeria all my life and can’t speak nothing bar English – not proud of it though. There are lots of people who find themselves in that same bracket.

      Just a side note

      1. Me too.. My brother

  10. Great article,very accurate.You could have also mentioned how an African Company is the shirt sponsor of one of the EPL teams(SportPesa from Kenya)Personally am from Uganda.Been following Arsenal from after UEFA Euro 96.Every 2 years i send for Original Arsenal Home and Away Shirts.I say Original because there are Fake Chineese versions on the market in this side of the world.The cost to watch the matches at home for me is 80Dollars USD per month,but the package also affords me F1,International News channels,other european leagues,entertainement etc.But i add an extra 10Dollars USD to get some of the Sports channels in HD and a PVR function.In all the 23years of supporting arsenal,i have only watched 3 live games.Once Champions league game in Portugal,One game at Highbury,one game at the emirates.I know i dont contribute much to the club week in week out,call us what you want,for us we are just enjoying the good game

    1. Glad am not the only Ugandan here

    2. Knight.. great comment ? We’re all supporters.. from buying shirts, to watching (whether live or on TV) we all do our bit!

    3. Im also sick of some on here calling us armchair fans when they live 2 mins from the emirates.Im Zimbabwean it just wouldnt make sense for me to catch 20hour flights just watch one game ,plus the cost is astronomical..
      Going to the stadium does not make you a better fan,you are just fortunate

    4. Some of those your subscription gets to the club. Why else do you think the TV rights of EPL is so high. 720million tune in worldwide, meanwhile UK population is 60m. Before the advent of satellite TV how much were English Clubs making?

  11. I first heard about KANU at an Olympics competition (cant remember the year)almost everyone in France followed that competition because we were one of the favorites along with Brazil, but we came third and the Nigeria team won the competition, I remember my father calling them the brave Nigeria, KANU was so good in that final when Nigeria defeated Brazil, ooh we had a great team then, the likes of Wiltord Robert pires makalele but still we couldnt win it and the Brazilian team were full of stars but Nigeria team still defeat them. KANU was really a talented player.

    1. Atlanta 1996

    2. That was Atlanta ’96 Olympics. We came from 3-1 down to win 4-3 against Brazil in the semis and beat Argentina in the final. Ultimately led me to pay close attention to Kanu from his move to Inter and subsequently Arsenal. I became a gunner ever since?

      1. Ah! aaah!@ Ladi
        Where were you in 1993 when King KANU started to use his football BRAIN and awesome skills to change matches at the U17 world cup.
        Where were you in his seasons at Ajax, when he made the winning goal assist for Pat Kluivert for his Uefa Champion league winner medal in 1995.
        Wish to add that Abel was accurate about how Nigerians were following Arsenal before KANU signed. Ruud Gullit and Cele Babayaro were playing football the way we used to see it in our various home clubs and Super Eagles. But just as Chelsea f**k Gullit up, Arsene came out from another world completely. So when Kanu’s famous 15minutes hattrick sunk Chelsea in that January 2000(or Dec 1999) every Nigerian started following le Prof,KANU and Arsenal.

    3. that was 1996

  12. who ever said Nigerians support Arsenal because of Iwobi is out of his mind. am a Nigeria but started supporting Arsenal when Dennis Beckham joined Arsenal and because of brand of football Arsenal played at that time. I am a Nigeria but I love Arsenal more than u guys over there. I am a gunner even in death not only for life. we are d Arsenal.

    1. Yeah mate,i am a Nigerian and we are the ARSENAL!!! even in death.

  13. I’m a Nigerian and a die hard arsenal fan,my love for ARSENAL fc started back in 2002,when i red through an article about the club’s history and foundation,simply because AFC was founded by a group of cannon making men,which is visible in the club’s badge making it more interesting to me,..But later to see a country man play for this dear club of mine cemented my love for arsenal,now even if there isn’t any nigerian in arsenal fc,it doesn’t change my love for AFC, i think I’ve gone too far to be shaken.
    #gunneriremaim

  14. Nigerians don’t worship Iwobi.
    Nigerians don’t worship Iwobi.
    Nigerians don’t worship Iwobi.

    Anyone spreading that false rumour is either his relative (may be sponsored by one), or does not have the ability to differentiate between quality and mediocrity!
    I find it hard that allegiance to Iwobi will supercede one’s devotion to his supposedly cherished club.
    NB: I’m a Nigerian.

  15. I never supports ARSENAL because of any player whatever his origin was or is but just for my pure love for the club.Missing Everton matches was no fuss for me as i had no much attachment on them but truth be told,i think i will follow them keenly this season to see how Iwobi plays and progress.

  16. i disagree with this suggestion that Arsenal fans especially Nigerians will leave Arsenal because of Iwobi departure to Everton,me am South Sudanese and do feel happy when see an African player in Arsenal squad but that is bonus.
    for real you may be sad when your best player is leaving but that will not allow you to support opposite side though it hurt,to be sincere we Aarsenal fans would joint United when Roben van perce or City when Nasir joint,Barclona when Henry and Csc Fabricas join

  17. Football should be about the polar opposite to nationalism, as should all civilised life in general. Apart from TH14, I have seen very little individual player fanaticism on this site from Nigerians just because their “loved” one is Nigerian. It cannot be denied though that many fans around our (jointly owned) globe DO seem to support a particular club because such and such a player shares their own nationality.

    This is where Arsene Wener was so forward looking and wise; in NEVER being a nationalist over any one country. The nearest he ever came to this was to say how much he loved English football in his adopted country. And just because he was born French there is NO reason why he should NOT say this. Prem football is, FACTUALLY, far more universally popular than is any other national league. In other words, he cared nothing for silly national boundaries and looked only at player ability. THAT PLAYER JUDGEMENT HOWEVER, is a separate topic which I will not get into right now. IN LIFE, ALWAYS TAKE THE WIDER VIEW, NEVER THE NARROW ONE!

  18. Great article, Abel… well done! ?
    Just for the record – 2 Nigerian friends I have, one is United, the other Chelsea! A lot of banter, I can tell you ?

    1. Thanks Sue. Felt I needed to put things in perspective and to correct some assumptions made about Nigerians on this site.

  19. The comments here make it clear that apart from th14 most Nigerian are arsenal fans 1st and not fanatics. The iwobi jabs will eventually disappear.

  20. Admin, you hit it with the way you analyzed how we watch football matches here in Africa, Especially Nigeria, Thats how we roll man!, we not watch it only in our parlor here. it kinda boring.
    The arguements, Crowd, noise here and there, that’s part of the enjoyment in it.
    About the issue of supporting our dear club, I have people that have been supporting Arsenal in the 80s, some during Ian wright period at Arsenal. But for me I started supporting Arsenal in mid 2000s and had never look back, sometimes I do forget KANU ply is trade with Arsenal. Gunner was a family Gene, cause most of my family member support Arsenal.

  21. Kanu is the real reason Nigerians and most west africans support Arsenal .I am from Nigeria and there are probably over 4 million Arsenal fans

  22. I’m a Nigerian, and the only moment I login to justarsenal.com frequently is during the transfer period. Always eager to see the new signings. I love arsenal not because of a player but as a Club

  23. I wish you know how obsessed I am about arsenal and Arsenal news daily, First phrase on my google every morning is “Arsenal news” then after reading the headlines then I go to the already bookmarks, kick news, just Arsenal , le grove, Arseblog, shewore, red London etc and I am a Nigeria and I can tell you more about Arsenal than what’s going on domestically in the country. I wish you know how excited we are watching every arsenal game week in week out … when when it’s COYG in UK it’s Up Gunners! Gunners for life

  24. I am a Nigerian and my love for arsenal started with a friend of mine Henry Onyekuru, now at Monaco, because of his undying love and too much talk for T. Henry and arsenal, I started supporting and have never looked back

  25. Andrei thats a pure lie, you can say KANU makes you support Arsenal, not every Nigerian, for me I don’t support Arsenal because of Any player, It our family genotype

  26. hmmm.. really nailed it Abel with the way we watch matches here in Nigeria,u also forgot to mention that if u don’t have 100ngn to watch full match u pay 50ngn for either first half of second half,in places without proper ventilation,a small fan for about 50 people,but we don’t care so far we can see our dear arsenal on TV,I don’t hate iwobi but never has iwobi been the centre of my love for arsenal..I started following arsenal in 2002,even I couldn’t watch matches outside the house because of my dad’s cane, back then at school we boys write out a list of prem clubs and start choosing the ones we love and promise to support it forever,lol I have a friend who still supports Blackburn due to that. but wen I went through the list I came across arsenal and my heart stuck,,it stuck and couldn’t leave,and dats where our love story began,I even pray to God to let me love my future wife as much as I love arsenal..so no player can lessen my love for arsenal.i even advocated for the sale of iwobi..mtcheew good riddance to players that only dance and can’t produce ..up gunners

  27. Sodje Samuel Baker

    Am glad that people are getting to the bottom of this to honest of my self I started supporting Arsenal because of Wenger 1996 because of what he was doing to this club I still have big book that I use glue any arsenal player into it and I usually buy an arsenal jerseys every season I have way back up to JVC so the love for arsenal is so deep though my father wanted me to support man it’s I remained with arsenal for life and death. Sorry my wife complains that I love arsenal more than her. One true supporter from Uganda.

  28. let us first of all try to imagine millions of Ivorians TOTALLY IGNORING ARSENAL now that PEPE has joined..

    Some foreign football leagues reached our TV screens in the past; Brazilian 1970s German 1980s and Italian early 1990s giving us a taste of the style and quality of foreign leagues.
    In addition, many Nigerians were already following English Div 1 football on BBC radio long before Nigerians started featuring.

    I believe Kanu helped to significantly increase Arsenal’s following in Nigeria.

    Remember Kanu was already a Champions league winner, Under-17 world cup winner and Olympic gold medalist before joining Arsenal…. he was effectively Nigeria’s biggest modern football superstar outside the class of USA ’94. YES, Kanu helped turn millions of Nigerians in the direction of Arsenal.

    Of course the popularity and power of EPL has kept fans rooted to their Arsenal seats long after Kanu retired. It is therefore reasonable to say that fans are naturally thrilled by the best players playing for their club regardless of nationality.

    It is also clear that many Nigerians are Fans of Real Madrid or Barcelona because of the exciting players these clubs are able to acquire ….. can’t remember seeing any Nigerians in these teams in the last 20 yrs.

    It therefore reasonable to say that you could argue the case both ways.

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