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.