Football As A Poverty Alleviation Scheme in Nigeria
Despite football being a recreational sport to some individuals, it has changed the lives of many Nigerians in the past and it’s still doing so till date.
●12th January 2023
One of the most popular sports in the world is regarded to be football. It is true that football enthusiasts from all over the world are constantly thrilled when a tournament or league is in session due to its exhilarating gameplay. Today, this sport has captured the attention of many nations. This explains why there are so many football athletes in the world. Nigeria is one of the nations that enjoys football. It is even thought to be our national sport. According to early reports, the Hope Waddell Training Institution and the crew of the British gunboat HMS Thistle played the first-ever game of football. The Nigerians triumphed in this game in June 1904 by a score of 3-2.
Football clubs also began to develop in the nation in 1906. Nigerian football players have excelled on the field. Locals have been introduced to brilliant athletes through witnessing innumerable national team or Nigeria Professional Football League games, where they made their reputations with their exceptional athleticism and sportsmanship.
Since the introduction of the round leather game to Nigeria, it has been taken as a profession. Despite football being a recreational sport to some individuals, it has changed the lives of many Nigerians in the past and it’s still doing so till date. Footballers here get paid for their services on a weekly and monthly basis based on their contracts clubs. In 2014, the Nigeria Professional Football League had resolved a minimum wage of ₦150,000 for players in the league, while the NPFL Club Owners Association promised to comply.
In an exclusive interview with Bendel Insurance attacker Ebenezer Odeyemi, he highlighted the importance of football in his life: “I thank God for football, you and I know that football is business. It’s a business that everyone is looking for money.”
“The Nigeria football salary scheme to me varies, you know there are some teams like Rivers United, Akwa United and Kano Pillars who pay their players in a different way. Teams in the North do not pay like eastern and southern counterparts. I’ll not say the money is enough and I’ll not say it’s not okay. For me, I thank God the money has sustained me a lot and I thank God for that.”
The plethora of talents in Nigeria has seen many of our stars get signed by top European clubs and modest clubs outside the continent of Africa. One thing that is evident here is the mammoth remuneration gotten by the players. Also speaking with Bounce Sports, Anas Yusuf of Nasarawa United claimed that he’s only interested in football due to the financial gains in it.
“Sincerely speaking, I’m playing for money. Without money I don’t think I will play football. Football has helped me alot. With the kind of salary I’m receiving now I achieve a lot, most especially for my family.”
Taking into consideration that not everyone will play for top division clubs, the average annual salary for a footballer in Europe is €84,000 after tax. This kind of salary structure is mostly seen in clubs that aren’t doing so well financially.
However, players in Nigeria these days do not care about the leagues and clubs they play for. All that concerns many average footballer or aspiring professional footballer is to get paid the amount of money that will take him/her out of penury. According to Nigerian Stats, 63% of persons living within Nigeria (133 million people) are multidimensionally poor. The National MPI is 0.257, indicating that poor people in Nigeria experience just over one-quarter of all possible deprivations. 65% of the poor (86 million people) live in the North, while 35% (nearly 47 million) live in the South.
However, football is now seen as a way of escaping hunger and poverty overall. Nigerian star Odion Ighalo in an interview with NFF TV in 2022 talked about the importance of money to a regular Nigerian footballer.
“In the end, we play this football for money. Even though you’ve ten million trophies, you can’t use that to go and buy food in the market.”
This statement puts an end to the talks about Nigerian footballers picking financial gains over joining a top club or a club playing in recognized leagues. Ighalo himself was criticized for leaving Watford in England for a club in the Chinese Super League.