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Editorials, Sports

NPFL Struggles as Nigerian Footballers Seek Greener Pastures Abroad

The Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL), gets abandoned for lucrative contracts in obscure leagues within Europe and even Africa.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 23rd November 2023
Talent Drain: Nigerian Footballers Seek Greener Pastures Abroad as NPFL Struggles

Nigerian football players are rapidly abandoning their home league, the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL), for lucrative contracts in obscure leagues within Europe and even Africa. The departure of elite players has impacted Nigerian clubs’ ability to compete in continental events and jeopardized the standing of the nation’s once-respected club football competition.


Research shows that one of the primary driving factors behind Nigerian footballers’ migration to foreign leagues is the promise of better financial compensation. Within Nigeria, players receive their salaries in the local currency, Naira. The highest-paid footballer in the history of the NPFL received a mere 1.2 million Naira monthly.


Notably, Theophilus Afelokhai became the NPFL’s highest-paid player after his move to Rivers United, commanding a monthly salary of ₦1.2 million, following a transfer from former NPFL champions. FC Ifeanyi Ubah’s Godwin Obaje previously held the title of the highest earner, with a monthly salary of ₦1 million.


However, most players within the NPFL do not receive such hefty sums, and the continuous devaluation of the Naira further erodes their earnings. Footballers, therefore, find themselves at a crossroads between remaining in their home league for the love of the game or seeking international opportunities that promise financial security, often in the form of euros or dollars.


Where Is Jonathan Alukwu?


The Nigeria U23 star has been the poster boy for Sporting Lagos this season, scoring five NPFL goals. However, he has not been part of the team for three games, and there are talks of him going on trials at a club in Armenia.



Football in Armenia? Is Armenia a better football nation than Nigeria? No, of course, but we all know the intention!


International Odyssey: NPFL Players Spread Across the Globe


The trend of NPFL players seeking professional careers abroad has now reached unprecedented levels. Players are not only heading to Europe but also exploring options in lesser-known leagues in countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar. According to a recent FIFA report, Nigerian clubs have sold 1,904 players in international transfers over the last decade, ranking Nigeria 17th globally and first in Africa for the volume of players’ movement.



In response to this massive player migration, the Nigerian National Football Federation has expressed its concerns and expressed the desire to curb the exodus of players to lower-ranked leagues abroad. The goal is to salvage the Nigerian league, which has seen a decline in its allure. However, experts argue that this decline is partly due to the NFF’s preoccupation with the senior national team at the expense of club football.


Chronicling the Economic Realities: The Summer Transfer Window


In a football league facing the twin challenges of a crippling economic recession and maladministration, the recent summer transfer window mirrored the socioeconomic realities it exists in. Nigerian players continue to seek opportunities abroad, making their mark in foreign clubs.


For instance, Anayo Iwuala‘s transfer to Esperance in Tunisia exemplifies this scenario. While his earnings at Enyimba in the NPFL amounted to a modest $1,000 monthly, unconfirmed reports suggest that he will now earn approximately $50,000 a month.



The list of departures from Nigeria to foreign clubs continues to grow, with talents like Emeka Obioma, Silas Nwankwo, Stephen Odey, Ibrahim Olawoyin, and many more seeking greener pastures abroad.


As the NPFL grapples with these challenges, it stands at a crossroads, seeking solutions to ensure it remains competitive and attractive to the wealth of footballing talents it continues to produce.

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