Nigeria’s Sports Minister, John Enoh has started implementing his strategies on how best to improve football in the country generally, and one among the strategies employed was having a session with stakeholders in Nigerian Football recently in Abuja.
The session afforded stakeholders in football such as the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), NPFL Club Owners’ Association, as well as the Nigeria Referees Association (NRA) to deliberate on key issues necessary for the development of the the NPFL and football in the country after engaging them in a first session.
However, what is yet to be understood is why the organized Supporters Club in the country is not carried along in this developmental programme of the new Sports Minister considering the roles which they play towards the development and support of football.
The Supporters Club are arguably the third team in any football match. They do not play the game on the field but with their drums, trumpets and renditions, they spark off life during football matches of our national teams, and this gives Nigerian teams the confidence that they are not alone anywhere they find themselves in the world adoring Nigeria’s colour.
The sacrifices they make when Nigeria national teams have continental and international events are enormous. Most of them will have to abandon their businesses, and travel with our national teams to anywhere either within the country or outside and this to a very large extent shows that they are another set of stakeholders in Nigerian football whom the Sports Minister need to meet with.
In one of Sports Intelligence Magazine publications dated February 12, 2020 and titled: Nigeria Football Supporters Club: The Untold Story That Divided The One Big Club, this writer looked into the circumstances that led to the creation of multiple Supporters club in the country. It was observed that greed and the quest by some elements in football in the country to control the club led to sowing seeds of discord which eventually caused break-aways leading to creation of multiple supporters clubs.
The effect of this breakaway is telling on the image of Nigeria when our national teams are playing, we have observed several matches where our dear Super Eagles play and we see more than four different uniforms of supporters clubs all performing different renditions from different angles and also showing the quality of division in Nigeria as a nation.
In fact, the price which comes with this division has given room for touts and hooligans now wearing uniforms in the name of Supporters Clubs and exhibiting high level of indiscipline and painting Nigeria’s image dark. Another publication on our website dated February 1, 2022 and titled: When Supporters Club Becomes A Threat To Our Football, What Hope For The Super Eagles? (Videos) also gives an insight. This story shares some ugly incidents that have happened that soiled the image of the country but was swept under the carpet with no disciplinary actions taken against defaulters.
Aside these, the Supporters Club whom can be described as ‘sidelined stakeholders’ have also suffered heavily in the hands of our football administrators. The recent incident which happened during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand were they spent thousands of dollars to procure match tickets, and for hotels and logistics to enable them travel to Australia to support the Super Falcons but where denied entry visas by the Australian embassy speaks volume.
On the contrary, it was a different situation in South Africa when their fans were denied visas. The South Africa Football Association threatened to withdraw their team from the Women’s World Cup and this made the Australian embassy rescinded on their decision and provided entry visas to South African fans.
All the issues highlighted happened when the Sports Minister John Enoh, was not seated as Sports Minister, but he really need to look into these issues and possibly invite the Supporters Club and find a lasting solution as Nigeria prepares ahead of the forthcoming 34th Africa Cup of nations which kicks off in Cote D’Ivoire in January 2024.