Indigenous Energy giant, Aiteo’s corporate investment into football in Nigeria is paying off, and the results are obvious; The re-invigorated Nigerian Federation cup now renamed Aiteo cup, the smooth running of logistics for the National team, and the first Nigerian Football Federation(NFF) awards. With dedication and consistency, Aiteo’s financial contributions can effectively impact on the future of football in the country,
writes Bony Kant
Aiteo’s founder and CEO, Benedict Peters, is a man who has found a gap in the financing of football in Nigeria and has taken the responsibility to fill it. He has also found a partner in the current president of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinick. At the beginning of 2017, Nigerian football was in a pitiable state and the NFF leadership was battling to salvage it. World cup qualification seemed impossible as the super eagles lost to seemingly weaker teams like the Bafana Bafana of South Africa while being grouped with some of the strongest teams in Africa. Nigeria’s oldest indigenous football tournament, the Federations cup was underfunded and in need of sponsors. With Aiteo in the picture, things suddenly started turning around.
Aiteo’s intervention began in April 2017 with a deal with the NFF to inject N2.5 billion over the next 5 years to assist with logistics and maintenance. Several other initiatives have followed since then, including sponsorship of the Federations cup, the CAF awards, and the maiden NFF awards. It is over a year now and the Super Eagles have qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia beating Zambia, Cameroun and Algeria in the process. The 2017 Aiteo cup finale was one of the most widely publicized and attended in the tournament’s history. Aiteo’s intervention has renewed interest in football, not just in the super eagles, but also in the local teams. The oil giant recently became the official sponsor of former Nigerian Professional Football League team, Nembe City FC, based in Bayelsa state. These are the various contributions the Aiteo group is making to shape the future of football in Nigeria.
Aiteo has done much already but needs to keep up the pace to significantly change the face of football in Nigeria. Legs play football, but money drives it. With corporate sponsorship firmly behind the super eagles, logistics is easily taken care of, which takes off a great deal of stress from the players. They can put in their best, knowing that their backs are covered. In the future, when sponsorship is consistent and robust, the Nigerian team can make the best use of the array of talents available in the country, and make it far at the world cup, perhaps even win it.
Aiteo is toeing the footsteps of other great companies that have made laudable contributions to football in various countries around the world, with tremendous results. In South Africa, the huge investment from companies like ABSA and Telkoms have turned the local league into a highly organized enterprise of international standard. Telkom sponsors one of the most important tournaments in the country. The Telkom Knockout is a yearly football competition organized by the Premier Soccer League(PSL). 16 South African teams compete for the top spot in what is known as the equivalent of the English FA cup. The South-African bank, ABSA has also been heavily involved in the country’s premier league as title sponsors. The Nigerians have a lot to learn from the South Africans if they want their local league to measure up to international standards.
On the global stage, famous brands like Coca Cola, Hyundai, Adidas, and Budweiser have pumped money into football at the international and local level, with tremendous results. Today, Brazil has the most successful team in the history of the World cup, having won the tournament five times. This would not have been possible without an active, profitable, and engaging Local league. The Brazilian league is well organized and funded, even if not to European standards. Corporate players in this space include Samsung, Michelin, and Gillette.
The Brazilian league has produced some of the world’s greatest players over the years. At the peak of his career as the greatest footballer in the world and a world cup champion, Pele was still playing for Brazilian side, Santos FC. As one of the best footballers in the world, with requests from top clubs in Europe, Neymar Jr was still playing for Santos, while 2-time world cup winner, Ronaldo De Lima returned to Brazil to play for Corinthians after a successful career in Europe. So far, this has not been the case in the Nigerian league as most successful international Nigerian players don’t want to be associated with the local league. Most successful Nigerian players will prefer to go to Asia or South America, rather than return to Nigeria. The reason is not farfetched; corporate bodies are heavily involved in the financing of the Brazilian league and their participation keeps increasing every year. According to sports media outfit, Sambafoot, corporate sponsors contributed around $200million per season in 2005. In 2017, the amount had grown to over $1billion dollars.
Football in Nigeria can be as sophisticated as it is in South Africa and Brazil. The success of Aiteo’s intervention has given us a glimpse of the future. Aiteo’s moto says the company is the future. With its immense contributions, the future of football in Nigeria is gradually looking like Aiteo.