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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>World Cup 2014: Nigeria fans not buying tickets. Why?
Tuesday, 11 March 2014 12:20

World Cup 2014: Nigeria fans not buying tickets. Why?

Written by Colin Udoh

Nigerian fans like to apply to themselves every known cliche describing loyal support. From "we are a football nation", through "nothing unites us like football" to the one that plays on the public's beliefs, "football is our religion". As the Super Eagles head to the World Cup this summer, many a Nigerian will be quick to point out how far the national team's pedigree outstrips group rivals Iran and Bosnia.


In fact, Nigerians will take umbrage at any suggestion that certain countries (looking at you, USA) are more of a footballing nation. This is irrespective of the fact that USA have been to the World Cup nine times compared to Nigeria's four, and been eliminated in a semi-final, quarter-final and one round of 16, the last of which equates to Nigeria's best performance, achieved twice. Domestically, USA's Major League Soccer averages more than 18,000 fans per game, far more than the four-figure crowds at Nigerian league games.


This may sound merely like a comparison of Nigeria and USA, but it is not only that. It is meant to be a damning verdict on Nigerian fans. And it arises from two recent issues: disgraceful World Cup ticket sales, and to a lesser extent, laboriously slow sales of the new national team kit.


Adama Idris, marketing director of the Nigeria Football Federation, has been left embittered by the lack of movement on the ticket front. Of 11,200 tickets allocated to Nigerian fans, a grand total of 300 were purchased by fans by the deadline that Fifa set before reallocating them. "People claim to be supporters of football, but they can't even buy tickets to support their team," Idris said. "Now those tickets have been allocated to other countries. How will they travel to Brazil to support their team without tickets?"


Nigeria head to the World Cup as champions of Africa but support for them will be thin on the ground in Brazilap


It will not be the first time that has happened. Nigerians make up a sizeable percentage of the population in South Africa. Flights between the countries are daily, frequent and cheaper than traveling to Europe or the Americas.


Four years ago, Nigerian games at the World Cup were expected to be crowded out by Super Eagles fans trooping out in support of their team. For their opening game against Argentina, there were more fans in the blue and white strip than there were Nigerians. The trend continued for the other two games. Even at the last African Nations in South Africa, Nigeria fans were outnumbered by Zambia and Ethiopia fans. Most of the Ethiopians travelled all the way from east Africa, some reportedly spending upwards of three weeks on the road.


Yet, Nigerians will tell you they are more passionate than any other fans. In 2006, Amos Adamu, the Nigerian former member of the Fifa executive committee, was accused of ticket racketeering. Of not making tickets available for fans through the official channels and instead selling them on himself. Adamu strongly denied the allegations and none of them were substantiated. Closer inspection would have shown them to be untrue.


But even if he did try to profit thus, who would have bought his tickets? Last year, the Super Eagles won the African Nations Cup and qualified for the World Cup, yet less than 5 per cent of their 11,200 tickets were sold in a country with a population of more than 150,000,000.


In 2006, a year when Nigerians were nursing the gut-punch of being pipped to World Cup qualification by Angola. Adamu would have been lucky to shift 10 tickets.

These are the same fans who have rapped adidas over and over again for the quality, design and cost of the country's World Cup kit. There will be plenty of talk. But when the time comes for fans to pipe up with ticket requests, the silence will be cloying.


As the European leagues that Nigerians are so hooked upon have shown time and again, football is about fans, the paying fans. The customers. Nigerian fans' claims that they are passionate about their football is betrayed by their historical reluctance to shell out in support of their team.Shirts do not sell in Nigeria. Tickets do not sell in Nigeria. That is the brutal truth. And until the fans change their attitude, the team will never be taken seriously by sponsors.

Brazil 2014 is as good a time as any to start.


Colin Udoh, World Cup Nation: Nigeria

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