Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Premier League Destroying African Football?


Cause and effect. It's something we learned about as young kids.

Now, we get to see cause and effect in motion in the world of professional football.

The cause: The rise of African football, coupled with the advent and wide use of satellite teleivion.

The effect? The crippling of the African game.

What causes one to be so successful is also it's eventual downfall.

This report by Andrew Walker of the BBC draws light on the strange conundrum of African soccer.

Matches between English Premier League sides are widely watched across Nigeria.
But as the popularity of the English game goes up, the domestic game slips.

As an executive for a local club says, "Whenever we play at the same time as an Arsenal game, nobody shows up."

In a country of 140 million people, where crowds will stop and watch amateurs playing in the park, professional league games struggle to get more than 20,000 paying fans to come on match days.

What can be done?

Please read the entire article by the BBC here. Here's a small preview.

Tony Collins is from Anambra State in south-eastern Nigeria - and he supports Manchester United. "I like Man Utd because they're winners. Actually I like any club that wins in Europe. Nigerians like winners, we're simple people. Nigerian clubs? Can you really compare? They're rubbish, I don't waste my time with that."

Only one or two teams have the following to sell out their home grounds, says Ismaila Lere, sports editor at the Daily Trust newspaper.

"When you look at the stadiums you'll find that the stands are virtually empty, while the bars and the joints that have satellite TV are full. People will pay to watch the Premier League on TV but not to watch Nigerian football live," he says.

The trouble started back in the early 1990s, he says.

Economic reforms meant many teams went bust and were not able to pay their players.

Those players started looking towards Europe for employment.

Initially, they went to Italy and Germany.
Most Nigerians first got wind of the Premier League when Celestine Babayaro joined Chelsea in 1997.

"In the 1980s, I was the only person in my area who was watching English football," Mr Lere says. Now Nigerians are, like most of the world, obsessed with the English Premier League.

But in Nigeria the obsession is now going too far - after the Champions League final in May, seven people in Nigeria died in clashes between Manchester United and Chelsea fans.

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