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For the NFF, a season of plenty

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President of NFF, Amaju Pinnick

They say that success has many fathers, uncles, aunties and friends; an apt description of the Nigeria Football Federation today.

Since successfully guiding the Super Eagles to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, the NFF has become a beautiful bride that keeps attracting all kinds of suitors. These suitors have a lot of money and are willing to spend it to join the World Cup train.

Last week, beverage company Coca-Cola signed a $4million (1.4bn Naira) five-year deal to become the official soft drink and co-sponsor of the national teams. After dumping their sponsorship of the FA Cup in 2009 due to problems in the NFF, the beverage giant has returned to the table at a very convenient time in the life of Nigerian football.

The Super Eagles, having failed to qualify for the last two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, made it to Russia against all permutations even with one game to spare in an otherwise very tough group. The odds were stacked against them from the beginning. There were a lot of problems in the federation since the end of the 2014 World Cup when new elections on the board of the NFF were held. This crisis led to a series of events that ensured we went into the next series of qualifiers for the AFCON with a divided house.

By the time Amaju Pinnick’s board found its feet, a lot of damage had been done. Nigeria failed to attend two AFCONs and 2017 saw the two male cadet teams also fail to qualify for the world championships. How was a place at the senior tournament going to be possible when the smaller events weren’t achievable? It is understandable at this period if no suitor came to the house to ask if they could pluck a flower in the backyard, obviously, it was impossible to see anything colourful in the gloom.

Once Gernot Rohr and his collective, led by our still maturing captain John Obi Mikel, started showing signs of life with their first victory away in Zambia and the defeat of Algeria in Uyo in late 2016, the signs of a great harvest began to unfold. The first brand to tap into the vision of a brighter future for Nigerian football was energy company Aiteo. In April 2017, they signed a five-year deal to become the optimum partner of the NFF, with the responsibility of paying the salaries of all national team coaches in a deal worth $8m (5billion Naira).

That vote of confidence ensured that the national team was in a healthy state of mind considering that it shut off all the noise around non-payment of salaries to Mr Rohr and his technical crew, a problem that coaches before him had taken to the media in the past. Once the technical crew became less distracted and player allowances were assured, all else fell into place around the team as they crushed Cameroon in Uyo before holding the once Indomitable Lions to a draw a few days later in Yaounde.

Many brands began to see a clearer path to Russia and that is when the interest grew again. Just before the Super Eagles earned their place at the World Cup in that 1-0 victory against Zambia in Uyo last October, the NFF welcomed on board the pair of Payporte and Tropical General Investments (TGI) Group as official online store and food sponsor respectively. The financial aspects of these deals were not revealed.

Once the ticket to Russia was punched, despite the late drama that ensued after the point won against Algeria was deducted due to the terrible oversight that happened in the Glass House, the Super Eagles have begun to receive a steady flow of admirers who have made their intentions known by opening up fat chequebooks.

Coca-Cola’s return to the table is a major deal that sees one of the world’s most iconic brands and World Cup sponsors backing the Super Eagles for the next five years. This week, insurance company WAPIC also signed a five-year agreement to become official insurers to the national teams. The deal was revealed to be worth around 500million Naira in total.

And there will be more. There is the rumour that Nigeria Breweries will be coming on board as alcoholic beverage partner in place of Guinness. During the 2014 World Cup, Star lager enjoyed a massive guerrilla marketing coup as they deployed their campaign ‘Shine on Nigeria’ to great effect, eclipsing the official partner’s less evocative campaign. The use of former national team captains, Austin Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu, in their television commercials resonated with the public. Now that they will be official partners, one can only expect them to spend big in a more direct campaign as they work to increase their market share in June.

The NFF has not had it this good in a long time with companies falling over themselves to support football. The NFF has also become a lot more organised. It signed an agreement to pay the players a percentage of money as bonuses and allowances in December and it unveiled tidy World Cup build-up plans this week. It is a season of plenty for Nigerian football.

Yet, the amount of money at hand now means that the next NFF elections after the World Cup could be highly combustible.



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