When will Nigeria host the World Cup?
Like most football loving Nigerians, I am very excited that we have qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup taking place in Russia next year. Since the tournament began in 1930, seventeen different countries have hosted it. In 2010, South Africa became the first African country to host the World Cup. Next year Russia will be hosting the tournament for the first time. Four years later, a tiny oil rich Middle East country called Qatar, will host, also for the first time. The last one was hosted by Brazil in 2014, amidst protests by thousands of Brazilians who felt the huge financial outlay could have been invested in improving the nation’s infrastructure. I was surprised by the protests because my perception was that Brazilians would always put football before any other thing. Despite the protests however, Brazil successfully hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which was won by Germany.
Considering how far ahead of us Brazil is, I can imagine the kind of protests that will greet any mention of Nigeria, planning to host the World Cup. There will be fire and brimstone and many will invoke the heavens to come down and destroy anyone seriously planning to spend millions of dollars to bid for the hosting rights. There will be talk about our deplorable infrastructure. People will remind us of our epileptic power supply, our pre historic healthcare facilities, our unpassable roads and disgraceful airports. There will be mention of our stadiums which are several decades behind. And of course, we will be told that our economy cannot support such expenditure. Economic experts will tell us how our unborn generations will inherit the debts which will take several hundreds of years to pay.
It is not a crazy ambition. In 2009, Nigeria successfully hosted the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. The tournament was held between October 24 and November 15 across eight cities. In spite of obstacles and challenges, including threats by Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, the tournament went ahead. Warri was removed from the list of venues due to security considerations. After three weeks of entertaining football, Switzerland defeated hosts and defending Champions Nigeria in the final. While the Under-17 competition is on a far smaller scale, it is still a pointer to the fact that if we are serious, we can host the senior World Cup. The benefits are immense and that is why there is always a highly competitive bid by countries for the hosting rights.
Sports remain one of the most effective platforms for destination branding. With greater understanding of branding and marketing, countries now maximize the opportunities provided by sporting events to promote their cities, their cultures and their tourist attractions. They produce elaborate documentaries about the country itself as well as the various host cities. The entire world is focused on the host nation for one month and there is simply no better platform to promote everything the country has to offer, from investment opportunities to tourism offerings. It could have a transformational impact on the nation’s economy as well as image and perception.
Football remains the best thing that unites our country. Nobody talks about federal character in the national team. We all want our best players in the team, regardless of what part of the country they come from. We all chant their names when they win and make us proud. Why we don’t apply this same mentality in the running of our country remains a mystery to me. But the results are glaring for all to see. Mediocrity remains the hallmark of our governance and underdevelopment has been the very essence of our collective existence. We have been the architects of our own misfortune. We have been saddled with unambitious leadership for decades with the sad outcomes that make us rank highly on all the negative indices of human existence. We don’t have to continue this way.
We know our people have the potential to excel in various fields of human endeavour. We all know that Nigerians are doing impressively well in different countries around the world. Our boys who play football abroad have already shown that we can produce world class players if we go about it with commitment and seriousness. Hosting global tournaments, especially the World Cup is actually one of the ways we can elevate our nation, as this will compel us to improve the standard of our stadiums and ensure they meet the highest international benchmarks.
Such massive developments projects mean employment generation. In addition to the stadiums, roads and airports will be upgraded. Hotels will be upgraded and prepared for the upsurge in patronage. Host cities will be projected onto the world map of tourist destinations. The economic benefits are immense while the positive impact this will have on our nation’s image abroad will be amazing.
The World Cup hosting rights may not come back to Africa for a while, which gives us time to think, dream, and prepare! When it does happen that FIFA is ready to seriously consider another African country as host, Nigeria must be ready to bid. I believe the stiffest competition will come from the North Africans who lost out to South Africa for the 2010 hosting rights. But I believe Nigeria can do it, if we give it all we’ve got. In the meantime, we must prepare assiduously for Russia. It is not enough to qualify. We must go there and make a bold statement. At the very least, this is one of the ways we can project our country to the rest of the world and give Nigerians something to be proud of.
• Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding
No comments yet