No Harm In Dangote’s Bid For Arsenal —Adelabu
Former Green Eagles winger, Adegoke Adelabu, says the renewed interest by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, in buying English Premier League team, Arsenal, should be celebrated, rather than discarded by Nigerian soccer fans.
The news of Dangote’s renewed bid for The Gunners five years after he was rebuffed by its owners in 2010 elicited mixed reactions from Nigerians during the week.
While majority of the fans want Dangote to help develop the nation’s football by putting half of that fund in some clubs in the country, others are of the opinion that the environment under which clubs operate in the country are not conducive enough.
According to reports, Dangote, a die-hard Arsenal fan worth over $15.7 billion, had discussed buying a stake in the club five years ago before talks with the owners fell through. “I still hope, one day at the right price, that I’ll buy the team,” Dangote, 58, said. “I might buy it, not at a ridiculous price but a price that the owners won’t want to resist. I know my strategy,” Dangote was quoted as saying.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Adelabu, who played alongside Super Eagles coach Stephen Keshi and the likes of Henry Nwosu, Humphrey Edobor and Kennedy Boardman in the Flying Eagles team that lost to Cameroun in the qualifier for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1981, said that Dangote’s bidding to buy Arsenal, one of England’s most successful clubs, was not a bad idea.
In his playing days, Adelabu was one of those who made the then Green Eagles a delight to watch. With his pace, skillful runs and dribbles, he was able to overshadow England-based John Chidozie in the battle for jerseys during the qualifiers for Espana ’82 World Cup.
Since his retirement from active football, the ex-Shooting Stars of Ibadan winger has been deeply involved in the technical aspect of the game, leading various clubs in the Nigerian league.
Adelabu was in-charge of Eko United FC for three seasons, but was forced to end his romance with the club in 2010, following what he described as ‘unprofitable’ nature of doing business with local clubs in Nigeria.
“Dangote is a businessman and I won’t blame him if he decides to invest his money in Arsenal Football Club,” he said, adding, “There should be no sentiment about it because anything that is worth doing is worth doing well.
“It seems we are only scratching the surface in Nigerian football. A good businessman will want to invest in an environment, where business is given all that it deserves.
“I managed Eko United for two seasons and the highest amount of money we realized as gate fees was N39,000 in our match against Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC), at the Onikan Stadium. How do you expect a businessman, who knows what he is doing, to invest in our league? Dangote is a Nigerian and it is expected that he can turn around the face of Nigerian football for good, but we need to put certain things in place for our league to attract big money spenders.”
Arsenal Holdings Plc., the owner, trades on the ICAP Securities & Derivatives Exchange, or ISDX, and is valued at 988 million pounds ($1.49 billion).
A successful bid would make Dangote the first African owner of a club in a league, where billionaires, including Russia’s Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea, and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, who controls Manchester City, have acquired teams.
Stan Kroenke, worth $5.6 billion and owner of the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams, holds 67 percent of Arsenal, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Red & White Sec Ltd., controlled by Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov and Farhad Moshiri, owns 30 percent.
According to Adelabu, some of the measures to be taken to re-position the nation’s football for the challenges ahead, includes providing a better platform for all stakeholders in Nigerian football to speak their mind.
“First, we must see Nigerian football as our own. If you visit majority of the stadia where league matches are played in Nigeria today, you will be surprised to see that the few fans on ground are wearing jerseys belonging to different English clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
“You won’t see the jerseys of virtually our local clubs on the streets and this is not healthy for business. Our clubs are not profitable for now, but a good businessman like Dangote will not wait until you fix your football properly before investing his money. Some people who have good ideas on how to re-position the system are still cut off. The present NFF board has a lot of work to do,” Adelabu stated.
Dangote has interests in sugar and flour and controls Dangote Cement Plc, Nigeria’s biggest publicly traded company. He is investing $11 billion in a 650,000 barrel-a-day oil refinery near Lagos and as much as $2.5 billion in gas pipelines running to the city from the oil-rich Niger River delta region.
Most English Premier League matches are broadcast live in Nigeria, and this may have attracted Dangote’s interest in investing in Arsenal.
Dangote, who ranks 55th on the index, said he’s too busy with existing projects to mount a bid now. “We have $16 billion-worth of investments in the next few years,” he said. “Right now I want to take my own business to a certain level. Once I finish on that trajectory, then maybe” an offer will follow.”
While the ex-Shooting Stars winger, Adelabu, is backing Dangote on his renewed bid for Arsenal, some Nigerian soccer fans want the billionaire businessman to look inward.
Former Super Eagles striker, Shola Akinwale is of the opinion that Dangote is in the best position to help develop the nation’s football.
“If a man like Dangote should own a club in Nigeria, definitely such club will be a role model in the domestic league. He would have succeeded in setting up one of the best clubs in Africa and Nigerian football would be better for it. Has he forgotten that charity begins at home?” he queried.