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Could the rise of online sports betting in Nigeria help a future World Cup bid?

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FIFA representative, Christian Karembeu (left) presents the World Cup trophy to President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House Abuja in March 2018. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

The only African country ever to host a World Cup was South Africa in 2010, and for a continent with so many great footballing nations, this does not seem fair. The ultimate footballing contest has been held in Europe on eleven occasions, South America five times, North America four times (after 2026), and Asia twice (after 2022). No African country has put in a bid for the 2030 contest, but they could go for the 2034 event for which the bidding is yet to open. If the World Cup is to return to Africa in the future, Nigeria could be an ideal country to host it. The country is football mad, and the rise in online betting in Nigeria could help draw more attention to the fact that this would be an excellent place to have it.

Online Betting on the Rise in Nigeria thanks to Improved Internet
The rise of online betting in Nigeria has been attributed to improved internet speeds and increasing access to the online world. It’s not just betting that has seen an upswing, either, as web-based jobs within the country are also on the rise. In the last ten years, the internet has spread to even the most remote parts of the country, which has allowed more people than ever to get online. Since 2013, the number of internet users has nearly doubled. Five years ago, there were 51.8 million people online, but in 2019, that number is projected to rise to 93 million.

Ten years ago, there was only one betting company in Nigeria, located in Lagos. The number of brick and mortar gambling spots has swelled since then, and skyrocketed in the online world. Online sports betting in Nigeria is the most popular form of gambling, and this is thanks to the fact that the nation is completely enamoured with football. The Nigerian national team tend to do fairly well on the world stage, and fans of the Super Eagles just love betting on them. If there was a World Cup in the country, the betting industry would be expected to boom and there would be a lot of money to be made by operators.

Premier League Watched by Millions
When FIFA voted to hold the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, it may have come as a shock to members of some other African nations. The bidding process was only open to African countries for that tournament, but Nigeria didn’t come forward in an effort to host it. Still, South Africa beat other nations including Egypt and Morocco when it came down to the vote. The 2010 hosts were surprising because the team had only played in two tournaments prior to that one; Nigeria, on the other hand, have played in every tournament since 1994, except Germany 2006.

Nigeria is a worthy host country for the World Cup, not just because the Nigerian team are one of the best on the continent, but also because the country is packed full of avid football fans. The Premier League is by far the most watched league in the country, while La Liga is also hugely popular. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest-growing markets for the English Premier League, and the competition is watched by an estimated 276 million people in the region. There have been over forty Nigerian players in the league over the years as well, with Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Moses, and Isaac Success currently playing at different clubs in the division. The fact that there are stars from the country playing in England make the league a lot more marketable to Nigerian viewers.

Nigeria Worthiest African Nation to Act as Host?
It’s hard to say which African nation is most deserving of hosting a World Cup, but Nigeria is certainly up there with the main contenders. The fact that so many people watch and bet on football is a major factor which should help, but the enduring quality of football within the national team set up should also work in Nigeria’s favour. Nigeria have won the Africa Cup of Nations on three occasions, most recently in 2013. In 1994, Nigeria reached fifth in the FIFA rankings, earning them the spot of highest-ranked African team of all time. They have also made it to the Round of 16 in the World Cup three times.

The World Cup will return to Africa in the future, and when it does, Nigeria could be poised to put in a bid to act as a host. The booming online gambling industry is likely to help the country gain more attention as a lucrative market for the ultimate football competition.


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