THE round leather game has grown from ordinary play material that young boys and men kick around in neighbourhood playground or school football pitch for recreation and enjoyment. Apart from the joy of playing the game, it brings fame, money and women to the players.
No wonder, most beautiful girls are attracted to footballers. They have the bucks and the balls as well. That is why super models are eager to belong to the footballers’ “other room.” No doubt, football is a glamorous, thriving mega-bucks industry. Before, it was played by men alone but women now play female football.
Whether played by men or women, football is a major game now and in future. Just like yam is the king of crops among the Igbo, football is the king of sports the world over. Think of the big names in the Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga and the latest attraction, the Chinese Super League, where the Super Eagles captain and ex-Chelsea midfielder, John Obi Mikel is going to ply his game henceforth with Tianjin TEDA.
For agreeing to play in the fast emerging Chinese League, Mikel will earn a whopping sum of 140,000 pounds per week. In naira equivalent, this translates to about N83 million. As a result of this transfer, Mikel received from Chelsea a severance fee worth two million pounds or N1.1 billion. After Mikel, there are indications that another Nigerian player and Watford striker, Odion Ighalo may join the Chinese League. Similarly, two-time African Women Player of the Year, Asisat Oshola, is China bound.
What does it take to be a footballer? It does not require too much reading of books and paper qualifications. If you can manage to pass through a secondary school whether you pass or not and can play good football, you are on your way to football fame and glory. Being a renowned footballer does not require a university degree.
What is required is energy and passion to play the round leather game. In fact, most high paying jobs these days do not require much book work. They do not require long hours of research in laboratory or library. They do not require years and years of conducting one research or the other. They don’t require going to school.
The way things are going, if any child comes to me for a career choice advice now, I will not hesitate to tell him to follow sports, especially football provide that he has aptitude for the game. If he does not like sports, I will urge him to follow music or acting.
I say this because all of them, football, music and acting, have the capacity to make one famous, rich and loved at the same time.
If you pursue these trades; job, money and women will follow or pursue you. You won’t look for them, they will look for you. I don’t know why some parents insist that their children will study traditional courses of law, medicine and engineering as if they are the only courses in the university.
For me, all courses are important and every child should be allowed to pursue his dream even if it is football, music, film acting, teaching or writing.
The transformation of football and the lives of footballers as well as the increasing importance of the game should not be overlooked by any football playing nation. In time past, some parents prevented their children from plying the game for fear that they will be wounded. That time too, football was not the money spinner that it is today.
Football is now one of the biggest industries in the world, employing a lot of people and generating high profit for investors. The future of football is even brighter and greater now that China is investing heavily in it. It is good that Nigerian players are showing interest in the Chinese League. Let more of them go to China because it offers a lot of opportunities. Nigeria should tap into the huge potentials of football.
Since we literally eat, drink and sleep football, what is my country doing to benefit from its phenomenal growth? Thank God that our national league is witnessing some transformations. Our league is fast becoming attractive to football fans. The last year’s league final between Rangers Football Club of Enugu and Elkanemi Warriors of Maiduguri in Enugu which witnessed a mammoth crowd showed that our league can be patronized if well organized.
We need more of that. But we are not there yet. There is the need to wean our football of undue government interference. The shabby treatment meted to the Super Falcons after their 8th African Women Cup of Nation (AWCON) win in Cameroon last year was not encouraging. And the statement credit to the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, that they did not expect the Falcons to win the trophy was the most tragic. Our footballers, whether males or females, deserve honour and better treatment.
Apart from being a unifying game, football also creates jobs and can serve as revenue earner for the players, the clubs and the country. FIFA has made football what it is today. It recently approved 48- team World Cup beginning from 2026 from the present 32-team. We should tap into this by developing our football. We should develop the grassroots soccer and college football. We should export more players to Europe and Asia. We have the potentials. Therefore, parents should show interest in football and encourage their children that have passion for the game to pursue their football career unhindered. Let them extend their love for law, medicine and engineering to football, music and acting.
Beside football, other sports like swimming, boxing and gymnasties should be developed in the country.