On October 7, 2017, the Super Eagles of Nigeria defeated the Chipolopolos of Zambia by 1-0 at the Uyo Stadium in Akwa Ibom. Alex Iwobi’s second half goal sealed Nigeria’s qualification to the 2018 world cup in Russia and dashed the Zambian team’s dream of featuring in the world cup.
There has been renewed Interest in the fortunes of Nigeria’s National team since the Super Eagles thrashed the Indomitable Lions of Cameroun 4-0 in a racy match last month in Uyo. When the super eagles were drawn in the group of death for the world cup 2018 qualifier, alongside Zambia, Algeria, and Cameroun, not many people gave them a chance of success.
This is because Nigeria’s three rivals in group B are some of Africa’s best teams. Zambia has been in great form and is highly ranked by FIFA, Algeria is ranked the best team in Africa while Cameroun is the defending African champion. To make matters worse, Super Eagles’ seemed to have been in poor shape earlier this year with many stars failing to show up for matches and a tale of abysmal performances, including a 2-0 thrashing by Bafana Bafana of South Africa on June 10, 2017.
One may now ask curiously, what it is that has brought this sudden revolution to the super eagles? Why are the big players that have refused to show up in the past suddenly putting in their best to make the team succeed? The answer is not farfetched; the Super Eagles, and indeed Nigerian football, has been injected with funds. There is a new financier in town, and its name is Aiteo.
Integrated Energy Solutions company, Aiteo, signed a five-year deal worth 2.5 billion naira, which became activated in May 2017, with the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, becoming the footballing body’s optimum partner. Part of the deal involved the sponsorship of local tournaments, funding for the super eagles, and salary payment for all coaches. As part of the deal, Aiteo is also sponsoring the Nigerian Federations cup, with funding of up to 300 million naira.
The Federations cup, Nigeria’s oldest football tournament has been renamed the ‘Aiteo Cup’. The deal literarily changed the face of football in the country as money flowed freely into various projects that had been stalled or lost vigour because of paucity of funds. Ever since the deal had been done, the Federations cup has recorded some remarkable successes.
Prior to June 2017, many people did not know of the existence of the foremost oil and gas company called Aiteo. It was even less known before 2015, when it won the bid to acquire the Oil Mining Lease(OML) 29 and accompanying Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) from Shell Petroleum Development Company for 1.7billion dollars.
The acquisition brought Aiteo into the public light and shot the company into success. The company’s production jumped up and stabilized around 90,000 barrels. This is three times the previous average production, making Aiteo the largest indigenous oil and gas company by output.
Seeing its fortune rise considerably, Aiteo decided to give out part of the funds it had generated into a worthy cause. The company found a worthy cause in football and decided to put it money into the development of the round leather game in Nigeria. A few months after, Aiteo’s sponsorships in football has led into remarkable progress in the game and generated a lot of interest in the company.
The first indication that business would not be usual in the Nigerian football landscape is the announcement by the NFF on June 12, that part of the funds provided by Aiteo has been used to offset all outstanding salaries of 27 coaches in all, including a number that had been owed for services rendered during the tenure of previous NFF administrations. The declaration was made by NFF 2nd Vice President, Mallam Shehu Dikko, who also disclosed that the outstanding salaries of Super Eagles’ Technical Adviser, Mr. Gernot Rohr has also been paid. The NFF subsequently lauded its optimum partner for keeping to its commitment.
Another indication of the development in Nigeria football is the remarkable changes the Federation cup (Now Aiteo cup) has experienced. Under Aiteo’s sponsorship, the costs of the organisation of the competition, solidarity support to Football Associations of the 36 States and the FCT, expenses and indemnities of match officials, support to participating Clubs, Media, Branding/Activation and Prize Money to winners will be paid by the company. Also, since Aiteo took over sponsorship, the prize money has been increased.
The winner of the Male tournament gets N25million while the winner of the female tournament gets N10million. With the injection of funds, the Federations cup has come alive as it has never done in a long time, recording several offsets as the competition hots up for the grand prize. The fund has definitely induced liveliness and colour in the tournament. The Aiteo cup kicked off on August 11 and it is gradually nearing the finals now.
Finally, the NFF and other Football stakeholders can pop the celebration champagne. The champagne to celebrate Nigeria’s world cup qualification was already iced after the Super Eagles fatally injured the Indomitable Lions in Uyo with Nigeria getting 9 points. Unfortunately, the champagne could not be opened then because Nigeria failed to beat Cameroun in the return match in Yaounde, as the Indomitable Lions stole a goal and were able to get a 1-1 draw, while Algeria failed to beat Zambia. The Lions were able to escape temporarily with their wounds. Now the Super Eagles have finally clinched the qualification after beating the Chipolopolo of Zambia on October 10.
It is important to encourage companies like Aiteo to continue to sponsor the NFF. It is also important to convince other companies to take up the challenge and fund sports as part of their Corporate Social Responsibilities. With Aiteo’s funding, the super eagles are experiencing a fresh breath of life as all their allowances are being duly paid. There is suddenly a lot of attention and hope in the team. There are no more issues regarding payment of allowance unlike previously when the players would be angry that they had not been paid. Let’s hope that this is not a flash, let’s hope that the Super Eagles are indeed back to winning ways