Nigeria football Season: Why is The People’s Elephant Blowing Hot And Cold?

Today Aba is cold. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean the weather condition, but the mood of the people is not looking so good at all. No one seem to be excited, no one seem to be interested about the big occasion coming up that evening.

But, I’ve seen this city charged up to the beam before in June 2003, the city was looking red hot. And the war chant “Nzogbu Nzogbu Eyimba Eyi” filled the air, with large crowd, both young and old, dancing choreography about the streets. And every five steps they took, they all stamp their right foot at once to the ground. Perhaps, typical to the meaning of the chant…People Elephant stampede stampede… The Fans urging Eyimba football club to stampede and crush to defeat their opponent. It was the first leg of the Caf Champions’ League final against Ismaily FC Of Egypt.

Ariaria, the biggest market in Aba were virtually closed. All the traders had gone to the Aba International Stadium. There’s celebration in the air, you could feel the energy. All the fans of Eyimba were already celebrating before the match as if they saw a crystal ball or perhaps, Paul the Octopus predicted that Eyimba would win the Championship. As I saw the strong faith of the people, I began to believe too that Eyimba would eventually win. I also saw similar situation in 2004. And in the space of two years Eyimba won the Caf Champions’ league twice. And 2004 and 2005, they won Africa Super Cup to become the greatest club in Nigeria. With due respect to Rangers International and 3Sc of Ibadan.

Coming back to Aba city in 2011, I wondered if I had not made a mistake with the fixture. Perhaps, there was no match on that day, the people were all going about their businesses. And Ariaria Market, where most of the Eyimba fans come from, were in full trading session.

Something is wrong, I thought. So I had to ask a newspaper vendor by the park: “Please, does Eyimba have a match today?” He replied: “Don’t mind those stupid set of players, I wouldn’t waste my time on them. Even if I was offered a free ticket, I wouldn’t attend the match.” Oh no! something has definitely gone wrong with Eyimba FC and the fans in Aba are reacting.

The challenge is inconsistency in result! Eyimba two times Caf champions’ league winner now found in the middle rank of the Nigeria Premier League, is unacceptable to the fans. Stephen Hardy said: “If a club is not consistent in it’s brand delivery, though the support maybe boiling hot today, it would inevitably cool down.” Eyimba FC is gradually loosing it’s loyal fans. This is one of the reasons why a lot of football fans in Nigeria doesn’t support any Nigerian club.

Two Quick Solution To the Challenges of Nigerian Football Clubs

The Key issues that need urgent attention in the Nigeria football League are Club Funding and Club Branding.

Club Funding: Nigeria Clubs should quickly transit from government ownership funding to private entrepreurship funding. One of the challenges facing government funding is, when a non-football loving governor come into power,the club suffers. Victor Amadi, a trader at Ariaria market said, “Eyimba enjoyed most of it’s success during the Orji Uzor Kalu regime as governor of Abia State. But, when his tennor ended, the club began to suffer many funding problems.”

One good way to upgrade the Nigeria league and to get the clubs running properly, is to insist that all Premier League must go public. NPL should set up modalities to transit clubs from government funding to public quotation at the Nigeria Stock Exchange.

Club Branding: it’s a matter of emotions, if fans don’t recognise the club, the team style, the players or the tournament, then there is no business. Club managers must ensure that their club is conceived, Packaged and positioned in a way that resonate in the mind of the fans always. And only sport Marketing personnels have the competence to achieve such fit for a club. In Bernard J. Mullin’s book Sport Marketing, He said, “The club manager’s job is the act of designing a set of meaniful differences to distinguish the club offering from competitors offerings.”

Therefore, the club manager must ensure that the club is involved in massive promotions, merchandising and have a consistent delivery of brand promises. Jose Mourniho said “Winning is the name of the game.” Yes! It seems to me that in the game of football, it’s winner takes all.”

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