Over the years, grassroot football in Nigeria has suffered unfold hardship due to the absence of reliable and competent corporate sponsorship. Every big company or corporate bodies have their attention fixed on the NPFL or the Super Eagles, obviously because they want instant mileage and recognition.
The Nigeria National League and the Nationwide league have gone caps in hands begging for sponsors to keep the leagues afloat and kudos must be giving to the likes of bet9ja owned by the chairman of Remo stars football club, Kunle Soname.
It is on record that they single handedly sponsored the NNL for two seasons.
Expectations rose to the heavens when the chairman/CEO Nilayo sports company, Bukola Olopade was appointed Chief Executive officer of the league. Many were confident that based on his track records, the NNL will experience a new lease of life.
That was exactly what happened as Nilayo sports marketing agency set the ball rolling from day one as the sponsors came in, in their numbers. However the politics of Nigeria football coupled with the behind the scene maneuverings, forced the CEO to quit after just a few months in office.
His departure left the league in total shambles. There was not willing sponsors and those already in, left without a formal goodbye.
Then just last year, the chairman of the league board and member of the executive committee of the NFF, Chidi Okenwa died leaving the nation in rude shock.
His exit, meant there was a vacancy to be filled and the NFF in their wisdom went for a willing ally, a man who as chairman Senate committee of sports for over 6years has failed to stamp his authority or make a mark for all to see or appreciate.
So to many, it was a big surprise to see that the NNL Congress held in his home town of Abakaliki on Friday started with some ray of hope as another betting company was unveiled as title sponsors of the league.
Unfortunately, today’s ceremony was without the usual fanfare befitting for an event of this magnitude.
This is because the organizers were shy of publicity or didn’t want the media to ask probing questions regarding the full details of the deal and what it has for the clubs.
From the outside, many will want to use this opportunity to once again thank the honorable minister of youth and sports, Mr Sunday Dare who has continuously emphasized the need to develop sports at the grassroots. In his commitment and drive to actualize this dream, he promised to revive Nigeria sporting facilities and started off with the Moshood Abiola international stadium in Abuja, the Katsina stadium in Daura and the National stadium in Lagos.
Africa’s richest man and renowned businessman, Alhaji Aliko Dangote has promised to finish rehabilitation work at the Moshood Abiola international stadium before the end of the first quarter of 2021 while Sir Kensington Adebutu, a very close friend and ally to Mr Sunday Dare has rolled out the wheels in Lagos as work is in top gear.
Many are quick to suggest that the Sports minister has helped to increase private and corporate sponsors passion and love for Nigeria sports. The Oyo state born former journalist turn politician is a no nonsense result driven and passionate man who will stop at nothing but the best.
It will therefore not be a surprise that Dare who at one point rose in support of the women’s league when they went caps in hands begging for support ahead of the season opening congress has used his connections to once again bail the NNL from obvious collapse.
We only hope that the league organizers will leverage on this support and give the sponsors the expected mileage that will give them joy and the zeal to hang on for a long time.