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NFF announces new Nike sponsorship deal

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

Following on from our previous article, many football fans like Tunde Folawiyo often visits YouTube when looking for the latest news about his favourite team, the Super Eagles. Recently, he came across a news report on this site, in which it was revealed that Nike had entered into an agreement with the NFF (Nigeria Football Federation) that will see the sports apparel brand designing and manufacturing the football kits for both the male and female Nigerian teams, at every level. This includes the beach football team, the Olympic teams, the Under-17s, the Under-20s and the senior teams.

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This partnership began on the 1st of April, and will continue for at least another three years. As part of this deal, Nike will be creating the clothing and equipment for both the players’ training sessions and matches.  Additionally, it will be developing an exclusive range of products for supporters of Nigerian football teams; these are expected to go on sale by mid-2016, although an exact date has not yet been set. The first team to wear Nike’s newly-designed kit was the Nigeria’s under-20 men’s team, when they played at the Under-20 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand last month. The new 2015 home jersey is green and white, and features two stripes; a vertical one on the front of the garment, and a horizontal one on the right sleeve. This design is thought to have been based on Nike’s famous Striker shirt. The kit also comes with matching green shorts and socks.

The NFF’s decision to do business with Nike should come as no surprise to those who are already familiar with this sports brand’s existing affiliations; Nike is known for working with many major sports federations, and currently sponsors national teams not only within the US, South Korea, South Africa, and Holland, but also in France, England, Brazil and Australia. In an interview, Laurent Payre, who currently serves as the General Manager of Nike Africa, expressed delight at the new partnership, stating that he and his colleagues were very pleased to be collaborating with the NFF. He noted that Nigeria is famed for its passion for football, and went on to say that Nike is determined to contribute to the progression of this game at every level.

The President of the NFF, Amaju Pinnick, also commented on the partnership, describing it as ‘exciting’. He, along with Stephen Keshi and several other NFF members, signed the contract with Nike in London last April. On the day of the signing, he declared that he was certain that the deal would be a positive step forward for the club, adding that the NFF was happy to be partnering with one of the world’s leading brands. He explained that the deal symbolises the federation’s devotion to improving the future of football in Nigeria, and added that the NFF is eager to boost participation, and ensure that the national teams enjoy as much success as possible in the coming years.

Fans of Nigeria’s football teams are likely to be quite relieved by news of this partnership, as the NFF had been quite candid about its struggle to secure a new kit sponsor, after their partnership with Adidas ended late last year; at the time, Ademola Olajire, a spokesman for the federation, admitted that they were in talks with several different manufacturers, in the hopes of negotiating a replacement sponsorship.

The NFF first collaborated with Adidas more than two decades ago, entering into an agreement just before the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994. Although the NFF switched manufacturers soon after this tournament, and worked with Nike for the next eight years, it reinstated its contract with Adidas in 2004. Just two months after the contract with Adidas expired, reports indicated that Puma was in the running for the role of kit sponsor, with sources revealing that the brand had expressed a serious interest in making a deal with the NFF. Ultimately however, the two parties were unable to agree upon terms which suited them both, resulting in Nike stepping up to the plate, and delivering a deal which was satisfactory for everyone involved.

Speaking about the NFF’s previous contract with Nike, Pinnick noted that the national teams had performed well during that period, winning their first ever gold medal for football at the Olympics in 1996, and reaching the 16th round of the FIFA World Cup two years later. The NFF president finished by saying that he was sure that the federation’s second partnership with the corporation would bring about further moments of glory for all of Nigeria’s national teams in the future. Whilst of course, no-one can say for certain how Nigeria’s sports teams will fare over the coming years, there is no doubt that they will benefit from their affiliation with this major sports brand.

Nigeria v Gabon: Dream Team through to the final

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Nigeria’s under 23 national football team, known as “the Dream Team VI”, beat Gabon’s team on Saturday 7th March 2015, taking Nigeria through to the final round of qualifiers for the 11th All Africa Games’ Men’s Football Tournament. The fixture was held in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Tunde Folawiyo

The match had supporters such as Nigerian entrepreneur Tunde Folawiyo on the edge of their seats, culminating in a 2-0 victory for the Dream Team. Gabon’s under 23 team put up a valiant fight but were ultimately outclassed by their Dream Team rivals, sustaining this loss on top of a 4-1 defeat in Libreville, knocking them out of the All Africa Games qualifiers.

Junior Ajayi and Oduduwa Segun were the Dream Team’s scoring players, taking the team to the next round of qualifiers with an aggregate score-line of 6-1. Samson Siasia, the Dream Team’s Head Coach, seemed somewhat critical of his team despite their win, indicating in interview that there had been lapses and pledging to iron these out before the next match with Zambia.

Nigeria’s youth teams are often eclipsed by the success of the senior national side, but it is teams such as the Dream Team which will produce Super Eagles of tomorrow, achieving glory with the first team and becoming national heroes, in many cases, overnight. Afcon finalists Ghana demonstrated the importance of integrating a successful youth team into the senior side with their squad of 2009. South Africa and Equatorial Guinea have seen a major upturn in their fortunes since employing former youth team coaches. On an international level, Germany and Spain are shining examples of how recognising and nurturing potential; honing the skills of young players and careful planning and preparation can reap unforgettable glories. It is in this context that Super Eagles enthusiasts such as Tunde Folawiyo are beginning to look to Nigeria’s youth tournaments for the up and coming stars of tomorrow. The greatest challenge in building any national side is translating the magic of youth to the international competition pitch.

Samson Siasia’s under 23 team provide arguably the most promise in raising the fortunes of the senior side. These young players are hungry for success. With a combination of raw talent and tight coaching, they could be a breath of fresh air for the Super Eagles, bringing refreshment, revival and rejuvenation.

Through rigorous trials in Abuja in 2014, Samson Siasia worked whittled down a list of some 120 players to the Dream Team we see today. To these under 23 year olds, being picked to play for Nigeria’s Olympic side was precisely that: a dream in itself, and one which might just open the door to the echelons of professional international football.

Controlled by the Nigeria Football Federation, the under 23 team represents the country in international football competitions, including the Olympic Games (where the use of three overage players is permissible). The current squad is comprised of:

  • Daniel Emanuel (goal keeper);
  • Akande Abiodun (goal keeper);
  • Okorom Stanley (defence);
  • Erhun Obanor (defence);
  • Odudwa Segun Tope (defence);
  • Sani Faisal (defence);
  • Atanta Sodiq (defence);
  • Sincere Muenfuh Seth (defence);
  • Azubuike Okechuku (midfielder);
  • Kingsley Sokari (midfielder);
  • Oshobe Oladele (midfielder);
  • Godwin Savior (midfielder)
  • Saliu Popoola (midfielder);
  • Mohammed Usman (midfielder);
  • Tiongoli Tonbara (midfielder);
  • Etebo Oghenekaro (forward);
  • Alex Iwobi (forward);
  • Ajayi Oluwafemi (forward);
  • Peter Onyekachi (forward);
  • Amuzie Stanley (forward);
  • Omofoman Freedom (forward);
  • Paul Onuachu (forward).

The Dream Team’s youngest player is midfielder Azubuike Okechukwu, who has already collected an impressive four caps at the age of just 17. Their top scorer is Ajayi Oluwafemi with five goals. Recent call-ups to the Nigerian under 23 team include goal keeper Bala Yusuf Mohammed; midfielders Effiong Emmanuel Etim, Obido Godwin and Obochi Peter Eneojo and forwards Adetunji Sunday and Ewenike Achibi Chibuike.

The Nigerian under 23 team made their debut at the Olympic Games in 1968. ‘They have made five appearances since. Their best result was in Atlanta in 1996, when they took home the gold medal. They won silver at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The Dream Team have made five appearances at the All Africa Games, winning in 1973 – their debut appearance. They claimed the silver medal at the All Africa Games in 2003, and bronze in 1995 and 1991. The Dream Team won the Inter Continental Cup in 2008 and the Niger Tournament in 2002, claiming third place at the TIFOCO Tournament in 2003.

Dream Team Coach, Samson Siasia, is optimistic that his team will qualify for the All Africa Games when they host Zambia on Sunday 22nd March in Abuja. Siasia told interviewers that his boys are ready and that their focus is on getting the job done. He has great ambitions for his squad, both at the All Africa Games and the 2016 Olympics.

All change for the National Nigerian Football Team

Monday, December 29th, 2014

It has been announced by a top Nigerian Football Federation official that Frenchman Henry Michel is to be the new Super Eagles coach.  Michel expressed his willingness only last week to coach the African champions if he were to be approached by the Nigerian Football Federation.  The controversial decision to let Stephen Keshi go came just hours after the Super Eagles match against Sudan.  Several well known coaches have been linked to the job, including Germany World Cup winning captain, Lothar Mathaus.  Also linked were coaches Klaus Toppmoller, Roger Lamerre and ex-Netherlands coach Ruud Gullit.  However, it is reported that the job will go to the well-travelled Frenchman according to a Nigerian Football Federation official.  The post is being filled in the interim by Shuaib Amodu and three other coaches awaiting an official appointment.

Henry Michel is a highly respected figure in African football.  During his illustrious career he has coached the national teams of Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia, Morocco and Cameroon.  He also skippered the French national team that included the legendary combination of Jean Tigana, Alain Giresse, Michele Platini and Luis Fernadez, a team which finished in third place in the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.

There has been criticism amongst Nigerian fans of the decision to change coaches before in the run up to the team competing to qualify for next year’s AFCON.  With a slim chance of qualifying, the team need to be in the best possible hands to turnaround their hopes of defending the trophy won by them in 2013 in South Africa.

Nevertheless, the interim coach Amodu Shuaibu has made a significant contribution to the development of Nigerian football.  The Edo state born coach has made some remarkable achievements skippering the Super Eagles.  It is under his stewardship that the team qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and took third place in the African Cup of Nations in Angola in the same year.  Shuaibu has managed the Nigerian team on three previous occasions: from 1998 to 1999, 2001 to 2002 and 2008 to 2010.  He has a turbulent relationship with the team’s fans and his employers.

In a recent interview, Stephen Keshi commented that he had not been sacked by the Nigerian team.  He confirmed that his contract with the Nigerian Football Federation came to an end in the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, making it inappropriate to say he was sacked from his post.  Keshi remarked that the team could still qualify for the 2015 African Cup of Nations with hard work from the players and encouragement from the fans.  Nigeria is currently occupying the third position of Group A with 4 points, following the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s 7 points and South Africa’s 8.  The Super Eagles are set to play the Congo on the 14th November, and South Africa on 19th November.  In the meanwhile, the Central Bank of Nigeria team were defeated by the First Bank of Nigeria team in a lone goal win in the 28th annual All Financial Institutions Football Competition.  The winning goal was scored by Gafar Lasisi in the 56th minute.

Concerns were reported by the Nigeria Football Federation’s new President, Amaju Pinnick, with regard to Stephen Keshi.  Pinnick hinted that his contract might not be renewed, calling into question the trainer’s competence after the game against Iran.

In the wake of Nigeria’s defeat by Sudan, Keshi pleaded with Nigerian Fans to forgive him and his team.  The Super Eagles failed to record a win in the qualifiers for the African Nations Cup at the fixture in Khartoum and were defeated by just one goal.  The Super Eagles thus have to win their remaining three matches in order to qualify to play in the championship.  Super Eagles striker Emmanuel Emenike blamed the bad condition of the Khartoum football pitch for the team’s shocking loss against Sudan.  Emenike commented that the pitch had been left flooded before the game, ensuring that the Nigerian team had no opportunity to practice on the Sudanese pitch before the match.

With sweeping changes afoot, Super Eagles followers such as Tunde Folawiyo will be keeping a keen eye on what happens next.  Born in Lagos in 1960, Mr Folawiyo is a London School of Economics graduate and Member of the Bar of England and Wales as well as an ardent Super Eagles supporter.  To discover more about this African Business Leadership Award winner, follow Tunde Folawiyo on Twitter.

The Nigerian national football team (known as the “Super Eagles”) represent the county in international association football.  The Super Eagles are controlled by the Nigeria Football Federation.  Nigeria played its first official game in 1949, whilst the country was still a British Colony.  Nigeria competed in the World Cup for the first time in 1994 under the management of Clemens Westerhof, and won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1980, 1994 and 2014.  The team’s highest capped player is Joseph Yobo, with Vincent Enyeama a promising runner up.  During 1994, the Nigerian national football team ranked 5th in the FIFA World Rankings, the highest ranking achieved by an African team in the continent’s footballing history.  The Super Eagles’ first manager was John Finch, who managed the team from 1949 to 1954.  The outgoing manager, Stephen Keshi, took over the reins in 2011.  Super Eagles fans like Mr Folawiyo will be watching with baited breath for confirmation of the new manager and whether, despite all the odds, he can lead the team to AFCON success.


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