How Nigerians spent N1.5 trillion to watch foreign football

By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

Another weekend has come when people from across the country, particularly youths in their large numbers, from street to street troop to the various football viewing centers in their neighborhood to feed their eyes with spectacular games of football.

Football is sweet no doubt. The skillful dribbles, superlative goals, amazing saves and precise kicks all make football irresistible. I used to be an ardent fan of European football; i can even miss a class not to miss a match.

However, i stopped watching foreign league matches a few years ago when i realized how much my passion for foreign football was destroying our country’s economy. We can’t be destroying our own country by ourselves and turn around to ask government to do magic.

Lovers of English Premier League will always remind you of how Chelsea often beat Arsenal every season. Chelsea manager, Jose Morinho popularly known as the special one had one time described Arsenal’s manager, Arsen Wenger as being a specialist in failure. Morinho had
the bragging right to do that because the Arsenal manager never defeated him in any match. In my area in Ilorin back then, I often throw jokes that Oko-Erin boys can defeat Arsenal Fc in given the chance to play against them. I still believe so even today. Please
don’t be mad at me. When I was still an ardent supporter of Chelsea, I once went to bed hungry because Liverpool defeated us in a Champions league semi final match. I think that was in 2005.

Chelsea had beaten Liverpool at every point before that meeting. We beat them to lift the Carling cup, beat them home and away in the Premier League and when we were paired with them in the Champions League Semi Final, we saw it as a walk over for Chelsea. As a matter
of fact, some of us were already jubilating and discussing who we would meet in the final. It turned out that we were wrong. Liverpool didn’t only taught Chelsea some bitter lessons, it went ahead to lift the Champions league trophy that year by defeating AC Milan in a
dramatic way.

Like every football lover, I do watch matches of our major contenders. I support any team against Arsenal, any team against Manchester United, any team against Liverpool Fc and more recently, any team against Manchester City. That’s the nature of Football. You support
any team that can reduce the point of other contending teams, so that yours can come out on top.

Additionally, apart from English premier league, I also do watch important matches in La-liga and Serie-A. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are the few La-liga teams we watch back then. In Serie-A, I watch Juventus, AC Milan and Inter Milan. All lovers of
modern football watch these matches every week and we do that with so much passion and enthusiasm as if our lives depend on them.

However, I stopped watching foreign football a few years ago. Not that I lost the passion, I had to suppress it forcefully. It was difficult at first because that means I can no longer watch Ronaldo and Messi display amazing skills every week. I had to endure the slight discomfort of not watching European league, for a greater benefit of strengthening our naira.

I am sure many may be wondering how not watching foreign football strengthens our naira, but wonder no more. Here is how.Every week, Nigerians in their millions gather across various football viewing centers to watch football matches. They pay a token of N100 to have the most pleasurable moment of their lives. In some weeks, they watch 2, 3 or even 4 matches. For the purpose of this write up, let us assume they watch only 1 match per week.

We all know Nigerians love football. That is one thing that unites the country, apart from music and tribalism. More than 70% of our 180 million population comprise young people. That means over 120 million youths are in Nigeria. Assuming only about 20% love football, that’s
about 25 million population. But let’s assume just 20 million youths watch football every week.

This is not an exaggeration. In my Area in Ilorin, I mean just one area; we have more than 10 viewing centers. People can afford not to eat than not to watch football. We watch football like it is our ticket to paradise.

Now, let’s do some calculations. If 20 million people watch football every week and each person does so with a token of N100, that costs us a whopping sum of N2 billion in just one week. If N2 billion is multiplied by 56 weeks in a year, that gives us N112 billion. Although, I have been watching European league before 2004, I became so addicted that year and between 2004 and 2017, that is 13 years. So, if football lovers spent N112 billion to watch foreign matches in one
year, multiply that figure by 13 years and guess how much it is? N1 trillion, 456 billion. That’s the amount we spent watching football in 13 years. We can approximate it to N1.5 trillion.

Now, where does this money go? I mean, where does the N1.5 trillion we spend on watching football go? It goes abroad. We send the money to Europe to strengthen their economy and currency, while devaluing our own. We pay to the football viewing centers. They pay the money to DSTV, who then convert the money into dollars and send it to Europe. That’s one of the many ways we destroy Nigerian currency. In economic  terms, they call it capital flight. I am a peace professional not an economist, but I know capital flight, in economics, occurs when assets
or money rapidly flows out of a country, due to an event of economic consequence such as watching foreign football.

A little research about capital flight tells me that, this leads to a disappearance of wealth, and is usually accompanied by a sharp drop in the exchange rate of the affected country—depreciation in a variable exchange rate regime, or a forced devaluation in a fixed exchange rate regime. This fall is particularly damaging when the capital belongs to the people of the affected country, because not only are the citizens now burdened by the loss in the economy and devaluation of their currency, but probably also, their assets have lost much of their nominal value. This leads to dramatic decreases in the purchasing power of the country’s assets and makes it increasingly expensive to import goods and acquire any form of foreign facilities.

So, the next time you want to complain that ‘’dollar don rise’’, don’t forget to ask yourself how much you contributed to the devaluation of the naira. The next time you sit down in the football arena watching European league, remember that you are doing your part to devalue the
naira.

For me, I have stopped watching foreign football some years back. I stopped when I realized the damage I am doing to our country’s economy by helping to devalue our money through capital flight. Watching foreign football is not a necessity. It is a luxury. I can live without watching foreign football. It reduces nothing from my life. Though I love it, but if watching it is so counter productive to the growth of our country, I better stop it. That’s what I did.

Our local football may not be as sophisticated as European league, but trust me, we have wonderful players down here. I also heard recently that Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) will now be showing our league matches live. If you can’t go the stadium to watch it live, watch it
live on NTA.

I am now a strong advocate of local football. I watch Kwara United. Some times, Kano Pillars or Eyimba FC of Aba. Trust me, these are wonderful teams. As a Nigerian referee, I can tell you that our football has greatly improved beyond what you thought. Until you start watching, you won’t know how much you will enjoy it.

For me, I see players that can be better than Ronaldo and Messi on our football pitches and I am determined to support them as much as I can.

Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is a Nigerian referee and the Executive Director
of Foundation for Peace Professionals.

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