How Do So Many Nigerians Make It to the English Premier League?
The 2021-22 season has been a bumper one for Nigerian footballers. Proven Premier League players such as Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho have been joined by the likes of Ademola Lookman, Emmanuel Dennis and Frank Onyeka. There’s a rich history of EPL Super Eagle footballers, too.
It is now a fact that Nigerians love the EPL. However, the reasons why they do and how the nation breeds men that manage to make it to the Promised Land are relatively unknown. At least, they were until now.
A Rich Cultural Tapestry
A host of factors combine to make the EPL appealing to Nigerians. The branding of the Premier League is engaging because the competition captures audiences from around the world.
But there is more to Nigeria’s obsession with England’s number one division than marketing. Otherwise, a reported 300 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa wouldn’t tune in weekly.
Part of the draw of the Premier League is the several successful footballers who have made the journey and trodden a path for the next generations. Nwankwo Kanu spent years at Arsenal and was loved by Gunners’ supporters, as well as fans from around Britain and Europe.
Of course, Jay-Jay Okocha wowed audiences with his playfulness and outrageous skill, while Yakubu was a staple of the post-millennium era.
Without these trailblazers, the rest may not have believed they could make the journey. It’s also worth highlighting Nigeria’s overall relationship with football. A three-time winner of the Africa Cup of Nations, emotions run high in the country when the beautiful game is in full flow.
This is epitomised by the fact that the country’s President banned the Super Eagles from competing after a poor showing in the 2010 World Cup.
Compared to other nations, the relationship between Nigerians and football is almost like a religion. For example, India and Pakistan are nations where cricket rules the sporting landscape, meaning foreign leagues are filled with their academy graduates.
As a result, betting sites in India are estimated to collect around £200 million in wagers when India’s national cricket team plays.
This site offers reviews of each operator to help players find the right bookmaker for them, for example, players may need to consider what payment methods are on offer. The fondness for different sports in individual regions, such as Nigeria and India, very much has an impact on the type of professional sportspeople the areas produce.
In the early days, African players were pigeonholed as tall and athletic. In many ways, their physical attributes made them perfect footballers in England since the game revolved around industriousness. However, the style evolved, and Nigerian footballers changed with the times.
John-Obi Mikel is an excellent case study because his intelligence and understanding of the game helped Chelsea dominate the Premier League for years. Since then, several midfielders have traced his footsteps, such as Ndidi at Leicester City.
According to anthropological theories, the Nigerian mentality is behind the people’s ability to hit heady heights. After all, competitiveness in Nigeria is as common as Jollof rice and Nollywood films. A strong psyche undoubtedly contributes to the nation’s success on the world stage, including in the EPL.
As long as these factors are cemented within the culture, Nigerian footballers in the Premier League and beyond will be ubiquitous for decades to come.
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