7 minutes with China: How Sports betting companies are saving Nigeria

I met Philip Obaji in Calabar in 2007 as Dolphins FC played their CAF Confederation Cup games at the UJ Esuene Stadium.

He had come to me with a project he called, “Fans United against Violence” and handed a promo CD over to me.

Warning! There's a gory photo below!

I must confess I never watched it because he didn’t even put up a strong argument when he spoke with me.

A few years later, he came up again with the same project, but a change of name. This time it made sense and I decided to run with him/it.

It was 2010 and I was working at Cool FM in Port Harcourt and after discussing with Femi Obong Daniels we decided to support Philip Obaji’s “1 Game, Football without violence”.

Why? There was too much violence in viewing centers and League stadia and he thought a campaign and more education would help reduce/ eradicate it completely.

Now what has this got to do with Online Sports Betting Companies? I will explain.

Scenario 1

On the night of May 27, 2009 after Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League final, something happened in the town of Ogbo in Ahoada, Rivers State.

A Manchester United fan, angered by the 2-0 loss drove his mini bus into a crowd of Barcelona fans celebrating.

He killed 4 and injured at least 10 others.


Scenario 2

On January 30, 2007 in the Lagos suburb of Adeniji Adele on the Island, during a game between Arsenal and Bolton Wanderers, Hakeem Salami, a Bolton Wanderers supporter stabbed Sodiki Anjorin, 26, an amateur footballer and ardent fan of Arsenal of London in the head with a knife.

This was as a result of a bitter argument at a viewing center.


Scenario 3

In Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, two communities, B-Dere and K-Dere were burnt to the ground after an argument in a viewing center led to violence.

This led to the death of a cleric.

Surprisingly, the bone of contention that led to the killing and wanton destruction of property was as a result of which English Premier League match should be shown at a viewing centre owned by a youth from B-Dere.

B-Dere and K-Dere are supposed to be one community, but the inhabitants preferred to be seen as two communities demarcated by one tarred road.

No fewer than 50 youths, all male, had gathered at the viewing centre to watch the EPL but trouble started when some youths from the area showed interest in watching the match between Aston Villa and Chelsea while others, who were apparently Manchester United fans insisted on watching their team‘s game against West Brom. The two matches were being played simultaneously at 3pm that fateful Saturday.

It was, however, gathered that the altercation that ensued prompted one of the youths, who is from B-Dere to turn off the generator. But before he could come back to ensure that peace reigned, a youth from K-Dere raised the alarm that his mobile phone, which he was charging at the viewing centre, had disappeared. The youths from K-Dere, who took the action of the viewing centre operator as an affront, went haywire and began to set buildings ablaze. Curiously, the act was selective as most of the buildings torched belonged to the people of B-Dere. Not fewer than 60 houses were destroyed by the wild youths.

Worst still, a cleric from B-Dere known as Mr. Kpoobe Boate was shot in the head at close range. He died instantly.

Apart from that, two vehicles – a jeep and a Mercedes Benz car – belonging to the Bishop of Christ Army Church, Bishop Selebe Vurasi, were burnt beyond recognition while his house was also razed by the youths.


Scenario 4

In Lagos, in 2010, one Babatunde, a father of one, who graduated in 2009 from the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, was murdered after fighting allegedly broke out at the Zukada Hotel, Egbeda, Lagos, after Chelsea and Barcelona played a 1-1 draw in their UEFA Champions League semifinal match.

The hotel had facilities for people to watch European matches.

Interestingly, Babatunde was a Manchester United fan but he met his untimely death because his friend, a Chelsea fan, had been involved in a bet. The Chelsea fan escaped after the fight broke out and when the Barcelona supporters could not find him, they caught Babatunde instead and over 20 people were alleged to have pounced on him, stabbing him with broken bottles. Even when he attempted to scale the fence of the hotel, his assailants pulled him down and continued to stab him. Babatunde gave up the ghost while he was rushed to the hospital.

I could go on and on, because the scenarios abound, not only in viewing centers where European League games are shown but in various Nigerian League stadia and when Philip Obaji brought 1 Game, I embraced it and it is good to know that it is now a very popular concept, at least in Rivers State where I am based, but I digress.

Enter the Online sports betting companies

At the start of the English Premier League, EPL season this year, I was in Owerri with a friend, Sanipe Damiete to watch a Nigerian League game between FC Papillo and Go Round FC.

As we journeyed from Port Harcourt to Owerri we followed the updates on live scores and were shocked, especially how Chelsea was falling to Burnley.

When we got to the Dan Anyiam Stadium, we saw a gathering of football fans discuss the Chelsea loss and no one was hating on the club or trolling on rival fans, they were all moaning about how much they lost that day because, Chelsea cut their slip.

And Sanipe mentioned something that I began to observe from that day on. He said people do not fight in viewing centers any more over clubs because they were more interesting in their winnings than anything else. They didn’t even care the clubs they supported anymore.

According to Sanipe, people these days were happy to see their clubs lose crucial games as long as they won betting money.

Why will they fight over clubs that don’t really know them when they can write their bet slip together and win money,” Sanipe asked.

On Wednesday, September 13, I watched the UEFA Champions League game between Liverpool and Chelsea alongside Sanipe Damiete and FIFA referee, Mimi Iyorhe and Sanipe, though a die hard Arsenal fan was praying for a Liverpool win because that was what he put on his bet slip, something that would not have happened 10 years ago.

Sanipe left disappointed that Liverpool failed to win. A few years ago he would have been trolling me and other Liverpool fans… Not anymore.

These days I see fans of a club happy that a rival club won a big game simply because they earned money from betting.

Who wants to fight these days when you can win money?

Now, I know the religious people have their reservations about betting, so do the conservatives, but let us face it, we have had friendly atmospheres at public viewing centers these days. Why fight when you can win money and still be friends?


Rivers Angels, Edwin Okon and the Nigerian coaching syndrome
Edwin Okon

There is something the average Nigerian coach gets wrong and it is in the aspect of training sessions and regimes for their teams.

I was at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium for the AITEO/ Federation Cup game between Rivers Angels and Edo Queens on Wednesday and I saw how the home side struggled to even be part of that game all 90 minutes.

For a team that won 9-0 the previous week, it was amazing, then I gathered it may have had to do with fatigue.

The team had trained for 4 hours on Monday and another 3 hours on the eve of the game, but it was not a Rivers Angels thing. Most Nigerian League coaches believe the way out is to run about on the pitch, then divide the players into two teams of eleven each and play for another two hours or more.

Sometimes, for the Nigerian League coach, punishment for a home draw is more hours training the next day and everyday until the next game. These people do not realise they are doing more harm that good to their teams by focusing more on physical exertion during the season rather than tactics and technique.

In pre-season, you employ the principle of progressive overloading because you need to work your players back to shape. Here there is more emphasis is on fitness and stamina and less on ball work/ team play. As it gets closer to the start of the season, overloading reduces and more emphasis is placed on ball work, tactics, team play etc.

In a game like football that has a 7-9 month season, fatigue, injuries, illness etc comes into play. Then there is the individual response of the players. So coaches training twice daily, going 4 hours and 3 hours on eve of games at the business end of the season does more harm than good to their team.

I sent a word of advise to the Rivers Angels coach on how to tone down his physical activity this period but here he did not take the advise kindly and instead sent the girls out to more running ahead of the 2nd leg against Edo Queens.

No footballer loses form during a season if he does not train for two days. Scientifically, it is not possible, but the average Nigerian coach does not know this. They would rather run the players ragged on the training pitch when sometimes a rest will do the team more good.

I wish Rivers Angels, Edwin Okon and the Nigerian league player the best of luck as they continue to train under their coaches, but it brings me back to the same age old argument.

We can talk down on the home based players the much we can, but the vital question is- What kind of coaching do they get?



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