The New Stadium Next Door: How they are Creating Excitement for Nigeria football Fans

 The Nigerian stadium is empty! Where has all the football fans gone to? Oh, you don’t know! They have all gone to the viewing center next door. Well, if you don’t know, the average Nigeria football fan is thrilled about the English Premier league (EPL), UEFA Champions’ League (UCL) and careless about any football league or competition going on in Nigeria. 

Many businessmen has taken clue of the fans interest/ needs and are building fantastic virtual football centers (Viewing Centers) all over the city, town and villages.

  •  The Virtual football centers have one major advantage over the stadium place; they’re next door, so fans can easily walk in and out at their own convenience to be part of the fun.

  • Secondly, the owners of the virtual center usually self -promote upcoming games on their fixture board. Moreover, they enjoy free hypes created by sports newspapers and television programs about the EPL/ UCL upcoming games.

  • Perhaps, the most important among all the advantages of virtual football center is security.  The owners of the centers provide adequate security. Well, you may say that most of the fans live around and know each other, so they can pretty protect themselves. 

In fact, that’s what most Nigeria stadium lack – good quality games, distant locations, media blackout, no self-promotions, poor security…

 The virtual football center is booming in Nigeria. And the business owners have come to understand that the business is more than just a football show, it’s all about entertainment. Gone are the days some persons will just get a DSTV decoder and a television set into a hut and begin to collect ticket from desperate fans who want to see the game at all cost?

The Nigeria football fans are getting more matured and their expectations are quite high. Some businessmen are aware of this and are turning on the excitement. For instance, the magnificence of “Abrahamovic virtual center” in Anthony Village Lagos is something to behold. About eight big screen Plasma/ LCD television sets spread at the front of an elevated stand, with very good lighting effects and sitting arrangement that can sit about one thousand, five hundred fans. Good service drinks, pepper soup, food during games, especially during the half time. It’s quite an exciting and relaxing rendezvous.

 Talking about service, Big Joe’s place in Wuse Abuja is in a class of its own – the experience there is simply wow! You just get so excited with some very courteous, well selected, service girls – like some cheer leaders – dressed in mini-skirts and putting on jersey of the two clubs playing at that time. Everyone that buys a ticket gets the chance of winning a free ticket for the next game. The place sits over two thousand fans and if you are not early enough on match day, you may not find a place. The virtual center is usually sold out.

The setting is different at OB’ Arena D’ line Port Harcourt.  It’s more of a fan club and most people that come there are members of the OB’ Arena fan club. So you can reserve seats before match day and you can also invite a maximum of five guests. At the OB’ Arena, fans can bet with each other as well as predict and win at the betting shade. The cheering, the argument and all the excitement created by OB’ Arena will always motivate fans to come back again and again.

Business is good. The virtual centers are hitting it big and they’re getting all the media attention. I was at Abrahamovic center during the 2010 world cup. I was surprise to find Super Sports and AIT correspondents stationed at the center – interviewing fans and recording all the excitement going on there. I found out that Globacom mobile network paid the owner of Abrahamovic center NGN500, 000 to brand Globacom on all the chairs and tables at the center.

 At Big Joe’s place, they have electronic signage boards of different sizes, where organizations such as Guinness, MTN, Guilder, and Lucozede Boost place their Ad at the rate between NGN100, 000 to NGN300, 000 per 20 exposures a day for a quarter year. Some organizations like, EveryWoman Magazine, Gold Circle Condom brand on the service girls skirts at a rate of NGN30, 000 per month. 

Come to think of it, the virtual centers are making so much profit from ticket alone. At Abrahamovic Center for example, the ticket fee is NGN100 per match. They make about NGN150, 000 per match. They make over NGN800, 000 each EPL weekend and another NGN600, 000 on UEFA champion League mid-week.

Things are just turning out well for these virtual centers and they’re taken the shine off the stadium. They’re doing it so well, always coming up with innovations you can never imagine possible. With all these going on, I wonder if Nigerian fans will ever return back to the stadium.