In the initial painful moments of March after Nigeria was knocked out of this year’s World Cup, Nigerian Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick’s immediate thoughts were his 200 million compatriots’ disappointment in Africa’s most populous nation.
He only had to look down at the scene unfolding inside the Moshhud Abiola National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria, to know what it meant. After the final whistle, thousands of angry supporters poured into the stadium to vent their anger, knocking down billboards, kicking players off the pitch and clashing with security. “My first thought,” Pinnick said, “was to resign immediately.”
But his mind quickly shifted elsewhere. In the first few days after Nigeria were eliminated from the playoffs at home against Ghana, Pinnick said he would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the other team feeling the sting of the team’s defeat.
“Oh, what we did with Nike,” he said.
For any country accustomed to participating in the World Cup, the consequences of missing out are enormous. The US Soccer Association suffered such a football disaster in 2017, and Italy has now done so for two consecutive World Cup cycles.
For Nigeria, the leaders of African football, who have failed to qualify for the World Cup only once since 1994, the emotional and economic cost of elimination may best be explained by the end of a single deal: a carefully calibrated plan worth millions Dollars and priceless publicity associated with the release of a new national team jersey made by Nike.
Nigeria’s 2018 World Cup kit was a breakout star that sparked a frenzy, and the buzz was more expected for a game’s star player than a garment’s arrival. Brightly coloured and with a design that set it apart from the more staid, conservative offerings of most other teams in the Russian Championship, Nigeria’s jersey became a must-have that summer and sold out almost immediately.
Even before the $90 shirt went on sale, Nike had received at least 3 million orders. On launch day, there were long queues at the company’s flagship stores in London and other cities. When it finally became available online, it sold out within three minutes.
Four years later, Nike and Nigeria — whose federation officials have tried to get the most out of their brands through their relationship with the company — hope to build on that success with new designs this summer.
“Nike has always been very religious to us,” Pinnick said. “I feel very, very bad – I want to cry when you mention Nike. They went out of their way to put out the best jersey in this tournament again.”
The World Cup is a big sales moment for Nike, which outfits some of the tournament’s most prominent teams, including current champions France, but also the United States, England and Brazil, which have won more titles than any other country. many.
Designing and manufacturing a World Cup jersey is not an easy process either. Products typically take about two years to appear in stores. So Pinnick’s reaction was understandable: Nigeria’s failure to qualify would mean a huge loss for the FA from its share of sales, he said. (Fans of the shirt still have a chance to own one: the shirt will be released in September, presumably with less excitement.)
Pinnick estimates that as many as 5 million jerseys could be sold after qualifying, but it’s unclear how many Nike plans to produce. The company declined multiple requests for comment for this article.
Pinnick suggested that through its contract with Nike, Nigeria was entitled to a royalty of about 8 percent of each sale. It will also receive another $1 million from the company for making the World Cup. Those expenditures, along with an extra eight-figure payday by FIFA for playing matches, are likely to mean that the Nigerian federation doubles its annual revenue to $20 million — a figure that is less than the largest national team. one-tenth of the income. Produced by football associations in South America and Europe.
Shehu Dikko, vice-president of the federation, said a lot of the money from qualifying rounds will be allocated before the competition for items such as player bonuses, adjustments to games and training camps. (The team is currently in North America: Lost to Mexico in Texas on Saturday and set to play Ecuador at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey on Thursday night.) “It’s a huge financial hit for us,” he said. Say, “We have to recover.”
However, there is another factor in Nigeria’s failure that is more difficult to quantify. For decades, the Nigerian men’s soccer team, especially when it played in big games, has become a unique rallying point for a population divided by social, racial and religious differences.
“Football is life in Nigeria – it can’t be explained in words better than anyone else,” Dicko said. “You have to feel it. Nigeria has more than 500 tribes and so many traditions, but football is the only activity that breaks all our fault lines. Once there is football, everyone is Nigerian. No one cares who you are, What do you do or what language do you speak. So football is not just a game for us. That’s what ties this country together.”
However, this level of interest and enthusiasm means that there is a greater focus on the performance of the Commonwealth.
Pinnick, who took office in 2014, is Nigeria’s longest-serving football president in history and a member of the FIFA Council, with a mixed record for Nigeria. While he claims to be full of praise for the federation’s modernization and attracting new sponsors, his tenure has failed to produce any major titles. Elimination in the last 16 of the most recent Africa Cup of Nations – a few months before the team was eliminated from the World Cup – was the tournament’s worst performance since 1984. It was a disastrous qualifier that Nigeria missed in 2015 and 2017 after finishing third in the previous edition and two in a row.
Although he initially had the urge to resign in March, Pinnick has now said he will stay on until the end of his term later this year. Not everyone supports this decision.
Days after the World Cup exit, Pinnick was at his lowest point, as dozens of protesters holding placards gathered outside their headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, calling for their resignation. Pinnick said the protest was not what it seemed. He suggested that from the day he took office, opponents who had gathered crowds and paid for it had been trying to thwart his efforts.
“They are professional poster bearers — you hire them, you hire them,” Pinnick said of the group calling for him to step down. “If you ask the guy why he’s holding the placard, they say they don’t know. They rent them for as little as 10 cents, 20 cents. People are hungry.”
A few days later, there was another demonstration, with more placards. This time the news is different. They called on Pinnick to stay.