I have been doing some Nollywood reflections in some of my writings going back to 2010. Interestingly, and rather separately, I have also been intrigued by the paucity of research on African football. In this article, and prompted by recent developments, I am sharing my next project – i.e. the fusion of Nollywood with African football! This is why.
I have written, arguably, extensively on the subject matter of Nollywood in the last decade. Starting with my 2010 paper on “The Nigerian movie industry “Nollywood”–a nearly perfect marketing case study,” through “51 Iweka Road (Onitsha, Nigeria): could this single African address redefine business cluster development?,” to more recently, “The Impact of New Media (Digital) and Globalisation on Nollywood.”
In reflecting on my studies on football with a specific focus on African players, and more recently football leagues, I did call out Asamoah Gyan in my previous Tekedia article celebrating an unsung hero.
More recently, an article by the erudite professor Simon Chadwick has reinforced the need to get this viewpoint out to all concerned parties. Indian sport remains a great enigma: a Bollywood-style epic yet to be shown to the world, drives the message home. Just like I pointed out in my paper on Re-branding the Nigerian Professional Football League, Professor Chadwick’s recent article points out the need for Indian Football thus:
“Popular and powerful at home, India’s sport has minimal reach or impact overseas. They are world-beaters at cricket but fail to set the world on fire at Olympics.”
Another interesting commentary that resonates with my current proposition to Nollywood reads thus:
“It is no coincidence then that Indian sport’s biggest commercial phenomenon, the Indian Premier League (IPL), brings together two of the country’s great passions: cricket and entertainment.”
“Having been deeply in love with cricket for centuries, India nevertheless seems to now be falling in love with football. Although football has long been popular, the recent formation of the Indian Super League has brought both a new focus upon, and an impetus for, the development of the country’s football product.”
You can see the Indian disease (similar to the Dutch Disease) being played out in the following commentary:
“So why isn’t India taking its rightful place as a world sporting giant? Cynics point to “cricket fatigue”. Others believe that young Indians are more interested in what the rest of the sporting world has to offer than what is available at home.”
That was the same point I made in my article seeking brand ambassadors for the Nigerian Premier League.
“It is clear that broadcast content is typically targeted at Indian fans and consumers. Indian sport is essentially inwardly focused, denying the country opportunities to build revenues from overseas sources, project soft power.”
“Analysis shows that many team owners are drawn from a celebrity elite, with multiple examples of big-name cricketers and Bollywood celebrities involved in team ownership.”
“Indian sport in its own right is nothing short of a Bollywood-style epic, but it is yet to be shown to the world.”
The Nigerian Olympic Team have only just qualified for a place in the Olympics semi-finals after beating Denmark 2-0. The team went on to play Germany for a place in the medal tables. The last time ‘The Dream Team’ (the Nigerian Under 23 or U-23 Team) came close to glory at the Olympics was in 1996 when they beat behemoths, Brazil and Argentina. I also pointed out that my recent publication on the Nigerian Football Federation and the sidelining of the Domestic League in that country has become a self-fulfilling prophecy for five key reasons.
- First, Giovanni Infantino, President of FIFA, visited Nigeria at the same time as the recruitment drive of English premier league teams of Nigerian internationally ‘unknown’ players from the domestic leagues and junior national team.
- Second, Nigeria beat both Brazil and Argentina to clinch the Gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, a feat the ‘DreamTeam’ (i.e. Nigeria’s Olympic Team) wish to leverage upon in Rio2016.
- Third, Football counts amongst Nigeria’s exports to Western Europe going back to the days of Kanu Nwankwo, Jay Okocha and Rashidi Yekini amongst others. Not to mention the likes of late Coach, Stephen Keshi of the National Team, and his team mate Samson Siasia, once coach of the U-23 Team).
- Fourth, having turned up late following some hiccups in Atlanta, the ‘Dream Team’ beat Japan 5-4 even before the opening ceremony in Copacabana got off the ground.
- Fifth, the ‘Dream Team’ qualified for the semi-finals in Rio 2016, having walloped Denmark 2-0 on 13 August 2016.
However, the question remains as to where these former players that made Nigeria proud on the international stage? My paper questions the roots of these players and their role in branding the domestic league in that country through brand associations and brand ambassador networks.
A recent conversation on entrepreneurship in Africa and the role of domestic football within that discourse took me back to this post FIFA2010 article. It highlights entrepreneurship, stadium development, and regional development, taken from the purview of South Africa but with implications across the region.
In a recent Tekedia post, I focused on a Ghanaian household name, Asamoah Gyan, who having plied his trade from 2003 with Ghanaian Premier League club Liberty Professionals, before his adventures in Europe – starting with ‘Serie A’ club Udinese before joining the French ‘Ligue 1’ club Rennes in 2008, and the English Premier League club Sunderland in 2010. I also articulated the move outside Europe – notably the UAE Pro-League in 2011, the Chinese Super League in 2015, and Kayserispor in the Turkish league in 2017.
Bringing it Together – The “Woods” and Football
What better way can we bring the discourse together than highlighting that Gyan, after his European adventures, also moved to Northeast United FC in the Indian Super League – a club owned and operated by Bollywood actor John Abraham – representing the 8 states of North East India: Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Mizoram.
Now the fusion of football and film is getting clearer. So back to my proposition. Where is the connection and potential for film and football? Let us consider just one out of many football themed movies – Bend It Like Beckham. Written by Gurinder Chadha, Guljit Bindra, and Paul Mayeda Berges, this 2002 movie features the daughter of an Orthodox Sikh, who rebels against her parents’ traditionalism and joins a football team.
To wrap up, here is my pitch for Nollywood. Celebrate African football at the domestic level. This can be achieved through a range of possible initiatives such as following the lives of domestic changemakers, upcoming stars and stadium showcases. You do not have to wait until they have made a mark in Europe or other international stages.