The embrace of European football is pan-African: The preponderance of Arsenal fans ยูฟ่าเบท amongst African leaders was broadly reflected on the ground. Measured by numbers of official African supporters’ clubs – more than twenty compared to Manchester United’s four – Arsenal was Africa’s team, its fanbase reaching to the most unlikely corners of the continent, from South Sudan to Tunisia.
The embrace of European football is pan-African
Kenyans were the second most common visitors to the club’s website, Nigerians the fifth. Africans were particularly prominent in the global “Wenger Ouť campaign, with banners noted and shared on social media at an anti-Zuma protest in South Africa, a big music gig in Nairobi and in the stands at a game in Ethiopia. Sharp-eyed visitors to the Emirates in recent years may have noted the large ยูฟ่าเบท banner of Emeka Onyenuforo, founder of Arsenal Nigeria, hanging from one of the flagpoles outside the ground.
The group had 10,000 members in 2017, while Onyenuforo was on the road establishing new supporters’ clubs in Benin, Ghana, Togo and Niger. Research by Twitter on the geography of the clubs’ online followers suggests that Arsenal has support all across Africa, especially in the east, but has conceded top spot to Chelsea in West Africa, where the presence of Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Jon Obi Mikel at the club has won over many fans.
While the embrace of European football is pan-African, it has reached its apogee in Nigeria. Amongst the most popular TV hits of recent years is Celebrity Fan Challenge, a game show ufabet performed in front of a live audience of 6,000, in which Nigerian celebrities – from rappers to Nollywood stars – face off against each other in competitive banter and games over whether Arsenal or Manchester United is the biggest club.
Even the local radio traffic reports are peppered with Premier League updates, transfer rumours and details of contractual disputes. Thus at the pinnacle of Nigerian society, the rich, the famous and the powerful all flaunt their football affiliations and, in the case of Atiku Abubakar, actually attend the Arsenal home games on a regular basis.
Below them in Nigeria’s burgeoning cities, the emerging professional middle class are the mainstay of the country’s many official supporters’ clubs. In an evening spent with the Chelsea Official Supporters’ Club, Lagos branch, I met Suliman, who founded the group and ufabet worked as an accounts officer for a seconddivision Nigerian football club; Adekunle, a banker; Kamal, in insurance; Funny Bone, one of Lagos’s leading stand-up comics; and Henry, who ran his own import-export company.
An evening spent with the Tottenham Hotspur Official Supporters’ Club Lagos branch was equally instructive. A similar social mix, they highlighted the importance of the African diaspora and the longstanding interactions between ex-colonies and the imperium in creating these webs of footballing attraction.
Here were Nigerians who had acquired Spurs while living in Britain, going to school in Cornwall, working in Mill Hill and going back and forth between Lagos and London on business.