Nigerian sports was noted first in the 1950s when it had its first appearance in the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1952 and its first victory in 1954, when it won a gold medal at the commonwealth games in Cardiff and also when it first qualified for the world cup in Mexico in 1970. The Nigeria Sports Commission promotes about twenty four different sports, each being organized by a non-autonomous governing body. Some of the sports that are played in Nigeria include: Athletics (track and field), Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Boxing, Chess, Cricket, Cycling, Football, Gymnastics, Golf, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Tennis, Rowing, Shooting, Squash rackets, Swimming, Table tennis, Taekwondo, Volleyball, Weight-lifting, Wrestling, Traditional sports and a host of other Para-sports (sports for the physically challenged). Nigeria is filled with many talented athletes but the government, most of the time, has only paid lip service to its development.
According to the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group (SDP IWG) – an intergovernmental policy initiative hosted by the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) sport has the potential to promote social integration, gender equality, social capital development, peace building and conflict prevention, amongst other benefits. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the North American sports industry generated $60.5 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach $73.5 billion by 2019. In Europe, sports accounts for about 175 billion euros of European Gross Value Added according to sportyjob, the online job market for sport jobs in Europe. Sources of revenue in sports include merchandising, sponsorship, media rights and gate receipts which is the biggest source of revenue. The industry also provides employment in different areas ranging from the athletes to coaches, scouts, umpires, referees, commentators, amongst others. This means the sports industry contributes more to the European economy than agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined.
As the attitude of government further discourages many young people from participating in sporting activities or even considering it as a career, some private individuals and organisations have taken it upon themselves to contribute their bit to the development of the sports industry as well as youth empowerment. Their approach also underscores the fact that one can actively participate in sports and also school alongside. Examples are the likes of: the Great Samuel Okwaraji who before his death had a masters degree in law and was a PhD student at the time of his death, Mary Onyali a former athlete who now works for the Nigeria Sports Commission, Segun Odegbami who is a brilliant columnist, opinion shaper and commentator, Sunday Oliseh an intelligent analyst, Steven Ukoh who plays soccer in Switzerland and is also studying law.
As football is the most popular sport in Nigeria it is little surprise that many of these private individuals decided to invest in building football academies across the country. Some of them will be mentioned below:
- Kwara Football Academy (KFA) was established by the Kwara State Government in 2005. It is one of the best football academies in Nigeria. The school runs a simple model of combining football training with academic schooling for students ages 13 to 19.
- Pepsi Football Academy (PFA) is the most famous of all football academies in Nigeria. PFA tops the list of football academies not just in Nigeria but also in Africa. Established in 1992 by the Pepsi Company, the academy originally launched in Lagos, now has over 14 centres across the country, with over 3000 students. The academy boasts of notable players like John Mikel Obi, Osaze Odemwingi, etc. The criteria for student membership include evidence of special skills, attributes and a good attitude. The academy also operates a UK scholarship scheme set up in 2006, and partners with the football college, a private, independent, residential college for boys which combine education with sports along with a special focus on football development.
- Papilo Football Academy (PNKFA) is owned by Nigeria’s legendary footballer Nwankwo Kanu. It is situated in Owerri and has succeeded in transferring quite a number of players abroad. Graduates like Joel Obi and Stanley Okoro. Top international coaches are occasionally invited to train students on short courses.
- 4. Football College Abuja is a private organization founded by Volpi in 2012. It was established as a corporate social responsibility initiative by and is dedicated to developing young boys with football talent especially those from financially-challenged background, in the field of education and total football immersion. The college has centres in Warri, Onne and Lagos.
- Midas Football Academy (MFA) was established in November 2006 to discover young skilled football talents in Nigeria and Africa. MFA is affiliated with the Nigeria football federation.
6. Siano Soccer Academy (SSA) was established in Abuja by a former coach of the super eagles, Samson Siasia. The academy aims to develop young elite footballers who will become professional players in and out of the country.