As a Nigerian passionate about football and do follow international clubs especially in Europe for over a decade now I had a course to learn basically the reason for the multitudes at stadium when small teams face each other in foreign countries.
Engineer Benson Ojedayo is one of the Nigerians that have chosen not to follow the influx number of fans of big clubs in Europe. I was astonished just as you might be for his choice of club and love to Sunderland. Why Sunderland? I asked my lecturer as I began to imagine what could be his response to my astonished question.
However, it wasn’t farfetched he highlighted his decision to support Sunderland a league one club in England. The last time Sunderland was present in the EPL was about three years ago which means to a football lover we have forgotten about the club and moved on but not applicable to a fan like Benson Ojedayo who lived in Sunderland seven years. Let me say Sunderland is a second home for the Nigerian.
Mr. Benson spoke about how he used to love football right from a child back in Jos. He said watching Plateau united a Nigeria Professional Football League Side playing was a thing of joy despite the hindrance he faced from entering the stadium due to ticket fee he couldn’t provide yet the ambience to watch the last 10minutes of the match excites him a lot.
As a football lover, he said on getting home people around him either Yoruba, Ibo or Hausa tune to their respective local frequencies to hear sport commentaries of their clubs on different radio stations.
Mr. Benson made it clear that people tend to support football based on their origin. “The reason you will see an Old lady still supports the black Cats of Sunderland”. Despite the mismanagement of boards, people in that city because of their origin still go with their kids to watch their favourite club play at the stadium. An example is Frank Lampard who started from West ham United. People support teams that are winning. Mr. Benson once supported Chelsea because of Celestine Babayaro but his love for Sunderland became strong due to the fact that he stayed in the area and has friends from the environment too.
He said that because he supported Sunderland, he gave him the opportunity to see all matches completely without bias and as a fan winning or losing doesn’t affect him emotionally. If we all follow big clubs who follow small clubs too? Don’t you think small clubs will go into extinction? Asked Mr. Benson while speaking with me. He said further that if small clubs goes into extinction then there is nothing to write home about of the big clubs because the league must be complete.
Mr. Benson spoke about the Nigerian league and he said Nigerians killed our leagues due to our inadequate supports, publicity and also violence from fans. The advent of cable television shifted our attention to foreign leagues compare to the days that commentaries were run on transistor radios. Hopefully our local football becomes better than it used to be now and before.
With Mr. Benson’s story made me see loyalty a key factor to support clubs not because they are winning trophies. The Nigerian league begins in couple of weeks which mean maximum support is required of us from our respective local clubs. For example, am an Ibadan boy then I ought to bear the banner of the great shooting stars (Oluyole warriors). Football should be more about loyalty. I got the reason Mr. Benson loved and supported the black Cat of Sunderland because he lived and made friends there for seven years.
Mr. Benson Ojelabi studied at the University of Coventry and Nottingham in the United Kingdom; he currently lectures at the Ekiti state university, Computer Engineering department.