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Opinion

SPORT: Naija Super 8 was a creation of Nigerian football fans – Jenkins Alumona

Jenkins Alumona is the CEO of Flykite Productions, organisers of the Naija Super 8 tournament, a pre-season football competition that debuted at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan between July 7 and 16.

In this interview with JOHN EGBOKHAN, Alumona opens up on what it took to stage the tournament, which was aimed at bringing back Nigerian fans to the stadiums to watch games of the domestic league. Read on.

Naija Super 8 has come and gone but the memories are still fresh. How did you manage to pull it off. Did you draw from your experience of organizing the Gotv Boxing Night?

The proper way to approach it is that it is not me. I led a team. Its about having the right resources and partnering with the right people and companies. The team I worked with had a mindset to achieve set targets and followed that plan because if you do not have a plan, it is impossible to achieve anything worth celebrating.

When we came up with this plan, based on discussions with our chairman, who said you guys have done well with boxing and you can do it with other sports. He told us why not try football and get fans back into the stadium. It was then that we set about designing the Naija Super 8. Don’t forget that fans are central to this sports. The fans determined it all. They determined the teams who participated. They also determined who won the player of the match award. The fact that there was a good tournament was based on the fans.

In activation, we needed to depend on the right partners like Multichoice. The idea was good but the partners were right. We also needed football administration to support the initiative. I don’t want to talk about the hiccups but we were able to lean on the support of the current NFF board led by its President Ibrahim Gusau, who remarked that it was a good plan but they helped us sort out the errors we made with club liaison. They gave us their backing.

When we went to look for sponsors, If we did not have the MTN, Hero lager beer, MoniePoint, Pepsi, Custodian Insurance, we would still not have had a good tournament.

How were you able to pull these big sponsors into the Naija Super 8 given the talk that sponsors don’t have money for sports.

It is about having a good design and getting people to believe in what you want to do.

So it is about trust and integrity

Maybe, because we had a partner like Multichoice, so it was easier to get some of these other companies. The others trusted us because they had done stuffs with us in the past, as we are in the business of building platforms. We have started building the Naija Super 8 platform, which I would score 70 percent. We are happy with how we started/ Those who score us higher are doing so because they don’t see what we see. We would probably get to 80 percent next year but right now, my score is around 72 percent to 75 percent.

Was there at any point in the course of planning and execution of the Naija Super 8 that you feared you might not achieve the set goals or was afraid of failing.

The only reason why people succeed is because they are afraid of failure. That is my own personal philosophy. If you are not afraid of failure, you will fail. At many points, I was afraid of failure which was why we had to go the extra mile to mitigate the things that might make us to fail, as early as possible. We had created a lot of engagement with the fans and as we went, the fears diminished because we are a marketing company and we definitely have capacity over several likely factors to make a success out of something like this. So if we used our digital marketing company to test something by going out there to talk to fans at different levels, to gauge their expectations, sometimes, you are not sure, but if you keep testing, at every stage, there is a chance that you will succeed.

This was about the fans and we trust the capacity of Nigerian football. If a lot of people didn’t trust, we do. We trusted that we had good footballers, we trusted that we had good coaches, we trusted that we had good administrators and we also trusted that we had good referees.

Sometimes, you would now have to find a way of making all of them work together all the time. If you say that a referee is bad, it is not all the time.

But the referee of the final match between Remo Stars and Sporting Lagos almost messed up the game with a wrong call in the closing stages.

Wrong calls are made everywhere in football, including in the final of a World Cup game. Did the referee make a wrong call? Maybe. Did he do it intentionally, I am sure he didn’t. It is human. It is football. What we have done this year is to give the referees extra ear pieces and next year, with the right sponsorship and partnership, we hope to introduce VAR into the picture. We would eliminate the wrong calls gradually. It would not happen in one day.

All the experts said he did make a wrong call. Let us not forget that in the heat of the moment, it is easy to make all these allegations. We do not have the reputation of manipulating or fixing games. As a person, those who know me, know that I would rather die than manipulate something like that. The idea is against my ideal. That itself is the reason why it took us three years to come to think of putting this tournament out. It took us four years. I write everything on paper. It was written pre-covid. I understand why some people think that it is okay to manipulate but my take is that once you start manipulation, then you will never end manipulation.

We watched the game just like everybody else. All we did was create the environment for everybody to do their best.

Sporting Lagos FC
It is being said out there that Flykite Productions has set a template for the organization of the Nigerian Premier League as Nigerians have never seen football this way. How do you respond to being called the catalyst for football reawakening?

No it is unfair to say that. It is easy to take the glory for things like these but I daresay that yes we did our best, but that does not take away from the works that people have done and are doing. This season that just ended, a lot went well and people started trusting football again, that a team can go the entire season without losing. All of that were catalysts, the baby steps for what we finally saw at the Naija Super 8. We did a lot of planning, a lot of work and we are happy with what we had on the final day. That day was a culmination of the great work put in by different groups and people.

It is what every game should look like, not just for the league, but every game of football. What we have just done is add some salt to the football. With what we have done, the trust level has increased. Last season was better than the previous seasons and I believe next season, the league will be better. The people who are in charge of the league have been working towards achieving great things for our football. What we have just done is maybe add some salt to a beautiful soup that has been on the fire for some time. The fans trust more now. What we did was bring up their trust.

The mistake people make is that they expect the organisers to bring fans to the stadium. What they do is create the atmosphere and environment for people to come. I think the clubs need to do a little more. Some clubs are but others must step up their efforts in that direction.

Is it Honourable Gbenga Elegbeleye who will go to the homes of fans to bring them to the stadium? I think what they should do is to create the trust that if you play well, you will win. I believe we are on the right path.

Which teams impressed you the most in the Naija Super 8

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