Nigeria’s footballers in a giving mood as the festive season begins
As the festive season kicks off in earnest, with Thanksgiving week in the USA the first stop, Nigeria’s footballers have been getting into the giving spirit themselves.
Super Eagles captain Ahmed Musa has signed an endorsement deal with Skyline University, the first private university in the northwest of Nigeria, and immediately announced that he was offering scholarships to 100 students of the institution.
“I am a great believer in the importance of education, hence my excitement in joining this great team to promote this vision of becoming anything you want to be in life as long as you can dream it.
“So, I am pleased to let you know that I would be sponsoring 100 students at this university. Yes! 100. Details to follow shortly,” Musa, currently at Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia, wrote on his Instagram.
This is only the latest, though more far-reaching, act of spreading the wealth by the striker. Musa, who started his career with Kano Pillars, often donates food, money and other items to the people of the region, especially during the festive season.
In 2017, he opened a N500 million sports complex in Kano, and he told ESPN he wanted the people of Kano to have a world class recreational space to engage in exercise and sporting activities.
A few months after it was completed, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr and his staff were at the facility to train, and were left impressed by the standard.
Also this past week, former junior international Sani Emmanuel announced on social media that his ex-teammate and current Super Eagles forward Ogenyi Onazi had paid N1.4 million (about $4000) to help him with his upcoming surgery.
Emmanuel, who was joint top scorer at the 2009 FIFA Under 17 World Cup on home soil and finished as Golden Ball winner, had made a desperate appeal on social media, which Onazi responded to.
After his 2009 heroics, Emmanuel moved to Italy, after unsuccessful trials at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, but saw his career run aground due to recurring Achilles injury problems.
Those injury issues took a turn for the worse, leading to his desperate plea for help. He has not played professionally in four years, but hopes the surgery on Dec. 2 will see him return to the field.
Meanwhile, Odion Ighalo is another current Super Eagles player investing in charity projects. In 2017, the former Watford man built the Ighalo Orphanage Home in Lagos at a cost of about $1.4 million.
The orphanage houses between 30 and 40 children, either abandoned or removed from their homes by the state, and takes care of them until they turn 18, teaching academics and sports.
But the giving traditions date back well before the current crop of players. Former defender Joseph Yobo handed out 300 scholarships and organized a football tournament in the volatile Niger Delta region of Nigeria where he hails from.
Yobo, who spent most of his club career at Everton, also runs a football academy for young, talented players.
They all join in the footsteps of Nwankwo Kanu, whose Kanu Heart Foundation provides heart surgeries for children at no cost to their families.
Kanu’s foundation came on the back of a personal, death defying experience. After leading Nigeria to Olympic gold in 1996, the forward was diagnosed with a heart condition that required life-saving surgery.
That opened the door to Kanu, who went on to play for Arsenal, Inter Milan, and Portsmouth, using his face and foundation to raise funds for surgery for others like him, mostly children.
“I know how difficult it was for me, even though I was a footballer, and I know there were many more like that who did not have the same opportunities, so it was important for me to help them because you never know what those children will come out to be in future,” he told ESPN.
The incoming generation of players are surely watching, and chances are more players will be following in Kanu and co’s footsteps.