Villarreal winger Samuel Chukwueze’s deal with music mogul Jay-Z’s Roc Nation management company has catapulted the Nigeria player, only recently a bench warmer, into the spotlight.
At the recent Africa Cup of Nations, Chukwueze shoved his way into the starting line-up after sitting behind the likes of Moses Simon and Samuel Kalu, going on to star against South Africa in the round of 16, and forming a key part of the Super Eagles’ bronze-winning campaign.
This, along with efforts for his club in Spain and several rumours of a move to the Premier League, clearly caught the attention of Beyonce’s hubby, who signed the player, along with representatives 10 Management.
Chuwueze’s arrival on the big stage could not have been any louder. His early goal against Bafana Bafana set the Super Eagles on their way to a comfortable victory, but it was his mazy running, inside cuts, and quick feet that did the most damage.
Hie emergence came as little surprise to Nigerians who had followed his progress from under 17 level. Chukwueze, along with Kelechi Nwakali, was among the standout players as the Nigeria under 17s emerged world champions for a fourth time in 2015.
Along with Nwakali, he was all set to join Arsenal in the Premier League when disagreements with his ownership saw the deal collapse and he moved to Spain instead, after a spell in limbo.
That experience would have seen many a young player go into a career tailspin. Instead, Chukwueze took it in stride, learned from it, and is now gradually re-shaping his future.
— Roc Nation Sports (@RocNationSports) August 1, 2019
Last week, the youngster announced via his Instagram page that he had signed with Roc Nation. That may not be a sporting contract, but it is just as important, if not more so, as any football decision he is likely to make.
During his time as Nigeria coach, Berti Vogts pointed out that he was puzzled about the multiple agents Nigerian players have, and how it was affecting their valuation with European clubs.
“As a player, I only had one manager. So if anybody wanted to talk about something with me, it was always all the time one person,” he said. “But I don’t understand with your players. Always different people.”
He was not wrong. Nigerian players’ talent has never been in doubt. But representation has almost always presented big challenges. Sporting, and especially commercial.
Of the current generation, only John Obi Mikel, recently retired from Nigeria, and Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi have professional all-round management and commercial representation.
This gap has meant that the majority of the players have been unable to maximize their brand value and attract the sort of commercial valuation their talent deserves.
Chukwueze’s decision to sign with a global brand like Roc Nation, and by extension Jay Z, immediately elevates him to a different level of elite, one that puts him in front of equally global commercial entities.
An immediate positive from the signing was a social media shout out from DJ Khaled, himself part of the Roc Nation family and one of the world’s best known social media influencers.
It means that Samu will get professional advise on branding, media, and conducting himself off the pitch. It is also a win for Roc Nation, whose snagging of one of the brightest young stars in African football means they can expand their footprint into the African market.
Nothing is guaranteed, of course. But if nothing else, this decision by Chukwueze shows that the young man does have his head in the right place in terms of the career calls he has chosen to make.
It is an example other young African players might want to think about emulating. And not just with Roc Nation.
WORLD CUP COMING TO NIGERIA?
Left field does not even begin to describe it. One moment, Nigerians were reeling from NFF President Amaju Pinnick losing his seat at African football’s biggest table, the next they were stunned to read that the country was the frontrunner to host the 2020 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
This week, the FIFA inspection team visited Lagos, Benin City, Asaba and Uyo to evaluate facilities for the event. While there is no official word yet, unofficial whisperings are that barring any major catastrophe, the country will host the event next year.
It will be a big deal for Nigeria, which last hosted a major international sporting event 10 years ago, namely the 2009 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
Naturally, there have been skeptical eyebrows raised as to whether this is what the country needs at this time. It is both a yes and no answer.
Expending funds to host a tournament might not quite be the panacea to the football issues of the country. But at the same time, it could accelerate some much needed infrastructural and sporting developments.
Already, stadia in Lagos and Benin City are undergoing significant upgrades. Asaba, which has hosted international games, is also being given a tune-up, as is the stadium in Uyo. Kaduna is on standby and will be getting a facelift.
Outside of stadia, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure would also get upgrades ahead of the tournament. And NFF second vice president Shehu Dikko is convinced that the women’s league, which is currently struggling, should get a boost.;
“We have been doing our best to try to get sponsorship for the women’s league, but it has been difficult,” he said. “Maybe hosting this will help the sponsors see the value in getting involved in women’s football.”
Many will be unconvinced that there is much benefit here for Nigeria. But just as many will get behind the bid, and host successfully. Whatever happens, it would seem to appear that the only time Nigerian sporting (and related) facilities get significant facelift is when there is a major tournament to be hosted.
Succeed or not, at least those improvements will be made and that, if nothing else, can be counted as success.