Doha, Qatar – Nigerian football fans and business owners in Qatar are still reeling from their team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup 2022, which will be held in the Middle Eastern country from November 21 to December 18.
Nigeria’s failure to beat Ghana in March prevented them from qualifying for Qatar 2022, a result that shocked not only the nation but also dealt a huge blow to the approximate 12,000 Nigerians in Qatar who were looking forward to watching the team in action and also benefitting from its presence at the tournament.
Ekene Romeo, a businessman who has lived in Qatar for nearly 12 years, said the Super Eagles’ failure to qualify was heartbreaking and hit him financially.
“I had placed an order for 20,000 Nigerian national team jerseys, which I knew would be in high demand. I was also making plans to host the first ever Nigerian entertainment and fashion week here in Qatar during the World Cup,” Romeo told Al Jazeera.
“The event would’ve featured some of the best Afrobeats artists, comedians and fashion designers to showcase and promote the Nigerian entertainment and fashion industries.”
However, Romeo added, due to the team’s failure to qualify, “the order for the national team jerseys was cancelled and the events were put on hold while we work out how to modify it to fit in other African countries qualified for the tournament”.
Nigeria has been at six World Cups since its maiden appearance at USA 1994. Since then, the team qualified for all World Cup tournaments apart from Germany 2006.
According to Bukola Aliu, secretary of the National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA) Lagos zone, the team’s absence from the World Cup has affected sales and travel packages put in place since November 2021.
“Many people expressed an interest in touring Qatar as well,” Aliu told Al Jazeera from Lagos. “The demand has reduced because most people are no longer interested.”
Emmanuel Nwachukwu of BFD Global Travels in Qatar said his business has been affected as well.
“We, like other Nigerians, are disappointed because our business strategy was heavily geared towards Nigerian visitors, but demand for tickets from Nigeria is extremely low now.”
Restauranteur Abo Chebib, of Mama’s Place in Qatar, which has been the official gastronomic partner of the community group Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO) in Qatar, told Al Jazeera he no longer receive enquiries about Qatar from international Nigerian fans.
“The World Cup is about more than just the 32 teams. It’s about tourism, culture, food, investment and having a good time. From all indications, fewer Nigerians will travel to Qatar, which will have an impact on our business, given that we have spent many years preparing for the World Cup.”
In Qatar’s music and entertainment sector, popular Nigerian DJ Walex said the team’s absence was a major shock because it would have afforded the opportunity to host parties and invite Nigerian artists to visit Qatar and join Davido, who was part of the Hayya Hayya, the first single of the multi-song World Cup 2022 official soundtrack.
While Nigerian music is popular in Qatar, DJ Walex believes it had the potential of reaching a different level altogether.
“We recently hosted an African comedy festival with popular Nigerian comedians such as Emmanuella and Aunty Success, which drew a large audience. A World Cup appearance for Nigeria would have been magical because it would have created an atmosphere to attract top Nigerian artists to Qatar who have a large following in the country.”
According to Ayodeji Bolorunduro, owner of African Hub, a media and consulting firm in Qatar, negative fallout is happening for many businesses, including media, branding and publicity.
“When a team like Nigeria, with a total population of about 200 million, goes missing, it affects a lot of businesses and sectors at home and abroad,” Bolorunduro said. “It has cost me in advertising, branding and publishing. Nigerians consume a lot of media and entertainment, so the gap is significant.”
The supporters’ club has also been hit hard.
Samuel Ikpea, national chairman of the Nigeria Football Supporters Club (NFSC), expressed regret and described the implication of the country’s non-qualification for the World Cup as enormous in both business and sports worlds.
“It would have been an unforgettable and memorable experience. We had planned to launch the supporters club in Doha the day before the World Cup draw, but it did not happen because we were all consumed by disappointment.
“A lot of businessmen who had started making plans or programmes believing that the country will be at the World Cup are now counting their losses.”
‘I have lost significantly’
Dominic Ibhagbe, a Nigerian real estate businessman in Qatar, said he had “rented two villas from June to December with the intention of hosting about 30 Nigerians with music, food and services”.
“But I have lost significantly. My hope is to host other nationals, but the difference will be obvious,” he added.
For the national football team, the losses are far greater. Aside from a drop in FIFA rankings, there is a significant loss of income now and in the future.
The team will miss out on $12.5m from FIFA for failing to qualify – a $2.5m preparation fee plus $10m for qualifying for the group stages.
According to Amaju Pinnick, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) president, the team would have received 35 percent ($4.4m) of the proceeds, meaning that the federation and the players have not only lost a significant amount right now but also face a loss of revenue in different sectors in the future.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), organisers of the World Cup 2022, has invited the Nigerian community to submit cultural activation proposals.
According to a statement by the Nigerians in Diaspora Organization (NIDO), the SC stated that depending on the type of performance by Nigerian artists, it will be able to accommodate international artists and offer them a minimum of 10 days of performance.
“The prospect of some Nigerian cultural performances in some of the fan zones is exciting, but nothing beats the agony of missing the World Cup,” NIDO said.
“Nigerians are big spenders, and their absence in Qatar will have an impact not only on the host country’s commerce and trade, but also on the multiplier effect of other businesses in Nigeria, too.”