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Why we prefer watching Football at viewing centres – Football lovers

By Maria Famakinwa

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Football viewing centre business is fast becoming a lucrative one, as most football lovers across the country  gather to watch the game, especially when it is a World Cup or Nations Cup that the country is participating in, just like the ongoing African Cup of Nations (AFCON) that the Super Eagles of Nigeria is also a contender.

However, it is surprising why people will leave the comfort of their houses to crowded viewing centres to watch football. Today, these viewing centres are in every nook and cranny of major cities and towns in the country. This phenomenon has continued to grow in leaps and bounds as fans continue to patronise them. The Hope spoke with some football lovers at different viewing centres on why they prefer the place to the comfort of their houses.

A football fan, Mr Boluwatife Omojola, explained that he had prepared to watch the opening match of the ongoing AFCON between the Super Eagles and Guinea-Bissau in his house but was surprised that electricity providers put off the light 10 minutes to the start of the game. “I was left with no choice but to rush to the nearby viewing centre so that I would not miss out of the action, but it was like I wasted my N300 to watch the match when the Super Eagles failed to secure the needed three points.

“There is need for the government to call BEDC to order for them to stop hindering football loving Nigerians from watching the Super Eagles. I observed that light goes off when important matches like World Cup or AFCON  involving our players are to be played. They did the same when the Super Eagles played their second game against Ivory coast. I just don’t understand why they had to put off the light at that crucial time,” he lamented.

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Sharing a similar view, another football lover, Mr Olamilekan Babalola, hinted that fuel subsidy removal was his reason for watching football at a view centre. The man who also pointed accusing finger at those in charge of electricity in the country added that they deliberately planned to prevent football lovers in the country from enjoying the match. Otherwise, AFCON games are not what should be joked with for any reason.

He said: “BEDC officials are known to disappoint at the 11th hour, especially when the Super Eagles are playing. I don’t know what they stand to gain from it, whereas other countries participating in the same game are declaring holidays for the citizens to cheer their players to victory. I would have preferred to watch the match in my house but there was no light. The funniest part of it was that they brought the light immediately the Super Eagles matches ended, to tell you that they are sadists. Tell me, is that not wickedness? How many Nigerians can afford petrol to power their generators in order to watch football? That is why football fans like me are settling for viewing centres. At least, the joy I get from watching football is worth the price. As long as I can afford it, I will be going to the viewing centre for my satisfaction,” he said.

Another football lover, Mr Ben Ekene, explained that he preferred to watch football at the viewing centre to avoid disturbance. He said: “ I have DSTV at home where I can watch the ongoing AFCON, premiership or any foreign league match, but I prefer to watch them outside the home to avoid my children’s distraction. As a good footballer in my younger days, I like analysing the matches during halftime and at the end of each game.

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“Besides, my wife does not like football. She prefers to watch Nollywood movies and will complain that I should go out instead of disturbing her. So whenever I try to watch such matches at home, she feels sidelined. I have also noticed that watching football with like minds gives me satisfaction and in-depth knowledge about the game. Sometimes, while watching matches at the centre, I discuss business with my partners. Most times, we agree to meet at the centre to discuss.”

An owner of a viewing centre, Mr Bamidele Merinu, revealed that Nigerians love watching football but most of them prefer to watch it at viewing centres because it is cost effective, given the increase in petrol price and unreliable power supply which make football lovers to find solace in viewing centres. “As we all know, viewing centre is a gathering of football supporters and they can go thousands miles away to look for places to watch and support their teams.”

Asked why electricity providers often turn off the light when a crucial match like the one involving the Super Eagles was few minutes to start, he said that he could not speak for them, that BEDC officials are in the best position to answer the question, but he admitted that electricity was often off during Nigeria’s matches.

His words: “Sincerely speaking, owners of viewing centres don’t pray there should be light, especially when the Super Eagles want to play, because people will prefer to watch it at home instead of patronizing us which makes us to run at a loss. So it is my prayer that electricity providers don’t bring light during crucial matches, so that I can make my gain. You need to see my viewing centre when the Super Eagles played against Ivory Coast in their second game and the game that qualified them for the round of 16.  My viewing centre was filled to the brim with football lovers. Others who could not find seats stood up till the end of the match which would not have been if there was electricity to watch the game at home.

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“Besides, viewing centres are therapeutic. They serve their purpose as places where you can go, and for those fun filled 90 minutes your body, mind and soul are completely focused on the game, away from the day’s stress and worry. The viewing centre is a place that helps you “forget about your sorrows,” albeit momentarily.

“Let me also make it clear that there are some people who can afford to buy fuel and power their generators but just want to be at the viewing centres to watch football with other fans, so that they can analyse the game together. The beauty of football is having other fans around who necessarily don’t share your opinion. Football games thrive in argument which cannot be achieved when you watch them alone or in your house. You need other people’s views to build your knowledge of the game. That explains the essence of viewing centres and not only for profit making,” he said.

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