Sports economists have written about the impact of the amount spent on sport on countries’ ability to win medals at the Olympics.
It is the reason why the United States will always predictably top the medals table every year. Their annual sports spending is above every other country in the world. World champions Germany have the third largest economy in the world and it paid off on the pitch in Brazil in 2016.
I would like to relate this to Nigeria’s campaign to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in a group that includes Algeria, Cameroon and Zambia.
In terms of GDP per capita, Algeria has the highest of the four with a GDP per capita of $5484 in 2014, Nigeria was $3203, Cameroon $1407 and Zambia $1715.
Keep in mind that the more wealth a country has, the more money it will allocate to sport.
At the 2016 Olympic Games, only two of the four countries made it to the podium: Algeria won 2 silver medals and Nigeria a bronze medal in football.
Recently the Nigeria Football Federation cried out that it had no funds to take the national team to Zambia for its World Cup qualifier. Can this foreshadow which country will take the ticket in Group B?
In terms of talent, the pool has become deeper with many Algerian, Cameroonian and Nigerian footballers regularly turning out for top teams in England and Spain. In this case there’s not much difference in quality of talent on the pitch.
Per history, all four teams have won the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria being the most recent while Cameroon have the highest number. Three of them played at the 2014 World Cup with both Algeria and Nigeria reaching the knockout stages.
However, while history and desire can be a good thing, the financial strength of the countries could be the difference in who will take the ticket to Russia.
The ease of paying players’ bonuses, charter of private planes for away matches, hosting visiting teams and match officials, booking expensive and cosy team hotels on the road, refunding flight tickets, etc will do as much good or damage on and off the pitch.
It is no surprise that Nigeria have failed to qualify for any of the men’s football tournaments (Afcon, U17 & U20) this year as they face a great recession.
Money is a big deal in sport and we will see this play out in coming months.