Why Arsenal Is Nigeria’s Favourite Football Team


By James Bailey

Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi has said that he is amazed by the level of support there is for his football team at home in his native Nigeria.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Iwobi revealed that during an international match, supporters were shouting out his team’s name – rather than his! Arsenal are a football team which enjoy a strong following in this country, which is one of the most populous in Africa.

Some of this support is definitely due to the success enjoyed by Nigerian Nwankwo Kanu between 1999-2004 in North London.

In 2015, Twitter data placed Arsenal just ahead of their local rivals Chelsea when it comes to the most popular side to support in Nigeria. Along with this, Iwobi’s success with his competitive debut whilst playing internationally for Nigeria has only helped to garner more support from Nigerians for the Gunners.

Amazing Support

Speaking to ESPN Brazil, Iwobi told them that playing internationally has given him a prime experience to see just how much love the fans have for the game. He described the fact that fans shouted for Arsenal, rather than his name (even though they know it) when he came onto the pitch as ‘actually funny’ and described the support that fans in his home country have for the game as ‘amazing’.

He described the supporters as extremely passionate, and that their favourite league is most certainly the Premier League. Recently, Iwobi found himself at the other end of a last-minute tussle regarding his senior international future, however, having played for England in his youth, he opted to represent his country of birth as a senior player.

In the Family

By playing internationally for his native Nigeria, Iwobi hopes to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha, who represented Nigeria to win a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The 20-year-old clearly has a lot of respect and admiration for his uncle, who he says helps him ‘both on and off the pitch’. Speaking about his relative, Iwobi said that Okocha is not only a big figure in Nigeria, but is well-known for his sporting success across the whole continent of Africa, so it’s not surprising that the midfielder describes him as his ‘idol’ and hopes to follow in his uncle’s footsteps.

Impressive Performance

According to Pulse Nigeria, fans of Arsenal in the country have good reason to support their boy. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry has recently expressed that he is very impressed with Iwobi’s determined attitude, something which has surely played a part in getting him into the senior side of the club.

Iwobi was first promoted to senior football last year, and has so far managed to hold down a regular place this season. Speaking to Sky Sports, Henry said that getting from the youth team into the senior Arsenal team is no easy feat, and that Iwobi should be praised for this achievement.

He went on to say that during his own time at the academy, he found Iwobi to be a model student – listening intently, working hard, and always making sure to turn up on time. With Iwobi on the team, Arsenal’s chances for this season look promising, so don’t forget to check out the McBookie offer 2016 if you’re planning to place a bet.

What Does the Future Hold?

So far, the future looks very bright for Alex Iwobi. Spotted celebrating out on the town with his girlfriend, Iwobi has also recently received praise from legendary former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, who’s being very generous with his encouragement this season after recently showing support for rival boss Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool FC. Although the Nigerian striker has yet to score for Arsenal this season, his efforts on the pitch have already been noticed, with Ferguson noting the player’s potential.

Are you a Nigerian fan of Arsenal? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

9 Replies to “Why Arsenal Is Nigeria’s Favourite Football Team”

  1. The good news about Nigeria and Iwobi is that Alex won’t have to play at CAN as Nigeria didn’t qualify. Liverpool, for instance, will have to face both Manchester United and Chelsea in January without Sadio Mane who is going to the international tournament with Senegal.

    The Nigerian national team was destined for great things ever since their memorable World Cup 1994 but sadly they have never reached the last eight. They were seconds away against 10-men Italy as they had a 1:0 lead until the very end only to concede two Roberto Baggio’s goals. In 1994, they knocked out Spain in the group stage only to suffer a drubbing against Denmark. Their players possess both pace and technique.

    Kanu is our favourite Nigerian but he was a member of another invincible team – Ajax of Louis Van Gaal. I suppose that makes him a unique player to win two league titles in two countries without a defeat. He also won the Champions League with Ajax and his compatriot Finidi George was also a part of that invincible team and should have done more in his career. Sadly, like the Nigerian team, Finidi’s career never reached the heights of his potential shown at Ajax.

    Premier League has quite a few Nigerians right now as Moses and Mikel are at Chelsea, Iwobi is at Arsenal, Iheanacho is at Manchester City, Musa is at Leicester City…while Yakubu played for a few clubs and we all remember Obafemi Martins, not for the good reasons.

    I’ve mentioned only senior players.

  2. No doubt D Gunners are d most popular Club among Nigerians; reasons are-arsenal plays scintilating beutiful football wich appeals to majority of nigerian football followers; Kanu Nwankwo’s exploits at arsenal got nigerians balled over hence making dem die hard fans; d value nd club achievements of arsenal as a self sustaining entity witout leaning on any financier endeared arsenal to most people; d personage of Arsene Wenger, his achievements nd dogged commitment to arsenal stands him out as an idol among followers of football here in Nigeria;d PL is d most watched league here even much more dan d local league.most football fans kno by names all players in d PL nd by their Clubs. Nigerians are so passionate abt PL teams nd matches,view Centers are jam packed anytym matches are on same goes for live swtreaming on media platforms; infact , if ua here u wuld tink ua in England on wkends wen matches are staged.Alex Iwob’s emergence at *rsenal has only added a filip to d passion of nigerians for arsensal! Nigerian Gonners blog is available on facebook,check it out !!!

  3. I’m proudly Nigerian!
    And Austine ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha remains the best midfielder of the Super Eagles I’ve ever watched. Some say, their glory departed with his retirement. I say, I concur.
    While the most mesmerising goalscorer for the Super Eagles for me is of course, the inimitable Nwankwo Kanu. The man who brought the love for the Arsenal Way to every lover of good football in Nigeria with his deft moves and display at Arsenal and here at home.

  4. Arsenal FC has long been liked to watch by interested football fans since the advent of the cable satellite company the – ABG started the pioneering of telecasting the Premier League football to viewers in some big towns in Northern Nigeria. I live in Zaria town. I stared watching Arsenal, Man United and Chelsea among others on my TV via the cable I think as far back as 1998 when I subscribed to ABG cable Satellite @#1000/per month. I did the subscription to principally enabled me to watch the Premier League football, the CNN, BBC, Channel O and one English film showing channel that was bringing tough good films for us and showing the top 20 musician records or LPs.

    There is no doubt Nwako Kanu moving to Arsenal after the Atlanta Olympics must have increased the viewers strength and interest in watching Arsenal especially here in North Nigeria where I leave. As for me, I’ve known Arsenal through my reading of pools forecasting papers/newspapers which I used to read when I was making the coupons then. And also listening to the Saturday’s BBC football commentaries and results read by James Alexandra Gordon. And I’ve since in that 70s era fell for Arsenal even before I started to watch them on TV in 1998.

    I think I can attest to the fact that Arsenal are the most popular and followed Premier League football club in Northern Nigeria. I can’t voice for the rest of Nigeria since I’ve not gone there to gage the strength of our followership there. But I believe it most be very strong. But I think Chelsea, Man U, Man City and Liverpool have strong followerships too in the Southern part of Nigeria, if what I’ve been reading in the papers and hearing on TV during football comments by club loyalists on TV who are contributing to football program is an indicator that can be relied upon.

  5. Other than the fact that Iwobi has a lot of traveling to do during the internationals , he may have made the right choice in opting to play for Nigeria, as they seem to have a better chance at international honours .
    They play such beautiful flowing football , and its no wonder that a majority of their countrymen support the Arsenal .

  6. It hurts me to say this, being an ardent supporter of Liverpool, but Arsenal have far more supporters in Nigeria than any other overseas based club. As stated in the article, Kanu played a major role in this but credit also to Arsene Wenger for it was the style of football he made Arsenal play that really endeared the club to Nigerians.
    Football is regarded as an art in Nigeria. It is not enough to just win a game; you have to do it in style. Nigerians would rather see their national team outplay the opposition and lose, than beat the opposition and be outplayed. It is just the way we are as a people, which was why nobody in Nigeria cared about the Gunners during the dreary “1-0 to the Goners” years. We love beautiful football and Wenger’s Arsenal personifies that!
    Here’s hoping more Nigerians will fall in love with Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool as we continue our march to the title (which I still feel will be heading to the Emirates come the end of the season unless the ‘usual’ happens to Arsenal).

  7. @Bailey,
    Now that you asked, I tend to agree with you that Arsenal is Nigeria’s favourire football team. I don’t have much by way of direct evidence or polling results from any organizations except through my personal observations. An incidence occurred on Saturday, November 5, while Premier League matches were going on. I was at a local neighborhood meeting around the time Manchester City was playing Middlesbrough’ and I kept monitoring scores on my handset. I noticed City was leading for long spells during the match. I do not recall exactly when M’borough scored but I heard quite distinctively the shout of ‘Goal’ when one of the teams had scored.

    Instinctively I concluded that Boro had scored but the BBC site I was using to monitor the scores failed to update it immediately. I kept checking back until finally after the matches ended I saw that Boro had drawn level with City thus confirming my earlier conclusion. In my neighborhood in Nigeria I notice more Arsenal shirts being worn than of any other teams. Chelsea comes second, and Man U third, hardly do you see Liverpool’s not to to talk of the other English football clubs. Even City’s appears once in a blue moon.

    On another weekend we were in another crunch match during the last season and AFC was having a hard time finding the net. I had gone to an ATM to draw some money for myself and couldn’t stay at home to watch the match. The neighborhood in which I was using the ATM is upscale and is normally sedate and has very few human or vehicular traffic during weekends. At the time I was drawing the money the cheers of ‘Goal’ jolted me and again I just knew Arsenal had scored without hearing any other confirmation. Later I found out we had won that match and the goal scored came during the time I was at that ATM. I use the said ATM from time to time especially during weekends and have never noticed other football matches get that mulch rapturous support.

    Not enough evidence you may say after all not only Arsenal benefitted from the leveling of scores between City and Boro, Chelsea also did. However knowing my neighborhood that well I was very convinced that those were Arsenal supporters cheering the chance created by Boro for their team to go top come Sunday. Arsenal is my team all the way and I live in Lagos, Nigeria. What happened on those Saturdays gets repeated from time to time even when we are engaged in Champions League matches. Any time Arsenal scores noise levels are usually higher than when other teams play.

  8. Arsenal is the most supported club in Nigeria. And we have a large organised fan base scattered in different cities in Nigeria.

    Nigerians love not just football but good football and Arsenal plays good football we so much enjoyed. Arsenal is the only team which plays and every one (supporters & non-supporters) claps and remained awake throughout the 90 minutes.

    you cannot rule out the fact that some fans grew more love for Arsenal as a result of Kanu playing there but we generally love Arsene W. We believe he knows and like his philosophy as a manager. And never afraid of loosing a match, we believe you either win, draw or loose.

    When you see a patient and tolerant football supporter in Nigeria, don’t look far he/she must be a Gunner. surely I am!!!!!!!

  9. Nice write up

    I started supporting Arsenal circa 1998 after watching some mesmeric moves by the football god, Dennis Bergkhamp. From then on, I simply got stuck. Certain things solidified my support for Arsenal 1. Arsene Wenger: was it the mere fact that this man bears name similar to the club or just for his looks? 2. Kanu: If you are a Nigerian and you love football, then you love Kanu, subsequently most love Arsenal, particularly because many of us believes Arsene Wenger saved his career after he was diagnosed of Heart problems and left to rue his career by Inter Milan.

    There may not be a definitive research finding to point exclusively to which team has the highest support in Nigeria, but you could easily use some unorthodox means. For example as stated by Bobome above, the sheer roar that greets every Arsenal goals at Viewing Centers/Pubs is a huge factor. Another huge factor is this: I checked out a boutique in Lagos and asked the owner which club sells the highest and most expensive, he didn’t even think about it, in his words “Arsenal’s shirt is the most expensive and it sells the most”. On another occasion, I recall the fanfare that greets the celebration (In his playing days for Arsenal) of Henry’s (Igwe: King in Igbo language) birthdays at a particular Polytechnic in southwest Nigeria (Federal Polytechnic Offa) by the Arsenal Fan Club of the school which often celebrates Igwe’s birthday by the slaughtering of a fully grown bull. Of course this in some areas can be said to be stretching it too far, but it does lend credence to the extent to which Arsenal is supported in Nigeria.

    With the above I think it is mostly a non contest as to which team is most supported in Nigeria. The advent of the Russian to Chelsea and the appointment of Mourinho brought recognition to Chelsea football club in Nigeria and as at now may stake a huge claim in the dichotomy of football support in Nigeria. Aside that, there’s no contest

    Thanks for taking the time to read

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