Dangote buying Arsenal—  The Billionaire’s mindset


Each time I read about the unquenchable desire of the richest man in Africa  and the the 67th richest man in the world to buy one of the most glamorous football clubs in the world—I get somewhat giddy. Whether it’s because the cement and sugar magnate is a Nigerian, or that I have fantasized also buying off Manchester United –in my wildest rumination—I just relish the prospects of Aliko scooping up the Emirates Stadium and adding it to his ever-burgeoning empire. And I have no shred of doubt that he can achieve it.

A lot of reactions have trailed this desire of the world’s second most influential black man, both at home and abroad. Some here have argued that Dangote has shown some unpatriotic tendencies by deciding to take away the billions that he made here and plunge it into an already affluent society. For them, they’ll rather have him invest in the Nigerian league in order to help it grow better.

Some foreigners have also opined that Dangote should use his fortune to better the lots of his people as they reasoned that Arsenal already have billionaire stake holders and another billionaire taking over the franchise would not make any difference in their quest to contest for laurels and honors. Many of them were not even looking at it from a football perspective; they just dread the prospect of a foreigner claiming their once cherished heritage.

Firstly, let me address those fanning the flame from home. I do not think the magnate’s desire has got anything to do with patriotism. No one would require any schooling to know that football is big business these days and it is governed by the basic rules of commerce. There is no sentiment attached. It is a multi-billion dollar empire being run by oligarchs and organized systems. Dangote, of course, would pitch his tent to the Nigerian league if he finds it lucrative. So rather than censuring the man’s desire to acquire Arsenal—a desire fueled by sheer ambition and business prospects(Arsenal is going to be a money spinner and a wise investment) — those who run the Nigerian league should put their house in order and make the league become attractive and a lucrative investment for sponsors—including Dangote. Some years ago, it was all over the news of the rife between the then league sponsors– Glo, and the league administrators such that matters had to be taken to the court! If Dangote had been running his business on sheer sentiments order than shrewd decision-making acumen of a tycoon, he surely wouldn’t have amassed the kind of wealth he had acquired. Get your house in order and watch the money roll in.


For the foreign Arsenal fans and those who shrug at the prospect of another foreign billionaire coming in because they see their clubs as their heritage, I think they are also in some form of denial. Everyone who follows football knows that most of the top clubs in the Barclay’s Premier League today are owned by foreign oligarchs and dynasties—from Manchester United to Liverpool. It’s the trend and that’s what you get from globalization. I recall many years back when Roman Abramovich showed up to buy Chelsea, not many would have predicted the success his era would bring to the club and subsequently English football. Today, just in about a decade, Chelsea has won almost everything there is to win in club football and they are even the current English Champions! Besides, just in case you didn’t know, Dangote today is twice as rich as Abramovich! He has an ambition to steer Arsenal from the path of winning FA cups as consolation to really competing in Europe and winning the league. Dangote would probably bring the same passion and business adroitness that he puts in his sugar and cement business and put Arsenal on the map once again —after all, which football fan would not want a monopoly of trophies for their club!


Now let’s look at this whole thing in another way: I believe that are things to learn from Dangote’s desire to buy Arsenal—something I would  put as the billionaire’s mindset and I’ll share a few.

Daring: Of course you’d suspect to be better-off than about 99% of the rest of the world’s population would require some audacity. And Dangote is showing every bit of it. He is reiterating his ambition to own Arsenal— and he is saying it with some cockiness as if Stan Kroenke and other shareholders have no choice than to game. Billionaires don’t see impossibilities and it’s not just because of their deep pockets, it’s because where ordinary mortals cringe and fear the lion in the street—they move on with gusto—something that elevated them them to the billionaire status in the first place.

Sense of Timing: Billionaires are very calculative. It was said that this was not the first time Dangote has shown interest in buying into Arsenal. The first time, he had thought that the stocks were too pricey but now his instinct is telling him to do business because after the building of the Emirates stadium, Arsenal books are pretty healthy now and looks like a good spot to invest in!

They want to leave a legacy: Dangote buying Arsenal would compound his status in the league of billionaires and his fame would skyrocket. I can imagine him coming in every while, sitting at the VIP stand at the Emirates stadium, swathed in his natty suit that beclouds his fortune, and smiling once in a while as Arsenal players mesmerize with their sexy style of play.  As the richest fella in Africa, he cannot be dubbed a local champion by any means, but getting Arsenal would  consolidate his place in the pack of fellow deep pockets!

They inspire others: Success breeds success. No one would be inspired by a man who failed—except that man was able to launch a comeback. It reminds me of one quote I shared on my Facebook page: “Good players inspire themselves, great players inspire others,”— in other words, great people inspire others. I can imagine how many kids in Nigeria and all over Africa would be inspired to be like Dangote if he acquires Arsenal. This would also be a good PR for Nigeria and it would inspire other compatriots home and abroad to make exploits. So carry on, Mr. Dangote— I’ll be rooting for you!

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.

FOUL! FIFA: Rule Makers or Rule Breakers?


 There are two basic laws, they say, that governs the existence of mankind: the rules of God and the rules of man; if you want to survive, don’t break them!

I will not attempt to embark on the onerous task of elucidating the former as it can prove to be daunting and obscure—I will, however, spotlight a little bit on the rules of man.

For example, part of the rules of man is the constitution that governs every sovereign state—one that each citizen within that sovereignty is bound by no matter how powerful or lowly they may be. It should also be in the context of good reasoning to suggest that in the category of the rules of man – are the rules of organizations—one that governs the ethics and conducts of its operations and operators. For example, organizations like The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

Let’s state the obvious so that we don’t err as a function of assumption, that FIFA is the world’s governing football body. It is saddled with the responsibility of managing football affairs in the world and within its member countries. It publishes the 17 fundamental rules that govern football and it regulates the code and conduct of member countries and her word is lord as far as football is concerned on this planet. Having said this however, a wave of consternation and befuddlement assails one when you learn that those who make the law are the ones breaking the law—or aptly, the rule makers have become the rule breakers!

Over the years there have always been allegations of gross misconduct among the ranks of FIFA officials and we’ve read about how FIFA itself would set up investigative committees to look into these charges of corrupt practices and some have been axed for shady deals, the magnitude of the monumental corruption didn’t dawn on many, except folks like the investigative journalist Andrew Jennings who blew the lid off and exposed FIFA misdemeanors , which includes taking bribes to allocate hosting rights to nations, money racketeering, ticketing frauds and secret seven-figure perks for the executives.

Recently, FIFA itself started making more headlines than the stars and football action as the season wounded to an end—the show organizers have become the show men! On May 27, 2015, Swiss authorities closed in on some top FIFA executives who have been under investigation by U.S. officials and they were nabbed from their plush 5-star hotels into the confines of the authorities, now awaiting an extradition to the United States for further trial. It was reported that the U.S. have substantial evidence to prosecute the FIFA helmsmen for a racket totaling about $150 million over a period of 24 years.

When I first heard the news of the FIFA scandal, especially as the flame is being fanned by U.S. authorities, I had reservations stemmed from the notion that this could just be another way the World power is using to get their pound of flesh from FIFA executives for their failed bid to host the world cup in 2022. But that impression gave way when FIFA president Sepp Blatter, the controversial figure at the helm of football governance for almost two decades now, relinquished his mandate just four days after being reelected, citing that “while I have a mandate from the membership of FIFA, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football—fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at FIFA.” Now when Blatter resigns, it only tells you that the heat is getting more intense!

While trying to find out more what’s going on, I read about the works of an investigative journalist, Andrew Jennings. who first gave the U.S officials a tipoff about the underhanded dealings going on in FIFA in 2006 when he published his book, “FOUL! The Secret World of FIFA: Bribes, Vote Rigging and Ticket Scandals.” This unrelenting old reporter also released a BBC film panorama that same year titled, “The Beautiful Bung: Corruption and the World Cup.” In 2014, Jennings released another book, “Omerta: Sepp Blatter’s FIFA Organized Crime Family”

Jennings Who has the instinct for sniffing shady business is famed for his works as he had worked on stories relating to organized crime. In the 1980s, he dug into bad cops, the Thai heroin trade and the Italian mob. In the 1990s, the 71 year old reporter brought the corruption in the International Olympic committee to full glare. It was his works that unraveled the FIFA machinations and soon enough the gentlemen of the FBI contacted him and proper investigations began. As soon as he started on FIFA’s case, he had become a thorn in their flesh as he would go to press conferences and rather than limit himself to the clichéd queries of your average Joe sports writer—FIFA president got questions like, “‘Herr Blatter, have you ever taken a bribe?’”

South African football association has also come out to deny that they paid $10million in bribes for the hosting of the 2010 World cup but the authorities believe that not everything has been heard about the way FIFA has been awarding hosting rights to nations. In recent times, the controversy surrounding the awarding of hosting rights to Russia in 2018 – a country that doesn’t attempt to hide its homophobia for example, and Qatar in 2022, where the heat is so much that the World cup calendar had to be shifted to the winter, something that is still stirring controversy in its wake as the rest of the football world are agitating that it would upset the football calendar. All these have fallen to the deaf ears of the FIFA bosses—we can now speculate why.

While Sepp Blatter has not been indicted yet, Andrew Jennings believes it’s only a matter of time. Now there’s a likelihood that the FIFA bosses will be going for a playoff in the United States and Jennings have no pity for them, “It’s nice to know that Herr Blatter won’t be able to sleep tonight. And that he’ll finally get to sleep around half past five. And at six o’clock someone will slam a car door outside and he’ll be shooting out of bed and under the bed. Serves him right. He’s not a nice man.” And he hopes to be out there in the United States when the Play offs begin, “I just hope I can afford the airfare to New York and that someone will let me sleep on their couch so that I can be there in the [courthouse] press box to say, ‘Hi guys! It’s been a long run, hasn’t it?’”

As FIFA tries to sanitize its house by a total overhaul of leadership and operation, we lovers of football would only hope that sanity will be brought to the game we love so much and the stigma of these criminal acts of the men who made the rules obliterated from our sport. Let those who break the rules pay the price, and for those guys in FIFA, it’s time up—after all, they should know better that when the referee blows the final whistle, there’s no going back.

 O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.

The Battle For La Orejona (Big Ears)

The Champions League trophy is pictured before the soccer match between Schalke 04 and Valencia in Gelsenkirchen March 9, 2011. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender (GERMANY - Tags: SPORT SOCCER) Picture Supplied by Action Images *** Local Caption *** 2011-03-09T192509Z_01_INA100_RTRIDSP_3_SOCCER-CHAMPIONS.jpg

All is now set for the biggest game of the season, the 60th of Europe’s apex competition and the 23rd season since it was renamed from the European Champions Club’s cup to the UEFA Champions League, holding at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on Saturday evening between the Old lady, Juventus and Blaugrana, FC Barcelona. The two heavy weights will do battle for La Orejona—the trophy nicknamed “the big ears” in Spanish because of the shape of its handle. Who will go home with Europe’s biggest price and be crowned 2015 champions of Europe?

On Saturday night in Berlin, the best of the best will display their propensities before the mammoth crowd that will seat in the sold out 74,475-capacity Olympiastadion, while millions more will be enjoying the action from their TV sets around the world. If there is one game that can define careers and destinies of players and coaches, this is the one.

There is no going back now and no time for elaborate build-ups; come 7:45 P.M., British time , the stage will be cleared and it’s only a matter of time before we will see those whose eyes will be dripping with tears of joy while cackling their delight in the ecstasy of triumph. The time would soon be ripe for us to see those who will lament in hush agony and bemoan their bad luck and the cruelty of fate on them—it is only a matter of time.


All eyes are now focused on the fledging career of two promising coaches—Luis Enrique and Massimiliano Allegri. Will Luis Enrique join the ranks of young successful coaches like Josep Guardiola and Frank Rijkaard and add icing on the cake in a season where he had already won the La Liga and the Copa Del Rey with the attacking machinery of Messi, Suarez and Neymar (MSN)? Will he achieve the feat of winning the treble in his first season in charge and even pave the way to collect more trophies like the Super Cup and The World Club Cup?

Massimiliano Allegri, Juve’s boss, is also having the time of his life, winning the Scudetto and the Coppa Italia. He would fancy his chances to lead the Old Lady of Turin to the Champions League final after 12 years of absence at the biggest stage. Remarkably, he has been able to instill the Old Lady with some grit reminiscent of what we used to know of Italian football. That enabled Juventus knock off the champions Real Madrid in a closely contested two-legged game with former homeboy – Álvaro Morata proving to be the nemesis of Los Blancos and their albatross to a lustful agenda of conquering Europe for the eleventh time. Juventus will seek to win the Champions League for the third time in their eighth Champions League final.

In the ranks of the Juventus players is a caustic blend of youth and experience—players who have graced games of this magnitude time after time—Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Carlos Tevez, Patrice Evra . When it comes to adding youthful verve—they would be relying on the indefatigable Paul Pogba, the ruthless Álvaro Morata and the assiduous Arturo Vidal amongst the rest of the pack. There’s every reason to keep faith with this Juventus outfit.


To emerge on the victor’s podium tomorrow, the Italians would have to trust the Catenaccio – the vintage Italian tactics. They will need to deprive the adroit Barcelona players of space— and though a daunting feat, how well they do this would determine their success at the end of the game.

While I have enumerated what Juventus must do to pop more champagne tomorrow when referee Cüneyt Çakır from Turkey blows the final whistle, no one needs to be told who the clear favorites are. Barcelona has enjoyed one of the finest decades in their rich history and has won 3 Champions League final among an avalanche of trophies. More so, when you have arguably the best football player ever on your side, you have every reason to be confident, and winning trophies become your right. In Berlin tomorrow, all eyes will be on Lionel Messi, the modest size Argentinian and record four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner who needs no extra incentive to perform at such grandiose occasion. He would be expected to make endless runs, nutmegs and a series of defence-splitting passes. It would also not be a surprise if he ends up on the scoring sheet and clinch the golden boot; after all he’s found the net in the last two finals of 2009 and 2011 against Manchester United. The Blaugrana also boast of the Brazilian poster boy—Neymar Jr. and the biting Uruguayan danger man, Luis Suarez. One only hopes that the latter would keep his teeth in check at least now that Giorgio Chiellini would not be playing due to injury.


Soccer fans like me all over the world will be having night pangs and even those who don’t care much are drooling as they await the Champions League anthem filter the air while the players jump out of the dugout and shake out whatever tension that is still harbored in their system. We hope the final lives up to its billing and that it would be one we would remember for years to come.

O.P. Philips is a freelance writer/entrepreneur. He is the author of The “OBAMA” in You! His new book, “What Football Teaches About Life” will be released soon.