Lagos derby is a welcome addition

Some derbies are more than just football writes Mudashiru Shittu. Surprisingly the Lagos derby on Sunday between MFM and Ikorodu United is the first in Lagos since the Nigeria Professional Premier league in 2003.

Moreover the two clubs are both top flight debutants, a more memorable fact than the game itself at the Onikan Stadium.
The much talked about the derby ended as a 0-0 stalemate in a surprisingly low-key affair that disappointed all who watched, including the Nigeria Football Federation president Amaju Pinnick.

Some observers have thought Ikorodu United should have forced a winner from the encounter, against the 10 man M.F.M after Monsuru Bashiru saw red. ibut in the second half they looked happy with a  draw.
IF both coaches secretly did have regrets, it is the fact that their boys didn’t deliver the goals.
MFM coach Edema was satisfied with the game, speaking to journalist after the game.
"I am satisfied with the game. In football; you win, draw and lose some .I put in five midfielders to make sure they score but my attackers disappointed me” he further said amidst the rumour of his sack. “I am not under pressure, coaching is not an easy job. Decision making is one of the hardest parts of the job”.
If the game was tepid, the build-up was not.
The biggest story from the encounter was the vibe that it generated online as the the hash tag #LagosDerby trended on Twitter from Sunday until late on Monday.

According to tracking site Keyhole, there were 301 posts using #LagosDerby between March 6 and March 8, 2016 from 166 users with a reach of 2,259,828 which made 3,642,686 impressions. 82 per cent of the tweets came from Nigeria with the rest from the the USA (9%), Great Britain (6%), France, Ghana, Indonesia and Finland. 93% of the tweets came from men with women making up the remainder.

In any other major sporting event around the world, these numbers would not be a big deal. But for a domestic league game in Nigeria that had to compete with games involving Manchester United, Liverpool, Juventus and Barcelona on the same day, it means a lot.

The NPL needs this derby because it shows there is a hunger for quality live local football in Lagos.
It's a long time since a local game was big in Lagos. The commercial capital of Nigeria has struggled to follow the local league over the years since the demise of Julius Berger and Stationery Stores as well as the popularity of cable television which has brought closer home top notch European football.

Coupled with bad stadia, poor security and indecent administration, local football also has to compete against a lot of other high octane entertainment in Lagos, the capital of Nollywood.

So local football clubs have a lot of work to do to get the fans back in the stands.

On Sunday it was nice to see famous actor and politician Desmond Elliot in the stands. It means that the local game can bring star power to the stadium which would mean that more fans can begin to see the NPFL as a veritable entertainment outlet where they can invest their time and money.

With greater investment in their entertainment value, Ikorodu United and MFM FC could become the leading football clubs in Nigeria as they are backed by the Lagos media which basically dictates trends to the rest of the country.

At half time on Sunday, Ikorodu United gave out 10 GOtv decoders to ticketed fans via a raffle draw. This was a good way to connect with the fans and encourage more people to show up for future games.

Still, there’s more that can be done to give fans a fully rounded experience so that they can start connecting with the players and the teams.

Match programmes bearing players’ profiles and interesting little details can be produced by clubs and handed out to fans who purchase tickets.

There is the need for regulated food vendors inside the stadium so that fans can get refreshments at half time. There is room for businesses to take advantage of this.

Lagos is the centre of entertainment, our clubs need to rise up to merge football with music and give fans a generally jolly good time at the stadium.

There’s growing interest in the domestic game in Nigeria and that is why this is more than a game.

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