By Tony Attwood
4 May 2010. Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote denies moving to buy a 15.9% stake in Arsenal.
It was a story that was all over the blogs and some of the newspapers – the shares in Arsenal that were up for sale (the Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith shares, or the Lady Penelope shares as they started to be known) – were going to a Nigerian.
We’ve never had a non-event as an anniversary before – in fact I think it is the only non-event on the ever growing anniversary list – but there are reasons to explore this one.
For a few weeks back Arsenal Football Club has announced that the first-team squad will travel to Nigeria this summer for a pre-season match in Abuja on Sunday, August 5.
This will be our first match in the country, and will be held at the 60,000 capacity Abuja National Stadium. Quite who we will play is not known – but it seems likely to be a national side – although curiously not the Nigerian national side.
So, why? Arsenal’s web site is quiet on the topic, save to celebrate Kanu, quite reasonably, and to contain info about Emirates Airline who are “presenting” the tour.
Arsenal‘s Chief Commercial Officer Tom Fox said: “Arsenal Football Club is delighted to be expanding our long-term partnership with Emirates through our 2012 Tour. We are fortunate to have such a strong global partner who is as committed to these key markets as we are. We are all excited to be visiting Malaysia, China including Hong Kong, and Nigeria, countries with many loyal Arsenal fans, who will now have the opportunity to see their team play live in the summer.”
So what is going on? Is it the return of the fabled Alhaji Aliko Dangote with a net worth thought to be of $11.2 billion. Or is it about selling shirts? Is it about TV rights, or a pan-African campaign.
Or is it about the Dangote Group, which has interests in commodities with operations across Africa in food processing, cement manufacturing, freight, sugar et al.
Dangote played a prominent role in the funding of Obasanjo’s re-election campaign in 2003, gave half a million dollars to the National Mosque and another load of cash to the Presidential Library.
Of course there is nothing to say that Dangote is back on the scene – but if not, why are Arsenal playing in Nigeria?
Well, Guinness Nigeria Plc has announced that Arsenal has chosen Malta Guinness to be the Official Malt Drink of the club in Nigeria for the next three years and for Malta Guinness Low Sugar to be the Official Malt Drink of the Arsenal trip.
Arsenal’s Head of Global Partnerships, Vinai Venkatesham, went a little further, saying: “We have a huge following in Africa, and Nigeria in particular. We are looking forward to working with Malta Guinness and Guinness Nigeria to connect with our many millions of fans in the region during the tour and beyond.”
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