Dear Chief Roman,
I am writing to you from Lagos, the commercial capital of the most populous black country in the whole world. Nigeria. You must have heard of us, we are also the world's sixth largest producer of crude oil (you must know that, seeing that you made your infinite fortune from the black gold). We are also the world's happiest people, as well as the world's most football-crazy country (hold on to that thought).
Before I proceed, I must let you know that this is not a scam mail. I swear to God. Forget what you've heard about Nigerian scam mails â€“ every black person who's into criminal behavior conveniently claims to be a Nigerian. What this means is that Togolese and Ghanaian and Rwandan and Zimbabwean criminals, when caught, or when sending scam mails, all choose to pose as Nigerians. Why they do it is beyond conjecture. But they do it all the same.
I digress too much. Let me zoom into the meat of my discussion, the main purpose of my writing to you. I am a concerned, committed and highly patriotic citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As I mentioned earlier, Nigeria is the most soccer-loving country on the planet, and its citizens are crazy about God, soccer and parties and politics (in that order). It is the soccer-loving nature that I intend to isolate and build my argument around, for the purposes of this correspondence.
Dear Sir, the purpose of my writing to you is to invite you to come over to Nigeria and take over our National Football Team, the Super Eagles of Nigeria. Let me create a background that would help you get a clearer picture of the current situation.
A few years ago, the Super Eagles of Nigeria had a secure position as one of the greatest teams in the entire world. In April 1994, we rose to 5th position on the FIFA World Rankings, after winning the African Nations Cup earlier that year. A few months later we would waltz our way into the second round of the 1994 World Cup (earning ourselves the tag of "Most Entertaining Team" in the process). That was our year of Glory and Distinction. To God be the Praise for that glorious moment in our history.
Alas, if we had imagined that that was only the beginning of our grand and total conquest of world Soccer, we were mistaken. Grossly mistaken. We started a downhill journey. We failed to defend our Nation's Cup Crown two years later due to the lunatic antics of the General to whom we entrusted the commander-in-chiefship of our country. By November 1999 we had fallen to Number 82 in the Fifa Rankings. Our crowning loss-of-Glory was our inability to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. Imagine. While a country like Togo, which is no more than the size of what would be a mere state in Nigeria (and we have 36 of those) made it to the World Cup, we, the giants of Africa, the Super Eagles, failed to fly.
Today, people have started to call us Super Chickens, or Crippled Eagles of Nigeria. Because of the fact that our beloved Eagles have failed to bring us any appreciable measure of joy, we have been forced to shift our allegiance to the English Premiership (where, needless to say, you work as Emperor and Great Philanthropist). I must confess to you, there is not one single Nigerian alive today who does not fanatically identify with one team or the other in the English Premiership (especially Chelsea, Man U, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Newcastle). And another confession: you are one of the most popular men in the entire country, perhaps even more popular than you are in Russia, or even England. I am currently working on a proposal to have the Headquarters of the Nigerian Football Association (it currently goes by the highly unimaginative name: The Glass House) named after you. Roman Abramovich House. I intend to get 100,000 signatories for it, after which it shall be forwarded to the Government for the necessary action.
But that is by the way for now. Back to my point. Please, Chief Roman (if you're not yet one I assure you that you soon will be), make a bid for the Super Eagles. Forbes Magazine lists you as one of the 50 richest men in the world, so I know that the money to fund this venture will be the least of your problems. (And Wikipedia tells me that you have spent close to 600 million pounds sterling on Chelsea in the five years since you acquired it.)
Now, the big question, dear Sir, is this: Why am I asking you to do this; to place your magic fingers upon the Nigerian National Soccer Team?
Simple answer! It is because the whole of Nigeria has since come to realize that expecting our local administrators to perform any magic upon the current state of our football is akin to asking a hawk to fly a Boeing simply because it knows how to fly. We have been recycling the same set of jaded football admin-is-traitors for the past God-knows-how-many-years, and nothing good has come out of this (other than pot-bellies and dollar estacodes). We are therefore sick and tired of professional incompetence! Q.E.D!
Dear Chief Roman, you must have heard of what we call PPP. It is the new buzz-word in Nigeria today, and it stands for "Public-Private Partnership". As the name implies it is a high-level partnership between the Government and the Private Sector, aimed at combining and exploiting the potentials of both parties in a way that would create a synergistic effect. You-rub-my-back-I-rub-yours (I'm sure there's a Russian word for that, seeing that Brother Putin and Brother Medvedev seem to currently be in such a relationship).
Examples abound of highly successful PPP schemes in Nigeria. Let us take Nigeria's busiest domestic airport terminal, the MMA2, as a good example. A few years ago the Federal Government gave a private developer the rights to develop a brand new, state-of-the-art domestic airport terminal, to replace the old one which was consumed by fire. Out of that deal has arisen what is arguably the most modern airport terminal south â€“ and even north â€“ of the Sahara. You should see it. The Private Developer has been given a 30-year concession on a Build, Transfer and Operate arrangement. The entire country is the better for it.
The key word therefore â€“ or better still, words, are BUILD, OPERATE and TRANSFER.
This is what I want you to replicate here in our National Team, the Super Eagles. The brief is simple. Make a bid to take over the Super Eagles on a Kit, Operate, Discipline and Transfer basis.
So you won't be thought of as a greedy bloody acquisitive capitalist, I would want you to ask for a concession period of only 10 years (that would take care of, wait a minute, 5 Nations Cups and at least 2 World Cups, plus countless friendlies in between â€“ so you can at least make back some of your money).
I know you might be wondering how or why any country would give up their National
Soccer Team to a bloody foreigner. My dear Chief Roman, don't let that bother you. A few years ago we handed over our National Carrier (Aviation) to a foreigner like you, so that what used to be known as Nigeria Airways is now known and addressed proudly as Virgin Nigeria. And if you think that the "Virgin" is no more than a noun qualifying the "Nigeria", you might want to put a call across to Chief Branson (I bet, as a fellow English billionaire, you have his number), for more details.
You need more examples? Fine. I shall give you. A few years ago we handed over our National Carrier (Telecoms) over to a bunch of Dutch comedians (I swear) who had no verifiable office address back home, and who spent more money than they made in the time that it took them to run a dead company further aground. In fact, I reliably gathered that the contract papers were written in Dutch, without translators, so that our Government officials had no idea what it was that they were signing.
Dearest Chief Roman, we both know that you are not that sort of businessman. You are not a crook, nor one out to make a quick buck, you are not what we call a briefcase contractor, swooping in to make a kill and retiring to the comfort of your wealth. If you were that kind of person, you would not have taken over a heavily indebted organization like Chelsea, and pumped into it the kind of money you have pumped into it. (I even hear that the Club has yet to turn a profit since you took it over).
It is this kind of visionary leader, one who is not caught in the trap of short-term thinking (the Almighty bane of Nigerian football administration), that we need at the moment. We need an administrator who will ask not what the Super Eagles Budget can do for him, but what he can do for the Super Eagles Budget. We need an administrator who will not see foreign football tournaments as an opportunity to fill up with visas the passports of his three wives, sixteen children, seven in-laws, three cows-in-fattening and twelve townsmen. We need an administrator who will put real money into football administration in Nigeria; who will not hesitate to buy the best footballers in the world away from their native countries, and make them Nigerian citizens. (It can be done. Or what is money for?). Imagine David Beckham proudly holding up a green passport in his left hand, and a Super Eagles jersey in his right, as CNN and SuperSport cameras click away during a historic signing ceremony. Just imagine!
Dear Roman, I have done enough talking already. At this point I have to leave you to consider this offer and make up your mind. If it's something you wouldn't mind attempting, then we can take it up from there. For no pay (other than logistics and miscellaneous expenses) I could be your manager (if you don't mind. But of course it is always good to have someone on ground who knows the local terrain well).
Let me know what you think, as soon as possible. A couple of wealthy businessmen around the world (even fellow Forbes-listers) have already indicated their interest, but my mind keeps picking you. I look forward to hearing from you.
A concerned, fanatical Sports-Loving Nigerian General Merchant/Contractor (and die-hard