“As an African kid, you don’t learn to play football on the synthetic turf or learn football with well-planned grass, you learn it the hard way… on the street corners.”
The night is alit — the roaring of trumpets, the banging of drums, the cheering of thousands, hopeful — as the Nigerian National Football team prepares for the biggest moments of their lives. For a country of 186 million, 60 percent of which is under the age of 20, this is a new Nigeria. One to which represents a new direction, a new spirit, channeled across a country of over 500 different tribes in what is known collectively as Naija.
In conjunction with Nike, Nigerian photographer and filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu captures this vibrant optimism in a new short-film titled, This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story. At the forefront is the new Nigeria home kit, a devilishly beautiful shirt highlighted with neon green accents and an iconic zig-zag pattern which shattered the kit record, by selling out three million units in mere minutes. However, this is a story that runs far deeper than a flashy kit; this is the tale of a country, who’s relatively recent independence, is now revealing its deeply rooted creative history. A history of song and dance, of food and culture, of mythology and folklore — all of which permeates with every pulsating kick of the ball.
“When I think of Naija swag — swag is edgy, edgy is rugged, it’s authentic. Its the way we dress, its the way we carry ourselves, its the way we speak. its the way we move,” says Nigerian musician Nneka. This movement is ever-present in the likes of Wilfred Ndidi and captain John Obi Mikel, but also in rising musical and creative talents such as photographer Yagazie Emezi, filmmaker Grace Ladoja and Wizkid, to name a few.
As the most populous nation in Africa, Nigeria oozes this creativity, as it ranks second worldwide in terms of films produced and one that has birthed musical giants such as Fela Kuti and the Afrobeat movement. Footballing wise, Nigeria continues to grace the world with maestros — from the legendary Nwankwo Kanu and Jay Jay Okocha of the Olympic Gold winning team of 1996 to Premier League stars Alexander Iwobi and Victor Moses.
“Hosting the World Cup in Nigeria would take Nigeria from where it is now amongst some of the poorest countries in the world, to where it can be, one of the most advanced civilizations in the world”, says Nigerian Football legend, Segun Odegbami. The resources are there, the talents is there, the passion and energy is there… it is now up to this new Naija to use football as a catalyst in spearheading both Nigeria and the continent of Africa in what could be a domino effect of infrastructural development for the years to come. Enjoy the full This is Naija: A Nigerian Football Story below.