Week in, week out, many Nigerians stay glued to news channels just to catch-up with the English Premiership Football (EPL) matches and their respective outcomes. The way the young and old argue and take sides over EPL games show how passionate people are about the game in Nigeria.
Such is the massive passion and followership garnered by the EPL that a chance of watching an EPL game live in England is considered a lifetime experience by the average Nigerian football fan. The few who get the chance, will typically keep memorabilia of such to continually remind themselves of the thrills, or relive the experience, and proudly show-off the achievement to friends and family.
So for six Nigerian trade partners of Philip Morris Limited, who recently found themselves savouring the experience of watching a live match in England and having a tour of Stamford Bridge, the home ground of Chelsea Football Club (CFC) and the eight largest ground in the Premier league, it has been a dream come true.
Given that Stamford Bridge is the home of the CFC where football legends like Nigeria’s own Super Eagles Captain, John Mikel Obi, retiring Chelsea FC Captain, John Terry, African legend Didier Drogba among many other notable soccer stars honed their skills in preparation for entertaining their fans across the world on regular basis, it would always be a remarkable and exciting experience for any football follower to step on such grounds.
To heighten the excitement and make it more memorable, the trade partners got a full celebrity treatment as they were conducted round Stamford Bridge. Due to a change in the EPL schedule, the earlier planned match between Arsenal and Leicester City, current EPL champions was postponed.
Not deterred by this, PML’s agent worked assiduously to get new tickets to the FA Cup quarter final game played between Arsenal Football Club and Lincoln City on Saturday, March 11, 2017 at the Emirates Stadium.
The lucky six were drawn from the six geopolitical zones in recognition of the business done with PML, and rewarded with an all expense return trip to the United Kingdom, live football experience, a guided tour of London and other thrilling experiences for three days.
While the businessmen and woman; yes there was one lady among them, were relishing the experience, the trip coordinator Andrew Donnelly, the Commercial Director, Philip Morris Limited on discerning that most of them were fans of the CFC, promptly arranged to enrich the experience with a visit to Stamford Bridge.
“We set out to delight our trade partners with world-class footballing experience, because the game of football is a sport most Nigerians are passionate about. So we wanted to connect with our partners through their passion point,” Donelly said.
He explained his proactive tweak of the itinerary in these words: “We chose to use the popularity of the English Premiership to reward our gold partners with a chance to enjoy themselves by attending and watching a game live in England. However, during the course of the tour, I discovered that most of the people were fans of Chelsea FC while the live game available as at the time we were in London was involving Arsenal FC, so I quickly arranged a tour of Stamford Bridge in addition to the live Arsenal FC game earlier planned. The only lady among us was very pleased, though not an active football follower revealed that her brothers support the Chelsea FC.”
The company bore full expenses of the trip, from visa procurement, flight tickets, and choice accommodation to local runs, within and outside Nigeria. For the trade partners, it is an experience of a lifetime that has literarily turned them to celebrities among their peers.
One of the beneficiaries, Ifeanyi Anthony, Managing Director, Tonychy & Sons, recounts the experience this way “When Philip Morris Limited informed me that I was chosen for the trip, I didn’t take it to heart. But when they called for my international passport for visa procurement, I thought to myself, maybe this is real. And when we boarded the flight to London, I tuned my mind to what it will be like seeing a football game live in England.”
Expressing pleasure at the chance to personally feel his beloved CFC home grounds, he said it is something that will live with him forever. “Being a Chelsea fan, I never in my wildest imagination thought that I would have the opportunity of being live in Stamford bridge and snap pictures around the stadium,” he said.
On other aspects of the tour that resonated with him, he said.
“The Arsenal game was worth it. The atmosphere of the live match will live with me forever. The shopping experience and the visit to the historical site (famous Trafalgar Square) etc., even the warmth of the company’s officials will last forever in our memories.”