How Much Does A Nigerian Footballer Really Earn? We Asked One

April 27, 2020

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.


Today’s story is about a footballer playing in the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL). To help me understand some peculiarities of the local league, I brought Tolu, a sports journalist to answer some questions.

When did you first realise that you had to be a footballer?

That’d be 2016, I was 14. During the offseason, a Super Eagles player came to my Academy and gave us ₦1 million. Cash o! 

Hahahaha. Omo. 

I was like wtf. Went home, told my mum about the episode. I started doing sit-ups and plenty push-ups, haha. She laughed and said, one day na u go dash them. 

PAPILO. 

Hahaha. Honestly, that episode started off everything. Although, from day one it’s been football for me because no money for school and all that. The passion is key but the desire to change the story for my family is strong because my background ehn – I can’t shout.  

Football is the financial messiah for me. 

Do you want to talk about the background part some more? 

You know, one time my dad was critically sick. Like, I was seeing my Dad going because there wasn’t money for drugs and treatment. 

However, God showed up. My agent was in the picture when everything was happening. 

He supported with money for meds, right?

Yeah, he told me, “you need to succeed and change all of this.” 

This actually happened before the 1 million thing happened at the Academy.  

That’s heavy. What year did you join an Academy, and how did you get in? 

2015. I played against the Academy and scored 4 goals, so I was invited to join the Academy. The thing is, there are no fixed ways to get into the Academy. Some cases, the coach scouts them his self. Sometimes, it’s agents bringing people into the Academy. 

Interesting, tell me about your progression in the academy. What was the first level, when did you get promoted? 

Haha! There’s no promotion in the Academy o. Your only promotion is only if you get a club. 

Hmmm. Interesting. Did you get any allowances?

Allowance ke? No bro, but maybe people get in other places. But our coach was really trying. He used to buy boots for us and really supported people individually when the need arose. Just like he helped out with some of the medical bills of my dad. 

After that 2016 episode with the Super Eagle, when was the first time that football actually paid you money?

2017. The academy host a tournament and I finished as the highest goal scorer. The prize money was ₦20k but agent gave me an additional ₦50k. That day I felt like Ighalo, hahaha.

Bruhhhhh. What’s the first thing you used that money for?

Haha. Tithe. Mumsy. Boots. Then I bought a phone.

What about your first salary?

That was at my first club in the 2017/2018 season. 

What was the signing fee/salary structure like?

There was no sign-on fee or loan fee. In fact, I negotiated ₦150k but was paid ₦100k/month. 

Interesting. What were the other financial benefits?

Ahh, National team?! What was the U-20 experience like for you?

It’s the best experience of my life so far; the pride of representing your country, the travelling, the experience and exposure. We went on a tour in Egypt, and that was the first time in my life that I travelled abroad. I couldn’t sleep sef, because I didn’t want to hear that anything happened. 

In Egypt – the weather, the stadium, everything – it was just top class. 

As in, Osuofia don enter London. 

Hahaha. 

It can only be God. I’m forever grateful for talent and favour.

I’m curious, how does financial reward/payments work at that national level? 

  • The basic payment 
  • Match bonus
  • Travelling allowance
  • Camp allowance. 

However, all this na audio.

Wait, they didn’t pay it?

That was when Giwa-Pinnick were still fighting. 

Ah, so you weren’t paid at all? Just trips and vibes?

Yeah.

Mad o. So, when you came back, you went to your new club?

Yeah. 

Do you have any idea how much players in other clubs playing at your level earn?

My contract is different from others, so I don’t really know what everyone else negotiated. It doesn’t matter which team you play for, what matters is your contract.  Right now, some of the best things I’ve heard about with Welfare are Akwa United and Kano Pillars.

But when you keep the team aside, you can be in Adamawa United and earn more than someone in Heartland.

When does your contract expire?

20/21 season. I’m on loan. From my Academy. I wasn’t with my previous club on a full-time contract too either. I was on loan too.

So, people with a full contract, how much would they earn?

I don’t know. I care only about my contract, I don’t ask around. 

Still, I think you’ve come a long way, and I respect that. This money thing, how you see am?

Money is actually the only thing you can use to change your situation, depending on how you spend it. A lavish spender will go back to square one, while whoever invests will reap. 

The truth is, we footballers especially here in NPFL, we need more financial education. 

Tell me more.

Take an X-ray of ex-NPFL footballers and their present finances and you’ll write a book. We have a poor investment and saving attitude. The bitter truth is football is a short career, what’s next when you stop playing?

Word.

There’s someone who played for the Super Eagles, a big name in the league. I didn’t watch him because I was still quite small, but I heard about his exploits. He still trains, and whenever I see him, I just know it is what it is. He made money while playing, but the stories have it that he spent it on girls & drinks. 

One day, he said, “boy make sure say u no end like me, shey u dey hear?” 

Man, I was almost in tears. I can assure you he’s surviving hand to mouth. 

How many more active years do you think you have left in you, all things being equal?

I’m just starting bro – nothing short of 15 years, all things being equal.

Looking at where your career is, how much do you think a player of your skillset/experience should be earning?

In NPFL or Abroad?

Let’s start Abroad.

There’s Abroad and there’s Abroad. Cyprus can’t be compared to England. I can’t tell you a figure because I’ve not gone abroad yet. 

Let’s try to paint a picture of what your ‘dream’ scenario looks like within the next 5 years.

After this corona issue, I’m trusting God to go abroad, maybe a smaller league first to continue learning before moving to any league in the top 5. 

So, you’re currently doing 350k a month. Can we do a rough breakdown of how expenses take it all up every month?

I have a foundation, but it’s still at the CAC level for registration.

Interesting. What causes are you interested in?

Any orphanages that I know that can’t afford to pay for WAEC, NECO, JAMB. 

Nice nice. I know someone that this might have made the lifetime of a difference for: 

Yeah. Anyone that contacts the foundation and is in dire need of medical support for bills. The widows won’t be left out too. 

What’s something you really really want right now but can’t afford?

A Mercedes GLK. I’m a dreamer! I don’t dream, alone I’m working towards it. 

Looks like this purchase means a lot to you.

The car purchase? Nah, bro, it’s not a need. It’s just a want.

What’s something you’ve paid for recently that significantly improved the quality of your life?

I just offset the backlog of my sister’s school fees, and the joy on my parents’ faces plus hers? BRUHHH. I have a solemn peace within me because I’m happy when my parents are happy. 

So yes, that improved my life. I had peace. 

How much did this cost?

About 120k across other debts. 

You’re clearly important to your family, and I see how it drives you. Do you have an emergency plan for yourself? Like Health insurance, or pension and stuff.

No health insurance. No pension. None. 

Wow. What happens when you get injured?

I will treat myself. That’s the situation here in NPFL. It even depends on the time of injury and if it is in the course of your contract.

Wait, wow. So, people sign contracts that don’t cover healthcare?

I don’t know for some but mine nahh. 

That is surprising, considering injury is an almost inevitable outcome for an athlete.

The risk we deal with on a steady.

Is there something you really wish you could be better at?

Yes: entrepreneurship. Tried out a business that didn’t work out. I’m interested in transport business though. 

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your financial happiness?

Bro, I have big dreams. So my finances, for now? Not cool. I’m not comfortable. 

Let’s paint a picture of what this comfort looks like for you. 

Guess you know the life Ighalo is living?

Favour over labour. 

Hahaha. Playing for your boyhood club living in one of the best houses in Lekki. Driving any car of your choice. Bro, that’s comfort. That’s the life I’m dreaming about. So, I’m looking at where I’m at, and where Ighalo is? I’m saying I’m at 1/10 on the happiness scale. 

I didn’t even ask, what’s your boyhood club?

Man City.

Looking forward to seeing you at the Etihad someday soon man.

Meeting you is all a part of the journey to my success.


Fu'ad Lawal

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