LaLiga Nigeria recently hosted British football journalist Sid Lowe who covers Spanish football, to engage with the media and stakeholders on the importance of sports journalism and highlight the international character of LaLiga.
Being a renowned international columnist and journalist for LaLiga, Lowe discussed the emotions and passion attributed to playing in the best league in the world. He also spoke to Complete Sports’ reporter, OLUYEMI OGUNSEYIN on a number of issues…
Complete Sports: Sid Lowe, welcome to Nigeria. How are you finding the country?
I haven’t had the chance to really find it because I have been here for so little time. I haven’t had time to kind of look around, but with the little I have seen, I am quite excited and looking forward to having a sense of where I am.
Is this your first time in Nigeria or Africa generally?
I have only ever been to Gambia and I have also been to Morocco, but like somebody said to me the other day, Morocco doesn’t really count…(Giggles with laughter, implying that Morocco probably is not an African country).
How would you rate the followership of Laliga in Nigeria? Do you think Nigerians follow the Spanish League with passion?
I have been talking to people in Nigeria and obviously due to the success of players like Nwankwo Kanu, Didier Drogba, although, he is not a Nigerian and Celestine Babayaro, Nigeria in football terms has been a country that has tended to look more towards the English Premier League than Laliga.
But obviously because of the quality of clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona, because of the success that Spanish teams have had in European competitions, it demonstrates that its followership in Nigeria is growing.
And it may well be that with the arrival of a new generation of African players in Spain to play that kind of role that Kanu or Drogba played in England some 10 or 15 years ago, it might help to increase the awareness of Spanish football in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Obviously, there have been some very important African players in Spain, like Samuel Eto’o and Finidi George. I also think that everyone is excited with Samuel Chukwueze of Villarreal. I believe that will have an impact on Nigerians and it is also all about just enjoying a very good level of football which Laliga has to offer.
Sid, you just mentioned Real Madrid and Barcelona and I am tempted to ask, is La Liga only about those two clubs?
No, La Liga isn’t only about those two clubs, but it is true that those two clubs are so huge and of course, have so many good players who dominate football conversations. They both create such an environment that so much focus is on them.
But in my own personal opinion, it is such a pity because we have so many wonderful clubs in Spain, so many good stories, so many really good players and I think it is nice to expand the spectacle so as to be able to see more.
Obviously, Atletico Madrid have been quite challenging in recent years by reaching two Champions League finals and winning the league title in 2014. You can also see that Sevilla have quite dominated the Europa League, Valencia is quite strong alongside Villarreal and that is really good for Spanish football.
But of course, it is true that these two clubs (Barca and Madrid) are so gigantic, so enormous, so powerful that they tend to dominate conversations, but I think there is a lot more to Spanish football beyond them.
What is LaLiga doing to bridge the gap between Real Madrid, Barcelona and the rest and when I say the rest, I mean the likes of Sevilla, Valencia. And let’s be realistic, Atletico Madrid is also one of them…
Atletico Madrid has done something extraordinary which is to win the league even when Barcelona dominated and I think what they did is very good for Spanish football. I think people haven’t really appreciated how much it was an enormous achievement for Atletico to win the league in 2014, it was really genuinely incredible.
But you are right because in a way, it is such a pity and that it’s just one team outside of the big two. La Liga is doing a number of things that are very important, one is to create an identity, an idea of a league which is not just about Barca and Madrid and the other is the redistribution of television money to funnel more money to the other clubs.
Although Madrid and Barca will still earn more money than the other 18 clubs, the gap is no longer big as it once was. The gap before could see as much as $120million to Barcelona and maybe $10-12million to the teams in the bottom positions. Those gaps will change now, you are talking about $30-40million for the bottom teams while Barca still receive $120million.
That is the relative power of that financial muscle, it is much better now and those clubs can afford better players now. They can afford to pay players better wages but of course, it is impossible in a capitalist society to get away from these two, but you must not forget that Madrid and Barca are so gigantic that if they were to be in Germany, Italy and even England, they would still dominate.
Do you see La Liga having the same followership as the English Premier League in Nigeria?
That will be quite difficult but of course, La Liga has got the Lionel Messi factor to play around because they know that everybody loves to watch the Argentine. Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid who has got Antoine Griezmann is another factor but the economic power that the English Premier League wields is simply too much.
I think the answer is precise and that is talking about making people see it on television and also loving it more. But people will always have personal preferences and that is unavoidable.
Finally, Sid, do you see any other club apart from Atletico, Real and Barcelona winning the La Liga title in a decade?
That is a very easy answer but five years ago, I didn’t see any other club asides Madrid and Barca winning it, but Atletico did it. But on the face of it, you are right as I don’t think any team apart from these three will win the title in ten years time but Valencia are strong and Sevilla can have the financial muscle to compete. However, European football has a general problem of too much power at the top.
Can you kindly say something to our readers?
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