The last time a Nigerian player lifted the prestigious Champions League trophy was over 10 years ago when John Obi Mikel emerged victorious with Chelsea. However, this past week will remain ever fresh in the minds of many Nigerians; especially those in Lagos and Abuja who were opportune to be part of the 2022 Heineken UEFA Champions League trophy tour. Aside from the glitz and glamour that was the hallmark of the trophy tour, Heineken through its loaded two-day activities also passed some salient lessons that would encourage Nigerian youth to aspire to achieve laudable set goals that can be likened to lifting the most-coveted trophy in global club football.
Clarence Seedorf, the trophy tour ambassador as well as Nigerian legends Austin Jay Jay Okocha and Daniel Amokachi who are all history makers in their own right shared experiences that highlighted that there is no shortcut to success except for hard work and dedication. For the trio, achieving something as great as lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy needs a lot of hard work, discipline, and perseverance among other qualities which if imbibed will also help in other spheres of life outside football.
Seedorf who is one of the most successful players in UEFA Champions League history and the first and currently the only player to have won the trophy with three clubs shared his inspirational experience that will definitely resonate with everyone that came in contact with him during his short stay in Nigeria.
The Dutch legend had his first experience of lifting the Champions League trophy as a 19-year old playing alongside the Nigerian duo of Finidi George and Kanu Nwankwo at Ajax Amsterdam. But while the 1995 triumph was the only one for most of his Ajax teammates, Seedorf went on to lift three more titles, the last coming 12 years later in 2007 with AC Milan. While in Nigeria, Seedorf said he was happy to be back ‘home’ with the trophy that meant a million things to him.
“We have the opportunity to bring this trophy close to those who never imagined or dreamt about getting close to the trophy. It’s beautiful to send that message to dream big, work hard, stay away from drugs and be a person that believes in himself and this is how I came to realise my dream.” the football legend stated while addressing reporters in Lagos. For Emmanuel Oriakhi, Marketing Director Nigerian Breweries PLC, he succinctly captured the importance attached to the Heineken Champions League trophy tour which remains one of the biggest events on the calendar of the international premium beer brand.
He said: As always Heineken always has something spectacular for Nigerians and once again we are doing this. A lot of people argued that maybe the timing would have been more perfect concerning the disappointment Nigeria suffered a few weeks back. “But we are resilient as a people and we are always positive and believe tomorrow will be better. For those of us still disappointed not qualifying for the World Cup we have the UEFA Champions League.
“The UEFA Champions League is one of the best sporting events in the world and Heineken has been partners with UEFA for quite a while and in Nigeria, we have been activating this for a very long period. While this is not the first time the UEFA Champions League trophy will be coming to Nigeria, there were a couple of fresh innovations that made this 2022 edition even more worthwhile. One of such was the faceoff challenge that pitched Team Davido against Team Seedorf in an entertaining and exhilarating five-a-side football contest.
Team Nigeria was made up of Okocha, Amokachi, Taribo, popular Nigerian Artiste Dare Art Alade, MI and Davido who was the captain and the team was coached by former Super Falcon star Rita Nwadike. For Team Heineken Seedorf wore the armband and former Falcons midfielder Maureen Mmadu was the coach. With 14 goals scored in the funfilled match, fans and loyal Heineken consumers present at the Landmark Event centre had an unforgettable experience. This set the tone for the extra special match viewing experience in which Chelsea almost recorded one of the biggest comebacks in Champions League football history against Real Madrid.
Unfortunately for the Blues, they came quite close to securing a berth in the semi-final but were undone by the extra time strike by Karim Benzema. While Chelsea had a good beginning but a sad ending, it wasn’t the same for the fans and loyal Heineken consumers present at the Landmark Event centre, What had already been a fun-filled day perfectly climaxed with two of Nigeria’s best hip hop artistes; Reekado Banks and Davido taking the center stage and dishing out their hit songs to the admiration of the lovely passionate fans who were united through the night regardless of which of the clubs they support.
After the befitting climax in Lagos, the next point of call was Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory where the Champions League trophy and the Heineken team made a grand entry into the city aboard a customized aircraft fully branded and displaying the splendour of the international premium beer.
The admiration for trophy tour ambassador Seedorf on arrival at the Abuja airport was a testament to his global legendary status and it also meant Heineken made the smart choice of going for the Dutch legend. The cheers and excitement on the faces of fans during the tour of the city with the Champions League trophy were infectious The trophy tour commenced from the Transcorp Hilton, Wuse II then Adetokunbo Ademola and then to the MKO Stadium where the Heineken trophy tour team were warmly received by the Minister for Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare. The Minster particularly praised Heineken for bringing the Champions League trophy to Nigeria; describing it as a morale-boosting idea for the young minds in the country. The visit to the Minister was followed by a Meet and Greet session which afforded more opportunities to get close to Seedorf and the Champions League trophy for photo sessions.
There was also the Abuja Consumer Event Match Screening where fans enjoyed the night’s match with Seedorf and the accompanying Nigerian legends. During the halftime break, there was an autograph signing session. When the final whistle sounded for the end of the game, it marked the start of a fresh round of entertainment for the fans.
Artist Lojay set the tone for the night with his energetic performance before passing the baton to Peruzzi who held the fans bound with his hit songs with the Kaffy dance troupe also showing the fans what they’ve got. DJ TTB had the final say on the night in Abuja as he played deep into the night with his turntables. It is not a coincidence that Nigeria is the last stop for the Champions League trophy this year after visiting a handful of countries across the continents.