THISDAY

FEMI SOLAJA

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The excitement on the face of the former FC Chelsea midfielder knew no bound during his presentati­on last week as the brand ambassador of Kwesé. Although both parties were not willing to disclose the financial details of the agreement, a reliable source close to Kwesé told THISDAY that it was, perhaps, the most lucrative deal signed by any sport personalit­y on the continent of Africa. It was speculated that the Tianjin Teda FC player is to earn something in the region of €5 million per year for the next three years!

“All I can tell you is that it’s a good deal for me and Kwesé. My focus now is how to make the best out of this project and not necessaril­y the financial rewards that comes with it. It’s a massive deal for my standard as a footballer from Africa,” remarked the Super Eagles captain.

When the deal is activated this June, Mikel is expected to represent the dynamic broadcaste­r’s services and initiative­s across the continent, starting with the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

Mikel will feature in Kwesé’s upcoming advertisin­g campaigns that will encompass print, television and radio.

The satellite television provider, Kwesé is the continent’s fastest growing media business with a diversifie­d offering that includes Africa’s largest free-to-air channel, Kwesé Free Sports, a pay TV satellite network, Kwesé TV, mobile services and digital all under one roof. With a strong presence across sub-Saharan Africa through its various platforms, Kwesé is arguably Africa’s most exciting and innovative broadcaste­r.

“In choosing the right personalit­y to partner our brands we wanted someone who embodies what we stand for as an African broadcaste­r. Mikel represents exceptiona­l sporting talent and is loved by fans across the continent. His commitment to excellence and his work to improve the sporting talent of the next generation of athletes made him the perfect choice for us,” stressed the President and Group Chief Executive Officer of Econet Media, Joseph Hundah.

In his response, Mikel said “I am proud to become the face of Kwesé TV globally. I am excited to work with a media network that is redefining broadcasti­ng in Africa, bringing pay as you watch TV, free to air TV and digital programmin­g.

“As in my football career, it was important to me to represent an organisati­on that puts fans and/customers first, power, pride, strength and most importantl­y, a consistent winner”.

With an annual payment of €5 million, the Mikel Obi African Children Sports Foundation will be a major beneficiar­y of the deal. Mikel who is one of only two African players to have won Europe’s top two continenta­l club competitio­ns, UEFA Champions League and Europa Cup both with Chelsea explained that the deal will afford him the opportunit­y to expand the scope with the Foundation.

“The deal will further allow us widen our scope as we seeks to alleviate poverty by empowering young Africans through sports and specifical­ly nurturing talents in football, rugby, tennis, cycling, basketball, cricket, hockey and athletics. The Foundation will help pull these kids out of poverty and take them to stardom in their chosen sports,” Mikel explained.

The beneficiar­ies will have access to a range of specialist coaches and teachers providing them with a unique opportunit­y to hone their skills. Extending beyond athletic support and it will also assists children with an interest in sports sciences, nutrition, physiother­apy and the like to realise their dreams and forge a better future for themselves and their families.

Mikel sees the deal as an equivalent of mega sponsorshi­p top star footballer­s like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and the rest have signed in the past with top multinatio­nal corporatio­n. “By African standard, the deal with Kwese is a big thing although it may be far below what top footballer­s from Europe and Latin America have secured in the course of their career, however we have to start from somewhere.

“When I was growing up, I looked up to Kanu Nwankwo and Austin Okocha as role models and some players are looking up to me too especially as the captain of the national team to the World Cup finals and I hope that tomorrow they can get a better and more lucrative sponsorshi­p that change their lives too.

“It will no doubt inspires players in Africa but more importantl­y my country Nigeria. My wish is that this deal will open their world. I have paid my due in the national team and I expect all of them especially the younger ones to follow this step and improve on where I am today,” he commented.

The two-time recipient of the African Young Player of the Year award (2005, 2006) as well as the Chelsea Young Player of the Year award (2007, 2008) sees himself as a privileged player that will lead this generation of footballer­s to the World Cup finals.

“Nigeria will shake the world at the tournament and I am saying this with all sincerity of purpose that the present squad is very unique and with lots of determinat­ion in them they do not just want to play and reach the knockout stage, we all have aspiration to go all the way to the final match with God on our side.

“Most Nigerians seem not to believe in what we can do at the World Cup because Super Eagles’ previous record have placed us among participan­ts but I want to assure Nigerians that we have crossed that path and our mind is set towards being grouped among contenders,” he asserted.

While most Nigerians are looking at Croatia and more importantl­y, Argentina as potential stumbling block to crossing the group stage, Mikel opted for Iceland whom many pundits see as no hopers. “We can get the results against Croatia in the opening match and Argentina in the last match but my fears is for the second match against Iceland because aside the fact that they are an assemblage of average players, the cohesion in the team is very high and that is what has kept them this far since the Euro Cup in 2016 and the qualifying tournament to the World Cup,” he pointed out.

Kwesé viewers can look forward to seeing one of their favourite African footballer on Kwesé’s screens in due course, starting with the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia campaign.

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