All over the world sports personalities are some of the most flamboyant people. With fat weekly wages in football and mouth watering prize monies in golf and tennis tournaments to mention a few, sports people over the years have become major players in economies across the world with their investments either in assets or liabilities.
Nigerian sports personalities particularly the footballers have also not been left out of this trend as some of the lucky ones earning megabucks in various European leagues have wisely invested their monies in various businesses in preparation for their retirement from active sports.
Prior to the boom being witnessed now, football was not a lucrative trade in Nigeria until the early 1990s when some of the country's footballers started going to other regions of the world, especially Europe in a drive to advance their careers. However, many of the football stars that were not so lucky are either currently living in abject poverty or literally living from hand to mouth.
The adventure of the likes of Stephen Keshi, Etim Esin, Daniel Amokachi, Austin Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu and Finidi George overseas changed their fortunes from ordinary amateur footballers struggling with daily existence to professional footballers worth millions of naira.
Investments of those who play the round leather game are already amounting to billions of naira and many more being added by the day.
One of such players with huge investments is Austin Jay Jay Okocha. Okocha is one of the very best footballers to come out of Nigeria and indeed the African continent. Having made his mark on the football pitch, the former Super Eagles skipper has gone into business where he is not only making money, but helping the youths to actualise their dreams.
While he is more known for his club and relaxation spot; CLUB 10, Okocha actually controls a conglomerate, named ‘Jay Jay Okocha Group West Africa Limited’ which is said to be employing over 250 staff.
FinIntell gathered that the conglomerate is into many businesses which include operation of a bureau de change, restaurant, bar, importation of consumer goods such as cars and wine, provision of security personnel and equipment.
Okocha’s company is also into property development, road construction, sales and distribution of electronics, and soccer players’ management.
The company which was incorporated about seven years ago went into full operation in 2008 shortly after the former national team player retired from active football. Okocha had a football career of over 20 years in top teams in Germany, Turkey, England and oil rich Qatar.
Okocha's Club 10 ranks very high amongst night clubs in the country and he once said the level of patronage by people at the top echelon of the society amazed him.
“The night club is doing so well and it has been for me a sign of how much Nigerians appreciate me. I used to play under bosses but today I am the boss of my company, with my team of workers,” Okocha said recently, adding that “before I was being provided for by other people in the past as a footballer, but it is now my responsibility to take care of others, and this is quite interesting and challenging.”
Kanu’s Huge Investments
Incidentally, another big time investor is also a former team captain; the lanky forward Kanu Nwankwo.
Kanu has made a lot of money in football, after playing for top clubs like Ajax FC, Inter Milan, Arsenal, West Brom, and Pompey Portsmouth. At the last check, King Kanu earns as much as £30,000 weekly at Championship side, Pompey before the club had financial problems.
The ex-Nigeria skipper owns a mansion in Opebi area of Lagos State which is being valued at about N150 million.
However, one could say his biggest asset is the Hardley Apartments located in Victoria Island. It is one of the biggest hotels in Victoria Island and Industry sources say the hotel rakes in a profit of over N2 million daily.
The hotel and night club FinIntell gathered cost the former African footballer of the year about N600 million to establish about five years ago.
Kanu is also said to own a photo-shop on Allen Avenue in Lagos state and three other mansions in Park View, Ikoyi. The one time African footballer of the year has also invested in a bottle water company and the Kanu Heart Foundation, a charity organisation where he gives back to the society.
His estimated asset and cash according to an online magazine is in the region of N18 billion.
Next on the line is young but very rich Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel which our investigation reveals is the richest Nigerian international player for now.
Mikel has been with Chelsea for the past 7 years and currently earns £80,000 (N20 million) every week, excluding bonuses and income from participating in the UEFA Champions League.
He is said to be the owner a national transport company with a fleet of over 100 buses, each costing N5 million. Within the last three years, the transport company has raked in over N100 million in profits according to reports.
The 24-year-old central midfielder also owns a mansion in Jos and London, both are valued at about N700 million. Mikel has shares in major oil companies in Nigeria. He drives a Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon, Black GM 500 and a Range Sports in Nigeria, with those cars valued at N40 million. In London, he drives a Bentley.
Martins’ luxury life
Out of favour Eagles striker Obafemi Martins is a lover of cars and has quite handful investments particularly in landed properties. The former Inter-Milan whiz-kid has made a lot of money from the beautiful game of football. Martins is reported to be the owner of a massive house in Como, Italy valued at N800 million, and a top hotel in Italy as well. ‘Weapon of mass destruction’ as he is fondly called by fans, Martins owns 2 houses in Victoria Garden City, Lagos costing about N500 million. He recently bought a house in London, and has made a lot of money from endorsement deals with Pepsi, Adidas, Nike and Glo.
Martins owns a lot of luxury cars including Lamborghini, Range Sports, Porsche Gemballa, and BMW X6. He earns close to N40 million every month with Rubin Kazan.
Aside the physical asset Martins is also well connected with the high and mighty, the current Lagos State Governor Raji Fashola and the former, Bola Ahmed Tinubu are close associates of the fast paced striker.
Yakubu Aiyegbeni also known as ‘The Yak’ is not left out of the investment driven clique. Having only recently returned to the national team since after his poor showing at the South Africa 2010 World Cup, he is still widely regarded as the most successful Nigerian footballer to play in England.
‘The Yak’ owns a mansion on Manchester Road, London; a duplex in VGC, Lagos; 2 massive buildings in Benin City; and hotels in Auchi, Edo State. The former Boro man owns a petrol station in Benin City which is run by his brother Momo Aiyegbeni. In his garage back home in Nigeria are a fleet of cars including a Range Rover and a BMW.
While the list goes on and on of players and their investments, it must be said that some ex-sporting heroes and even some active ones have failed in the aspect of investment. Some literally ate with their ten fingers and are biting them now, having invested all their earnings on liabilities.
Aware of this development, the players welfare union in Nigeria, the Association of Professional Footballers of Nigeria (APFON) said it has been partnering with investment outfit to help talk to both local and foreign based pros on the need for investing their monies properly.
Secretary of the association, Austin Popo, in a chat with FinIntell reckons that the need to invest for the rainy days cannot be over emphasised and he is glad that most players’ today have imbibed the culture.
“You never can tell when the money you are seeing now will cease. An injury can end ones career abruptly. So what we are doing at APFON is to sensitise our footballers that they should invest their money in assets and learn from the mistakes of the past generation,” Mr. Popo said.
“If they do that, they can fall back on them once the going gets tough instead of just living a life they might not be able to sustain after retirement,” he added.