“You cannot help but notice how big Nigerians are fans of football, particularly the premier league.”
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has said the United Kingdom (UK) is implementing a very good programme to support Nigerian football.
In an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Ms Laing stated that football is a shared passion by Nigerians and Britons.
“You cannot help but notice how big Nigerians are fans of football, particularly the Premier League,” she said. “Arsenal seems to be the team I hear most about actually, it is the team most Nigerians support and I think it is a strong example as I mentioned of the people-to-people link.”
In terms of what we are doing, there is actually a very good programme which is called premiere skills, Ms Laing said.
Supported by the British Council, the diplomat said, the programme is about supporting grassroots coaches, training coaches to work with their communities and through sports coaching, exposure to some of the controversial issues around violence against women.
For example, Ms Laing said, “As you are coaching young boys to play football, you have them as a captive audience and you can introduce them to some of those difficult topics, helping them to respect women and to increase their attendance in school.”
“There is a very strong correlation between kids who play sports and who do better at school.”
Overall, that is a programme we are very proud of, she said.
“I think it is 800 grass root coaches and referees that we have supported and that has reached about 25,000 young people,” Ms Laing added.
Ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, in July 2022, the high commissioner said she is hopeful there will be strong Nigerian athletes competing.
“This year, in particular, we are celebrating diversity, so there is a very strong paralympic focus and for the first time ever, there is going to be more prizes for women than for men in sports.”
Ms Laing said the competition will be a great opportunity and will be another example of strengthening the Nigeria-UK bond.
PREMIUM TIMES will in the coming days publish the full excerpts of the interview where Ms Laing also responded to other issues.