Archive for the ‘Nwaji Jibunoh’ Category


Monday, March 13th, 2017

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog






During the first games of the Round of 16 Tournament of the UEFA Champions League, we saw two clubs; Arsenal and Barcelona (two clubs with a history of being purists when it comes to the execution of the Total Football strategy, otherwise known as “Jogo Bonito”- The Beautiful Game) getting completely hammered in the first legs of their games. Barcelona lost 4-0 to Paris St. German (PSG) and Arsenal lost 5-1 to Bayern Munich.

Now, both Bayern Munich and PSG are leaders in their respective leagues in Germany and France and their results from the first set of games not only proved how good they are but it also showed how impossible it would be for any team to recover from those first two heavy defeats to progress beyond this round, given the aggregate formula used in European Football.

So come games 2 and Mission Impossible. Sport writers and pundits had already written off Barca and PSG coming into these games with insurmountable odds. What happened next completely defines the philosophies of both clubs.

Arsenal Football Club located in London, England is one of the oldest clubs in England, having joined the English Football Association in 1893. Since 1996, Arsene Wenger has been managing the club and is responsible for bringing the Jogo Bonito Total Football style to Arsenal. Such style focuses on dominating possession during a football game, intricate passing in all directions, and capitalizing on the point of maximum opportunity to score goals. This style over the last 20 years has seen Arsenal rank among the most successful clubs in England and Europe.

Barcelona Football Club, located in the Catolonia region in Spain have been a global powerhouse in Sports for decades, but more so over the last 10-12 years when the initial foundation work of Legendary Coach John Cryuff grew exponentially under Frank Rijkaard and succeeding coaches. The Barcelona system has been so successful that not only because has it seen them dominate Spain and Europe, but it has also ensured that regardless of whoever is at the helm of affairs, the winning formula and mentality continues. Barcelona, very much like Arsenal, also rely heavily on dominating the possession game, intricate passing, and the capitalization of scoring when the opportunity is created, versus when the opportunity randomly presents itself.

So here you have two powerhouses of European football who mirror each other in terms of their style of play and how they are coached.  And here you have two powerhouses of European football going into their second games of the round of 16 after having suffered “insurmountable” losses in their first games. How both teams responded has completely redefined their genetic makeup.

Arsenal came into this game after having lost 3-1 to Liverpool FC only a few days prior. Spirits were low and the general attitude for Game 2 was just to make the score line respectable. Barcelona on the other hand, led by the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, and Iniesta, had a hint of belief over accomplishing mission impossible. Their two games leading up to the rematch with PSG saw them thrash Sporting Gijon 6-1 and Celta Vigo 5-1. This meant that they were going into their showdown with PSG having scored 11 goals over two matches. They needed a miraculous 5 unanswered to progress to the next round.

So come match day and the ensuing series of events, Arsenal travelled to Germany to take on Bayern Munich and Barcelona hosted PSG at home.

The Arsenal v Bayern Munich game saw a deflated and demoralized team who started well by scoring first, but then capitulated once The Bavarians equalized. Arsenal got absolutely thumped by the exact same score line to the first game, 5-1. After a while the players looked like all they wanted to do was go home.

However, the Barcelona v PSG game saw a Barcelona team come out from the very beginning looking to shoot their shot against all odds. They didn’t particularly play well and some players (including Messi) looked out of sorts. But the deep-seeded philosophy/belief was evident that night, especially in the opening minutes. Barcelona need to score 5 answered goals in order to progress to the next round.

The plan was in motion and Barcelona were getting closer and closer. They had scored 3 answered and were feeling the impossible was inevitable. It wasn’t until Edson Cavani scored a wonder goal for PSG that brought things back down to Earth. PSG felt that they were in the clear and it appeared to the Barca players that this mountain they needed to climb only got much higher. So at this point, Barca now needed 3 answered goals. 8 minutes were remaining and only divine intervention could get Barca through, and divine intervention manifested itself in the form of Neymar. First it was a free kick…GOAL. Then a penalty…GOAL. Then at the death of it all, a sublime pass again from Neymar to Sergio Roberto slides the ball into the net…GOAL.

The unimaginable had happened. Barcelona, through sheer grit and determination pulled off an impossible comeback.

What Barcelona did was solidify their philosophy as a team that will never give up, which is ironically the final ingredient that defines Jogo Bonito. An ingredient missing with Arsenal when it was required.

Two teams who share similar philosophies but two teams who will forever define greatness differently. We can blame the coach and the execution of the game strategy etc, but at the end of the day history always vindicates those that pursue greatness.

Well done to Barca….and on to the next one in this legendary story.


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.


Monday, January 23rd, 2017

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog





Falcons head coach Dan Quinn gets the infamous Gatorade bath.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn gets the infamous Gatorade bath.

The date was January 17, 1999. I was in the West Towers Dormitory of Howard University. It was my sophomore year and The Atlanta Falcons had risen as the formidable force in the NFC. They had beaten the 49ers and were coming off a regular season 14-2 and were getting ready to go up against The No.1 seeded Vikings. The game went back and forth and The Vikings were keen on showing why they were pretty much unstoppable that season. When the game went into overtime, I felt as though this might be it. Two plays later and that man [Morten] Andersen kicked a FG that sent the Dirty Birds to the Super Bowl. “Elation” cannot explain the feeling I experienced until that elation quickly turned into despair only 2 weeks later, when the Falcons got a hiding at the hands of John Elway. Very painful…..let’s move on.

After that Super Bowl, the Dirty Birds became a regular NFL team that really didn’t accomplish much. We went from season to season just coasting along and remaining relevant in the NFL. It wasn’t until we drafted Michael Vick in 2001 that we began to see a resurgence of Atlanta magic at the Georgia Dome. Those years of having a deeply athletic elite QB made a big difference in some foundation work of where the Falcons would eventually end up. Then, the dog fight situation happened (grrrr), Vick gets suspended, and then we get a number 3 draft pick with Matt Ryan in 2008.

When Ryan joined the Falcons, I was optimistic given what he had done at Boston College. Since he joined, The Falcons have been to the playoffs 5 times where Matt was only able to record 1 win. Matt Ryan went from “Matty Ice” to “Matty can’t win in January”. 2012 was promising because we saw the Falcons go 13-3 in the regular season and then make it to the Conference Championship Game, only to be ousted by the San Francisco 49ers, even though the Falcons started off the game 17-0.

From that point up until now, we have barely broken .500 and not even gone to the playoffs. Last season, long time coach Mike Smith was replaced by Dan Quinn; a no nonsense thoroughbred Defensive coach that came up through the Seattle system. Immediately we saw a turnaround in the way the team played by starting out the 2015-2016 season 5-0, only to be hampered by injuries, bad situations on penalties costing us vital plays, and overall sloppiness. The season ended 8-8 and most fans were wondering what next and how do we build on these mistakes.

2016 started out promising.  Flashes of the previous season prevailed in certain games, but it wasn’t until the game against the Philadelphia Eagles in November that we began to see the Falcons firing on all cylinders, only losing one game from that point up until now, making it a 7-game winning streak going into the Super Bowl.

The last two games of the playoffs have been nothing short of a phenomenal display of the ability of this team. Beating teams with powerhouse quarterbacks such as [Russell] Wilson and [Aaron] Rogers shows just how far and how prepared this quad is. The offensive weaponry at the disposal of Matt Ryan justifies why he leads the league in touchdowns to several different receivers. Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu Jr are having epic seasons and the ground game controlled by [Tevin] Coleman and [Devonta] Freeman are just gems to watch. Then you have the mostly rookie defense who get stronger by the day.

All in all, it has been a fairytale story for the Falcons. From relative obscurity to playing in the Super Bowl for the second time in their history remains remarkable for fans like me that were introduced to this franchise via association, by living in the city.

Sunday, February 5th, the Dirty Birds will have the opportunity to take us back to the days of Jamal Anderson and the antics that defined the Dirty Bird, but this time flying away sky high in Texas.


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.


Monday, May 16th, 2016

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog





As we get into the business end of the sports season, you find that times are changing with some intriguing accomplishments occurring.

Denver's stingy defense helps "The Sheriff" ride off into the sunset a champion. (Photo courtesy of

Denver’s stingy defense helps “The Sheriff” ride off into the sunset a champion.
(Photo courtesy of

In the 2015/2016 sports calendar year, we have already seen Peyton Manning and The Denver Broncos crowned Super Bowl Champions after an incredible defensive display against the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers.

In as much as the lead up to the Super Bowl was quite exciting and the emergence of Cam Newton as an elite Quarterback was something to note, special mention needs to go out to other fascinating accomplishments occurring in other sporting events.

EPL Champions - Leicester City

EPL Champions – Leicester City

Let us begin with the English Premiership. At the conclusion of the 2014/2015 season, a little known club located in the East Midland of England finished in 14th place in a league with only 20 clubs. A little known club that nobody truly ranked and were given a whopping 5000/1 Odds to win the title the following season. That little known club are currently the champions of England and that little known club is Leicester City. To put things in context, let us use a case study for the odds that the bookies put in play at the beginning of the season. A lifetime Leicester City supporter put a 50 pounds ($30) bet on those odds of 5000/1 to win the title. That lifetime supporter cashed out on a take home prize of 250,000 pounds ($166,000). What has been accomplished by this club who had a spending budget of 52m pounds ($32.5M) in comparison to the likes of Manchester City (411m – $274M), Manchester United (391m – $260M), and Chelsea (298m – $198M) is something that has never ever been witnessed in British football. Leicester City took advantage of a slow methodology of playing every single game to win and taking advantage of lackluster performances from the other big clubs. Credit goes out to their manager (Claudio Ranieri) and star players James Vardy (who only a few years ago was combining his playing time while working part-time as a technician making medical splints) and Riyad Mahrez (a relatively unknown Algerian now among the English Premier League elites).

As we talk about this great accomplishment in sports by Leicester City, we cannot go any further without mentioning what Wardell Stephen “Steph” Curry has done in the NBA this year. Let us look at some quick numbers to put things into perspective. In the 2014/2015 season where he was crowned MVP and also won the NBA championship, his numbers were as follows:

Regular Season – 23.8 ppg. Playoffs – 28.3 ppg. Total number of three pointers made – 286.

This season, his numbers are:

30 ppg and he made 402 three pointers. I will say that again….402. The only other player to come close was Ray Allen with 289 and we all know him to be a three point genius. Steph Curry has

Stephen Curry hoists his second consecutive MVP trophy prior to Game 5 of the second round of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena.  (Photo courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Stephen Curry hoists his second consecutive MVP trophy prior to Game 5 of the second round of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

completely redefined basketball and the point guard position, and he makes shots from pretty much anywhere he wants to. He controls the tempo of the court and pulls out perimeter defenders, allowing other players such as Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to make significant contributions. The Conference Finals this year will see some exciting matchups with Golden State taking on Oklahoma City Thunder as perennial All-Stars (Curry, Thompson, Green, Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka) will dominate the highlights in the best of 7 series. On the East Coast, it looks like Cleveland with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, back at this stage of the competition healthy, will compliment the enigma that is LeBron James. We will most likely see the Cavs steamroll pass the Toronto Raptors to meet the best of the West.

UEFA Champions League Final - Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid - May 28th, 2016

UEFA Champions League Final – Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid – May 28th, 2016

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid both finished in second and third positions in the Spanish La Liga. They were edged out by Barcelona but not before Barcelona suffered successive defeats to both clubs in the El Classcio and Champions League semifinals. These two clubs are Spanish power houses and are getting ready to battle it out in the Champions League Finals. This is not the first time we are going to have an “All Madrid Final”. In 2014, we saw these two clubs battle it out with Real Madrid emerging victorious. The Star man then and now and 3 time Ballon D’or (World Footballer of the Year) recipient, Cristiano Ronaldo is of course the centre of attraction. The last time these two teams met, Ronaldo was breaking records with an astonishing 51 goals. He has achieved that milestone again this season and goes into this final fully charged and poised to pick up his 3rd UEFA Champions League trophy. It will not be easy as Diego Simeone and his Atletico Madrid team, that play a high tempo coordinated style of Spanish football, will be looking to get revenge against their 2014 finalist fellow city rivals. These two teams have already met twice this season with Atletico winning one game and the other game ending in a tie. The UEFA Champions League Final which will be played at the San Siro Stadium in Milan, Italy will be an explosive encounter come May 28th.

All in all, it has been an exciting year so far with so much more to play as we have the NBA Finals, UCL Finals, and the European Championships.

Sports fans, eat your heart out as the games will always continue to bring nothing but sheer entertainment and exhilarating excitement….


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.

CONCUSSIONS & ACCENTS: Dr. Bennett Omalu, the NFL, Hollywood, and Will Smith

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog





Dr. Bennett Omalu & Will Smith

Dr. Bennett Omalu & Will Smith

Upon reflection, my very first exposure to the NFL aka “American Football” had to be in the 80’s when the Super Bowl became big ticket events in Nigeria because of the halftime performances. I remember at a very early age not understanding the game and also trying to compare it to Rugby. The one thing that stood out was the sheer physical nature of the game and how hard those tackles were. I remember my mother saying “I hope you never plan to play this dangerous sport”.

Fast forward 30 years and sports analysts and NFL enthusiasts are now engrossed in a medical term known as CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), which according to PR newswire is a form of encephalopathy that is a progressive degenerative disease, which can currently only be definitively diagnosed postmortem. In March 2014, researchers announced the discovery of an exosome particle created by the brain which has been shown to contain trace proteins indicating the presence of the disease. The disease was previously called dementia pugilistica (DP), i.e. “punch-drunk”, as it was initially found in those with a history of boxing. CTE has been most commonly found in professional athletes participating in American footballAssociation footballice hockey, professional wrestling, and other contact sports who have experienced repetitive brain trauma. It has also been found in soldiers exposed to a blast or a concussive injury.

One of the pioneers of the research that discovered and named this degenerative disease is Dr. Bennett Omalu, a forensic pathologist who is the Chief Medical Officer of San Joaquin County in California and a Professor in the University of California Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. Dr. Omalu is of Nigerian origin but has resided in the US for over 30 years. Through his research he discovered this disease and was able to link it to the death of certain NFL athletes such as Mike Webster, after CTE was found in his brain during an autopsy. He wrote a book called “Play Hard, Die Young”.  His story is being adapted into a major motion picture called “Concussion”, and Hollywood Blockbuster icon Will Smith will play the character of Dr. Omalu.

We all know Will Smith. In 2007, Newsweek referred to him as “The most powerful actor in Hollywood”. You ask why? Well, over the last 20 years, where he has done 21 films in a leading role, those movies have earned $6.6 billion. Basically, if you are looking for a big actor to portray your story, there is no actor bigger than Will Smith. The movie Concussion will come out on Christmas day 2015.

Ever since the trailer for the movie came out, there have been a few social media discussions about how authentic Will Smith’s accent was, given that he is playing a Nigerian. Nigerians from all walks of life have made their displeasure known about how the accent sounded more Southern African (Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa) than anything close to West African, and more specifically Nigerian. Such questions as to why a “Nigerian” couldn’t play the role or why Will Smith couldn’t learn a proper Nigerian accent have been circulating all over the place.

The challenge with such perspectives is that it deviates from the purpose of what Will Smith is trying to accomplish. This story is about one of the most profound developments in sports in the last 30 years as it has fundamentally changed the regulations around hitting in the NFL. In addition to that, the NFL on August 30, 2013 reached a $765 million settlement with former NFL players over their head injuries. The settlement created a $675 million compensation fund from which former NFL players can collect depending on the extent of their conditions. Frankly speaking, this was astonishing given that the NFL is behemoth institution that nobody takes on and wins. So why on earth should it matter if “the most powerful actor in Hollywood” gets the accent right or not when there is a bigger mission at hand of letting the word know of this disease and the impact it has on life after sports for several NFL players?

Hollywood has a history of regionalizing accents and they get it wrong a good percentage of the time. Call it creative license or sheer standardization to culturally identify but at the same time ensure that the primary audience (USA) can understand what is being said.

Dr. Omalu is a remarkable human being who has probably saved the lives of hundreds of athletes. He achieved this feat practicing medicine in America and pushing this agenda in a very American game. He just happens to be Nigerian.

In a situation like this, the story is more important than an accent and that story is being told by one of the world’s biggest story tellers.

As a Nigerian, I am extremely proud of Dr. Omalu and I am so excited at the fact that a Hollywood Star such as Will Smith is about to play this role.

Credit to everyone involved in this project and may the lives of NFL athletes be spared as a result of this.


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.


Sunday, February 1st, 2015

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog





(Image via

(Image via

Two years ago, I wrote an article telling the story of how the number of people across the world watching the NFL, especially during the Playoffs and very specifically when it comes to Super Bowl, is growing.

Since that time, I decided in conjunction with other NFL enthusiasts to throw an unofficial Lagos Super Bowl party with the 2014 games being the inception edition. Needless to say the first year event drew a remarkable crowd. A combination of Americans living in Nigeria who wouldn’t miss the Super Bowl for anything, Nigerians like myself who grew up stateside and are still in love with the game, and Nigerians and Europeans who just want to see what the greatest show on Earth is all about, and of course to catch the halftime show.

2015 marks the 2nd annual event and it is gaining some serious momentum as more individuals are attending this year by sheer word of mouth. The game is also growing on a lot of individuals as the stories behind the players and how they got here are becoming main talking points on international news stations such as CNN and Sky News. I am actually having very significant dialogues about how Brady should not think of throwing any passes in the direction of Richard Sherman or how the Pats are truly “America’s Team” and not the Dallas Cowboys, and of course Marshawn Lynch making the statement “shout out to all my real Africans” has made folks over here even more interested in the Super Bowl this year.

I am quite proud to be part of the growing culture of people wanting to watch the Super Bowl, not only for the entertainment value anymore but for the actual sport itself, in this part of the world at the ungodly hours on a Sunday night into Monday morning. It just shows that with enough time, branding, publicity, exhibition, and league games being played globally that the NFL, even with its Rugby looking ball and even stranger style of play can truly become a global sport, as is evident with the number of people attending the 2nd ANNUAL UNOFFICIAL LAGOS SUPER BOWL PARTY….


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.


MY WORLD CUP IS BACK: The Raw Emotions of the Beautiful Game

Friday, June 20th, 2014

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog


(Image courtesy of

(Image courtesy of

The year was 1982 and among my earliest memories in life. My twin brother and I struggling for space on our father’s lap as he attempted to balance the two of us while he watched the Brazilian squad of that year play possibly some the finest football the world had ever seen. That team consisted of the great Socrates, Zico, and Juninho. Players that mesmerized opponents with the Samba style Jorgo Bonito. Brazil was knocked out that year by a well-disciplined Italian team that would eventually go and win the World Cup, but what they did for me as a toddler was instantly convert me to a worshipper of the sport.

Subsequent tournaments such as Mexico ’86, Italia ’90, USA ’94, France ’98, South Korea/Japan ‘02 brought out the best players the world ever saw. What we also began to see as the years stacked on were the overt corporate commercialization of the sport and the introduction of prima donna global stars that had bigger personalities than the actual tournament itself. By Germany ’06 and South Africa ’10, players were no longer going to the World Cup for the same reasons that generations did before them. It became one big party, an opportunity to showcase to the world pure individualism. The core elements of the game were lacking, and it was starting to turn into pure entertainment. Yes, there was good football, I cannot lie (The ’06 final between France and Italy was quite epic), but something was missing. I did not feel the uncanny attachments and sheer euphoria I used to experience from days gone by.

Fast forward to Brazil 2014 where the beautiful game returns to the spiritual home of football. The games are being hosted in a country that produced the one and only Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, the Royal Prince of this Sport, a record holding 5-time champions, and a team that combined the musical sensation Samba into the very fabric of their playing style.

We are only in the group stages, and we have already witnessed some of the finest football, ecstasy, and euphoria that this tournament has produced in the last 24 years. I honestly do not know if the game being played in Brazil is the reason for what we are witnessing or if players’ donning the colors of their national team is bringing the sexy back.

So far, we have seen absolutely sensational goals and goal celebrations. Let me quickly point out the Colombians. Every time they score, I honestly do not know what to expect, but their rhythmic Latin American inspired dance moves invigorate my soul each and every time. We are watching the Dutch National Team; La Orange returning to their Johann Cruyff philosophy of Total football by being the team of the tournament so far with comprehensive victories against current holders and two-time Euro champions Spain and a dogged Australian side. The German national team bringing their machinery of efficiency by blowing out a star studded Cristiano Ronaldo led Portuguese team. Then of course, we saw the USA national team beating the Black Stars of Africa Ghana in the game of the tournament so far. The US coming into their own despite heavy hating from individuals like myself, showing that yes indeed they belong here. We saw Lionel Messi finally walking into his own destiny and leading the Argentinian national team to victory. England being England as usual by underachieving each and every tournament, and then there was Mexico holding down the indefectible Brazilian, led by Neymar da Silva Santos in an Iron Clad match where their Goalie Ochoa becomes a cult legend.

My World Cup is back, because the Raw Emotions are back. We are seeing fans in the stadium weeping when their National Anthem is played. We have superstar players literally going bananas when they score goals and are instantly besotted by the enormity of the situation that they find themselves in. We are witnessing the relatively unknowns becoming Gods overnight. We are watching the Beautiful Game!



Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.


Monday, February 10th, 2014

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog






(Image via

(Image via

This past week, a lot of us who watch sports with the enthusiasm of addicts witnessed what went down with Marcus Smart during the Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech game, where he was shown to shove a fan after he tumbled into the crowd after trying to block a shot. There have been several blogs, comments, and discussions about what caused a 20-year-old NCAA player to push a fan after being in close proximity with him. The overriding conclusions that have been put out there are that the Texas Tech fan, namely Jeff Orr, used a racial slur towards Marcus Smart, prompting him to do what he did out of disgust and annoyance at what was said.

A tearful Mario Bolatelli (Image via

A tearful Mario Bolatelli
(Image via

Also, within this very interesting week in sports, in the Serie A in Italy, we witnessed Mario Bolatelli break down in tears during the AC Milan vs. Napoli game, where AC Milan lost. At some point during the game, Bolatelli was subbed and was subsequently taunted by the notorious Italian fans that were making monkey gestures and noises. Whether or not this is the reason why Mario broke down on the sidelines is debatable. There are reports that he shed tears due to the sheer level of racism he had to endure and has had to endure his whole career, being an African who only knows Italy as him home. There are other reports that he shed tears because he was disappointed with his play and wasn’t too happy that his team was losing.

These two situations remind me of two other Soccer players, Samuel Eto’o and Kevin Prince Boateng, who while playing in Spain and Italy respectively, both walked off the field due to incessant racial abuse from the fans in two different games. In the case of Kevin Prince Boateng, the game had to be abandoned because his teammates walked off with him.

These scenarios always bring about the question of what is the right reaction from multi-million dollar athletes (with the exception of Marcus Smart, of course, who is still a collegiate athlete) who are subjected to such abuses. Are they meant to just sit there and take it and carry on with the task of what they are paid to do, which is to simply play the game? Or, are the regulatory bodies in various sports meant to intervene and ensure that there are hospitable environments in stadiums and arenas across the world, so that super star athletes do not have to endure the whims of fans who decide to be ignorant?

In my opinion, the onus remains with the athlete in reference to how he controls his emotions. At the end of the day, it is a game we are talking about. Somebody calling you the “N word” or a “bloody African monkey” cannot warrant a justifiable reaction out of you, especially when the prospect of your actions can affect the overall harmony of any team. Case in point, Marcus Smart (the outstanding player for Oklahoma State) has now been suspended for 3 games. Samuel Eto’o and Kevin Prince Boateng were heavily fined for their actions. The reasons being that there are overwhelming precedence’s for how an athlete is meant to behave, especially during game time. Any violation of that leads to consequences. A fan or group of fans provoking you does not unfortunately override that precedence.

Amateur and Professional Athletes, regardless of their background, need to come to the realization that these remarks, as horrific as they are, cannot and should not affect them in any way, because it is never personal. Why would you allow your emotions to go haywire because some overweight coward decides to be ignorant towards you? A coward that will never earn the kind of money you are earning. A coward that may never achieve in life what you have achieved as an athlete.

The need for targeted emotions and controlled reactions towards fans in sports is necessary because it all becomes too distracting when an inconsequential moron like Jeff Orr gets notable mention because he successfully pushed Marcus Smart’s buttons.

The irony is that the hearts and minds of people like that and those fans in Europe will probably never change. The only change I will ask of professional athletes the world over is to actually stop giving a damn and just play the game to the best of their ability, entertain us all, and go home with your fat salaries.


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.


The NFL vs. EPL

Monday, January 27th, 2014

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog








A few years ago, I came across a CNN documentary that compared the National Football League and the English Premier League. Two football leagues but two totally different sports.  The critical issues they were comparing are the differences that teams in these top flight leagues have when it comes to financial troubles.

In light of the recent discussions surrounding Richard Sherman and the possibilities and potential of added sponsorships due to his newly discovered popularity and how best to manage and play this game in the media world, I decided to expatiate on this documentary and see how indeed players and clubs earn sustainable money in sports.

According to this documentary, NFL teams have several factors that save them from ever going into liquidation, and those two factors are a Salary Cap and a Salary Floor. This means that there is a minimum and maximum amount of money that any player can ever make in terms of wages on an annual basis, regardless of the talent of that athlete or what team that athlete plays for. For example, when you look at some of the annual salaries of NFL players (Richard Sherman for example), you might be somewhat surprised that as of 2012, it was $456,000.00. You would think it’s more considering the lifestyle that some of these individuals have and just overall perception of their earnings, but for a 3rd player coming out of the 5th round draft, that salary is quite consistent. Secondly, all the teams in the National Football League (NFL) receive equitable distribution of television revenue. This is partly because there is not a monopoly to every single game by one media conglomerate. Where you begin to see the difference in terms of franchise earnings is when it comes to game day and season ticket revenues, merchandising sales, and sponsorships. The structure of the NFL is so corporate that each player is graded like any employee you would find in the banking industry, and it cuts across all teams. These factors allow the league to properly regulate and structure their finances in such a way that they can never go into debt.

Now, on the other side of “The Pond” in the English Premier League, there is no salary cap or salary floor, meaning that any team depending on their financial buoyancy can pay as much or as little to any player as they please. According to Forbes Magazine, the top 5 earners in the English Premier League and their club salaries are:

1)     Robin Van Persie (Manchester United) – $19m

2)     Yaya Toure  (Manchester City)- $18.2

3)     Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) – $18.1m

4)     Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) – $17.4m

5)     Fernando Torres (Chelsea) – $17m

Ironically, in these same teams, you have players that earn $1M and less a year. Such disparities are quite ridiculous. So, what does this translate to? It basically means that players will naturally gravitate towards teams that can pay them the exorbitant amounts that they seek. This is why you have the same teams winning season in and season out, because they are the only teams with the cash flows backed by wealthy owners to pay these wages, hence attracting the best and the brightest from the world to the EPL and stripping off other leagues locally, continentally, and globally of adequately developing their own football teams.

Sky Sports, which is part of the media conglomerate BSB (British Sky Broadcasting, backed by 21st Century Fox), had exclusive live UK rights to the Premier League until the 2007/08 season when an EU Competition ruling forced the Premier League to share live TV matches among more than one broadcaster. That brought down their exclusivity dominance from 100 percent to 75%. They however, due to lack of proper regulation, do not equitably distribute the revenues generated from the advertisements during the games to all the teams in the Premiership. What they have been doing since the inception of their relationship with English football is allocating 60 percent of TV revenues to the likes of Manchester United (who have consistently raked in between 7-15% over the last 20 years), Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, and recently Manchester City. The effect this has is that it has caused other minnow teams like Sunderland, Portsmouth, Hull, Blackburn, and Stoke to struggle significantly when it comes to these revenues, especially when players leave for bigger teams, for bigger wages.

The lack of an organized somewhat “socialist” structure in the Premier League ensures that we continually see a monopoly amongst those who retain the title (After all since 1996, only 4 different teams; Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal have been crowned champions of England), whereas in the NFL in that same span of time, 10 different teams (New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers) have won the Super Bowl.

One may argue that the capitalist nature of America allows players to receive endorsements that are absolutely astronomical from different corporations, so they are not necessarily motivated by one particular club. Perfect example, Michael Jordan in his prime (The 1995-96 season) was one of the lowest paid first team salary earners in the NBA, but grossed $60 million annually in endorsements from Coca Cola, Nike, Hanes, Ball Park Hot Dogs, McDonald’s, Wheaties, Chevy Blazer, and Gatorade. Such endorsements can easily make any professional athlete forget their wages and simply focus on their love for the game. This can never be the case in the UK, because the salary wages to endorsement ratio is the complete opposite of the Michael Jordan example.

The question being asked is… “do you think the English Premier League needs to reconstitute the way they do business to avoid disasters that happened with the likes of certain clubs such as Leeds United, Newcastle United, and Portsmouth F.C, that had to file for bankruptcy?” Can the EPL learn from the NFL and avoid being at the whim of wealthy mercenary type owners who don’t understand football (I can’t bring myself to call it soccer, I just can’t) and who burden big teams with insurmountable debts? Can corporations in Europe begin to focus more on splurging out on more players in endorsement deals so that way the players can focus on their ability to market themselves to make that big money while having a team focus at the center of what they do when it comes to “the beautiful game”? After all, for a cup competition that boasts to be the biggest in the world, comprised of 25 leagues, with an average representation of 3 teams from each league, with a 22-man squad per team, bringing that total to 1,650 players, there are literally only 5 names that are recognized from a brand perspective when it comes to sponsorship and marketing on a global scale.

The fear with the soon to be passed “Financial Fair Play” policy which stipulates that all teams in Europe spend only what they earn will show that the English Premier League is the most expensive and lucrative sports league in the world, but at the same time, the most irresponsible when it comes to good corporate governance.

The National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) all learned the hard way in the late 80’s and early 90’s, where several teams went into administration simultaneously, that some entire seasons were suspended in order to rectify an impending problem. We have even seen recently some leagues having lock down seasons due to the inability to arrive at a consensus when it comes to equitable salaries.

Should the EPL wait for such to happen before they introduce Salary Caps, Salary Floors, and Equitable distribution of television revenue? Can’t teams focus on ticket, jersey, and merchandise revenues for significant incomes? At what point will leagues in Europe learn from the NFL to avoid their teams slipping into administration.

What better way can we educate young athletes on the intricacies of these payment structures before allowing super-agents to take advantage of them?

For those of us who love sports, spreading the word on these details with enough objectivity and accuracy is one of several ways.


Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.