Arsenal's three-year agreement with mobile network operator Airtel will provide them with the opening to utilize the Gunners' merchandising, hospitality and content rights in five new markets: Nigeria, Zambia, Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda.
The deal will help Arsene Wenger's club to reach some of its 42 million fans all across the enormous continent. Airtel was designated as the official mobile operator of the 2012 Arsenal Tour to Nigeria. Arsenal stars Per Mertesacker, Bacary Sagna and Lukas Podolski, on a whistle-stop trip to Nigeria on July 28, travelled to Lagos to take part in activities with regional partners and engage with supporters in the region.
As much as I've disagreed with some of the ways Ivan Gazidis has ran Arsenal at times, I like this deal, especially when it comes to the attempt at growth of the club and the Airtel Rising Stars football program, an annual grassroots training initiative that offers young boys and girls the chance to play football and contend in a safe environment.
I know the partnership with Arsenal and Airtel is primarily about economics, but the Airtel Rising Stars program is the most inspiring thing about it. Airtel donates money for each goal scored at the tournament to sustain the players' education to ensure those involved don't only get best-in-class sports training and opportunities. The participants also have better opportunities to further their academic studies.
Arsenal will also provide UEFA - trained coaches to assist with instruction in each of the five markets and at an Arsenal Coaching Clinic for up to 50 footballers in London. That would be a very special thing for a boy or girl who has dreams of playing professional football. The program has the ability to produce great future Arsenal players or possible Olympians.
Airtel Africa Chief Marketing Office, Andre Beyers said, "Football fans across Africa are known for their passion of the great game. Arsenal's exciting style of play and a history of working with the best talent from Africa will enrich the partnership and offer a wealth of opportunities for upcoming players and fans."
Maybe Arsenal's history in Africa can produce players who come up through the clinics and become Arsenal assets. Although, if they become too much of an asset and end up playing great for the club in London, Arsene Wenger won't want to pay them for their greatness, and they'll transfer to Manchester United or Manchester City.
Note: I've been an Arsenal fan for nearly a decade. My cousin got me interested in the club at a young age.