The Manchester United Shirts of Nigeria
We sent photographer Ima Mfon out in Lagos to capture images of fans in foreign football shirts and discuss their significance.
This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
Football is a global sport, but even with this in mind it is impressive to see how far the game travels. English sides who were once cheered on by a devoted local fan base are now followed by fanatical devotees across the globe. Africa is no exception: the beautiful game is adored across the continent, with Premier League sides among the best supported. In stark contrast, their domestic leagues struggle for attention.
To chart the global spread of the sport, we sent photographer Ima Mfon out in Lagos, Nigeria, to capture images of fans in foreign football shirts and discuss their significance. First up, English football's most successful side: Manchester United.
All photos and interviews by Ima Mfon
David Ebhodaghe. Age: 18. Location: Oshodi, Lagos
"I love football, and I'm a Man United fan. I like the players, especially Rooney. He scores a lot and I like the way he plays. I like everything about him.
"My parents don't really support me playing football. I got injured a while ago – I broke my hand, and it took me three months to recover. So they don't support it. I'm very busy because of school – I even stopped playing. But I'll start again when I finish my upcoming exams. I'm a student at Ikeja Senior High School. After I graduate this year I'd like to study economics at university."
Phillip Akindele. Age: 27. Location: Oshodi, Lagos
"I love playing football, watching football – I just love everything about football. I've been into it for about 10 years; I play with a local team and also work as a hair stylist.
"I'm actually a Barcelona fan, but Man United are my English team. I'm in love with Barca, but I don't have a Barca jersey. I don't have any Nigerian jerseys because I don't really support a club here. They're not developed. Our government needs to help with this, but I don't know exactly what the answer is.
"I'm hoping to go pro. I still play every week – every Sunday – but I last turned out for a real team maybe 10 months ago. Hair styling might be more stable, but I'm a football freak. I love sports, so I'm doing it for the love."
Emeka. Age: 18. Location: Magodo, Lagos
"Chelsea are my favourite team. I also have a Man United jersey but I prefer to use my Chelsea jersey when playing real matches, and the United one for training. Marco Reus (of Borussia Dortmund) is my favourite player; I like his and the way he attacks the ball.
"I see my jerseys as a source of strength, inspiration and motivation. When I wear the jersey, I always have strength. I always have a belief that I can do something because I'm wearing that jersey. It is my power.
"I'm currently studying engineering and would like to be an engineer if football doesn't work out for me."
Afolabi. Age: 15. Location: Magodo, Lagos
"My favorite team is Manchester United, and my favorite player is Ander Herrera. I like his way of playing. He's a midfielder, but he attacks and comes back to defend. I like his pattern of movement; it's very tactical.
"I also like how United maintain possession, and how they make good use of the pitch. I have about seven jerseys, two of them United. This one means everything to me. Most of the time when I go out, I put it on."
Muyiwa. Age: 16. Location: Magodo, Lagos
"I've been a Man United fan since 2006. I'm looking to go pro, and hope to someday play for them. My biggest hurdle is finding an agent.
"I love United's traditional style, the commitment of the players and the team as a whole. It's offensive football. Paul Scholes is my favourite United player. I always watched the way Scholes played and tried to emulate his long passes.
"This jersey is a dream for me. It's just a dream. One day I'm going to get to Old Trafford. I just need to find an agent."
All subjects' ages are stated as provided at time of interview