Central African country Chad Republic, already one of the world’s poorest countries, will see its economy contract this year due to low oil prices even as it struggles to cope with regional insecurity caused by Islamist militant group Boko Haram which started in neighboring Nigeria.
Now the country’s sports ministry hopes a shirt sponsorship of a top flight French soccer team can help in starting to mend its image problem and help kickstart its tourism sector. Chad will be the jersey sponsor of FC Metz, a soccer team in France’s top division Ligue 1. The sponsorship, which will run for three years, will have ”TChad: Oasis du Sahel” (“Chad: Oasis of the Sahel”) inscribed on the Metz jerseys.
Betel Miarom, Chadian minister of sports, says the sponsorship could help the country’s need to “erase” its “negative image,” L’Equipe reports. Long-term, Miarom hopes the partnership “will go well beyond the football” as well as “intensify the economic ties” between Chad and France.
But the government’s upbeat outlook is not shared by many. Instead, the sponsorship has mostly attracted stinging criticism. “This is sheer madness,” said a comment on a Chadian information portal.
Much of the criticism stems from Chadians’ challenging realities living in a poor country with a very tough arid terrain. Around half of the country’s rural population live below the poverty line and are faced with food shortages due to difficult desert conditions. While economic struggles linger, Chad has also faced another threat in recent years with terrorist sect, Boko Haram, operating within its borders.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts Chad’s economy will shrink by 1.1% in 2016 because of weak oil markets and the regional insecurity.
But Chad’s sponsorship of FC Metz fits in the wider narrative of African entities getting more involved in the continent’s most popular sport on a global level. Last month, SportPesa, a Kenyan betting firm, signed on as sponsors of English Premier League side, Hull City. The club described the deal as the most lucrative in its history.
The Chad sponsorship has also predictably raised questions about the lack of funding of local football with another comment saying the ”money could have been spent on developing our own soccer instead of promoting others.”Like Chad’s deal with Metz, SportPesa’s decision to sponsor a foreign club drew criticism locally.