The Guinness VIP “An Evening with” event which saw two great footballers, Marcel Desailly and Roy Keane in one place. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend an evening engaging in football conversations with the two football legends.
The event didn’t come as a surprise to most football fans as Guinness has always shown over the years that it understands clearly that football is Nigeria’s number one passion and has always looked for opportunities to create unique and unforgettable experiences that will feed this passion. Not satisfied with being a sponsor of the Super Eagles and official broadcast sponsor of the English Premier League, the brand has gone on to create other platforms to deepen its conversation with its consumers and extend their relationship with the brand, the game of football and other football aficionados.
The first of such platforms was the Guinness VIP, a social networking platform where football lover all across the country can congregate to enjoy access to football news, chat, opinions and hold conversations with ex-internationals and popular football presenters and analysts while also being in the frame to win prizes and special invites to events such as “Guinness The Match” and “An Evening With”. In less than a year, over a million people are already members of what has become Africa’s largest social media network, a clear attestation to the fact that Guinness was spot on in discerning that football fans across the country were yearning to extend football conversations and relationships beyond physical and geographic confines.
On Monday 19th September 2011 at the Eko Hotel and Suites, which was the venue of the event Marcel Desailly and Roy Keane were right here on Nigerian soil. Before they came onstage, a few highlights of their time as players were shown on the big screen. It is easy to forget just how good they both were in their prime. Roy Keane was Manchester United’s driving force for a decade, helping them to dominate the Premiership and Marcel Desailly won everything there was to win as a player, with AC Milan and the French national team. Both played for Manchester United and Chelsea, and it was a nice touch by the organisers to have this event the day after a very exciting game between their former clubs at Old Trafford. It was interesting to see Marcel Desailly prefer to stand up for the duration of the interactions.
Marcel Desailly talked about his desire to be a national team coach, preferring it to the constant pressure of club management. After failing in his bid to become the coach of the Black Stars of Ghana (he was born in Ghana), he said ‘my time will come’. Roy Keane is the former manager of Sunderland and Ipswich and while he noted that there is a life after football, he shared that he missed the madness of coaching.
Neither man believed that players were to blame for their high transfer fees and wages, because that is the way the market is. Marcel Desailly noted that the early exposure of young players to a lot of money makes them more difficult to handle than players of earlier times.
A couple of video clips were played from the Manchester United vs Chelsea game at Old Trafford.Roy Keane praised Chelsea’s positivity but said that in the end, only the result really mattered, and that was where Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams excelled. He was supportive of Fernando Torres, making the observation that had Chelsea won the game, there would have been less focus on his miss. Marcel Desailly’s thoughts were that he was low on confidence, like Shevchenko before him, and that he needs the right tactical set-up in which to express himself.
Some questions asked took every one down memory lane. Roy Keane spoke about how leaving Manchester United hurt him, with his final conversation lasting just ten minutes. He also admitted that because he always played the game on the edge, it contributed to his injuries and also meant he wasn’t always the best role model. A guiding principle of his playing style was to ‘keep things simple’, passed on to him by Brian Clough who coached him at Nottingham Forest, leaving the fancy stuff to others. He said his closeness to the manager was exaggerated, as he was just like any other player. When asked what if he would rather be a player or a coach, he said the difference was like chalk and cheese. He would play forever if he could, because coaching is so hard!
Marcel Desailly recounted how settling in England was more difficult than he thought, because of big strikers like Alan Shearer who were always elbowing, pushing and holding. He is a little pessimistic about the growth of the game on the continent, due to lack of infrastructure which made a lot of African players move to other countries, but pledged to continue working to improve this.
All told, it was an enjoyable evening organized by Guinness, and further confirmation of their commitment to bring football greatness to an eager Nigerian market. Long may it continue!
Arrival in Nigeria & Pre-Event Activities