When Nigeria Premier League won the award of the best league in Africa last year, many soccer loving Nigerians doubt the authenticity of that story, and when it was actually confirmed that the story was true, people started asking question that what criteria did the body doing the rating used to arrive at the conclusion that the Nigerian Premier League beat all these African big and lucrative leagues from Northern part of the continent and other countries like South Africa, Cote DĂ˘€™Ivoire and their likes whose leagues are fast developing?
No doubt, talents abound in Nigeria and the local leagues can boast of some of the best players plying their trade in the continent. We saw the exploit of the likes of Sunday Mba, Godfrey Oboabona and other home based players Coach Stephen Keshi used to prosecute his mission at the last Africa Cup of Nations, which Nigeria won in South Africa we also saw the beautiful football displayed by these home lad Eagles when they faced Ivory Coast during their qualification match to the Championship of African Nations. But the most unfortunate and sad story about the nation is that for the past 41 years when we started league football we have made very insignificant progress, instead of progressing, we kept retrogressing by the day.
From 1972 when we started the league and 18 years later we rechristened it "Professional League" since 1990 when we started professional league with a goal to modernize the game and make clubs self-sufficient, we only witnessed very inconsequential progress. Decrees 10 and 11 which codified the introduction of professional football in Nigeria stipulated that professional clubs should be run as limited liability companies each governed by a regularly constituted board of directors and required to hold annual general meetings, present independently audited accounts, cultivate youth/feeder teams and own their own stadium within five years of registration with the Pro League Department. To assist Pro League clubs in the timely achievement of these stated goals, all 56 professional club-sides that constituted the inaugural Pro League First and Second Divisions were granted a five-year tax moratorium on all income starting from 1990.
23 years later, aside Abubakar Bukola Saraki (ABS) football club all other clubs in the elite league are owned, managed and run by government. Little wonder politicians have taken over the running of football in Nigeria, and this have provided avenue for political thugs to take over our various match venues to sing praise their political godfathers and also serve as willing tools to unleash terror on visiting teams to win matches. All the gimmicks and magics employed by politicians to win elections has been imported into the game of soccer in Nigeria.
All sorts of absurdity and abnormalities have been accepted as the conventional ways of running football leagues in Nigeria. One of those crude and unholy ways the handlers of these various clubs usually employed to achieve their goals was meted on Kaduna Soccer fans on Sunday 4th of August 2013, when fans trooped out to watch a match between the home team Kaduna United and the visiting Heartland football club of Owerri. But instead of the fans to get satisfaction on what they came looking for, what they got was disappointment, embarrassment and humiliation. Because majority of the fans were stranded, humiliated and disappointed by the crude and unprofessional attitudes of some tauts who were in charge of the gate at the stadium who were later identified as supporters of Kaduna United, evident by the shirts most of them were putting on.
The match, which was scheduled for 4:00pm on Sunday August 5, 2013, was initially advertised at the match venue for N300 flat, but to the dismay of the fans that came prepared to cheer their darling teams only to be told that the gate fee has been hiked to N1, 000 flat. The reason for the hike in price was not mentioned to the fans. And many fans were unable to gain access to the stadium. A fan that simply identifies himself as Audu said they were disappointed at the attitude of the officials at the gate who had earlier advertised the match for N300, but to their greatest surprise they came to the stadium to meet a different thing that the gate fee is a N1000. Ă˘€śThis is not fair, this simply described man inhumanity to man; please the authority concerned should act fast before it degenerates further,Ă˘€ť he barked.
The situation became more absurd when media men who came to cover the match were also denied access to the match venue, while the said fans of Kaduna United who were running things at the gate were allowed access to the match venue a situation that infuriated the media men and other fans that came to watch the match. One of the top journalists who fell victim of this unruly behaviour of the Kaduna United supporters at the gate was Deputy National Secretary of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) Mr. Ben Ogbemudia in company of other Abuja-based journalists who came to watch the match., but were also denied access to the match venue, despite identifying themselves as Sports writers. Mr. Ogbemudia who expressed disgust at the unprofessional attitudes of the fans of Kaduna United and described the situation as unfortunate and a big embarrassment to the game of soccer, which must be stopped if we are to make any progress in this round leather game.
Ă˘€śIt was unprecedented that I came to watch the match between Heartland FC and Kaduna United, but the Fans of Kaduna United are denying journalists who have SWAN identity card access to the match venue claiming that the match is scheduled to be played behind closed door, and I query if the match should be played behind closed door, then nobody should be allowed access into the stadium, but if Journalists are denied access and ordinary people were allowed in, then there is ulterior motive,Ă˘€ť he queried. He continued by saying if all these kinds of attitude continued, then we are killing the league and we cannot progress. If novices who know nothing about football will be dictating to stakeholders, then it is pathetic and very unfortunate,Ă˘€ť he lamented.
Kaduna United are not alone in these kind of odious acts of the football handlers in Nigeria, recently Sports Shooting Stars Club (3SC) were handed 3-match band to be played in empty stadium without their fans because of their unruly behaviour after a Week 20 match involving the club and Kwara United of Ilorin. The League Management Company (LMC) headed by Honourable Nduka Irabor took the decision after they considered the reports of the encounter in which angry 3SC fans showed their displeasure over what they termed a bias handlings of the encounter against the Afonja Warriors in the rain soaked match that ended 1-1.
After this punishment was meted on 3SC, the club also denied journalistsĂ˘€™ access to their closed door match against Dophins of Port Harcourt. We have heard many cases of cameramen beaten to stupor just to cover some atrocious activities captured on cameras, referees have been manhandled times without number, visiting teams have been attacked severally, bribe givings and takings reign supreme, scandalous match fixing, non-payment of playersĂ˘€™ salaries and other allowances and many other negativities have been accepted as the norms and conventional way of running football leagues in Nigeria.
In all these, somebody must show some level of responsibility, aside the recent punishment of those devilish criminals who foolishly and unintelligently connived to rubbish the name of Nigeria in the game of football with such scandalous match result of 79-0 and 67-0, we have not heard of any serious sanction placed on so many clubs who have gone against the rule severally. It is not only Plateau United Feeders, Police Machine Adamawa, Bubayaro FC of Gombe or Akwaba FC of Nasarawa that need to be sanctioned as scapegoats. But all erring clubs must face sanctions of different degrees. There must not be a sacred cow.
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