Laide Raheem, Abeokuta In compliance with the directive of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the Catholic Diocese of Abeokuta, on Tuesday, embarked on a peaceful protest. The protest was to condemn the killing of two priests and 17 parishioners in Benue State by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Leading scores of Catholic faithful during the protest…
Suddenly, the chant of “Holy…, Holy, Holy, Enugu Rangers, another champion” has fizzled out. Even the ‘Cathedral’ has been deserted and neither the priest nor the mass servers are at the altar. Members of the Parish Council are wondering what the Bishop would do next.
The Flying Antelopes slumped to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Zesco of Zambia to cap their miserable form since the beginning of the current season. The disgraceful outing dented their hopes of qualifying for the group stage of the CAF Confederation Cup competition which they won in 1977.
Back home, pressure has intensified as the defending champions of Nigeria’s Premier Football League are languishing at the bottom of the log. For some other clubs, winning the league alone and flying Nigeria’s flag in Africa is an achievement but for Rangers International, the sudden collapse is a crisis. Yet the club was deserving and convincing on their way to victory last season.
Now, seven months on, things have fallen apart and the centre can no longer hold for a team with such massive support base at home and in diaspora. Rangers International Football Club is a movement. An identity of a people. It is more than a football club. It is based in Enugu but certainly bigger than Enugu State. Mind you, the Sultan of Sokoto, a diehard supporter of the club flew all the way from Sokoto to honour the players and officials during their reception by the government and people of Enugu State Regrettably, developments in the club is a good example of how not to manage success. Even the ugly episode is a setback for the League Management Company (LMC) that cued behind Rangers popularity to showcase the new face of Nigerian local league.
Reasons for the free-fall are legion, depending on your sources, with fingers pointing more in the direction of psychological meltdown. Expectations were raised and dashed. Recall that some State Governments had in the past rewarded League and Federation Cup winners with cars and landed property. So winning the Nigeria Premier Football League again after 32 years in the wilderness, reignited bountiful hope among the players and officials of the club. And their appetite was further oiled by the state government which kept them waiting from October till December.
Rangers were crowned Champions October 4th and on 8th of October Rivers United, runners up to Rangers were received by Rivers State Government. The Flying Antelopes waited till December in what turned out to be a shambolic event, as the players were paraded in dirty rickety open trucks meant for cows, an indication that they should tone down their expectations.
When the rewards came in form of cash, the sharing formula created more problems than it was meant to solve. Behold, other clubs were busy strengthening their squad and engaging in other pre-season activities. Instructively, successive Enugu State Governments are not given to frivolities in governance. The State hardly wastes its resources in media showmanship, a trade mark of many states. But one area Governor Ugwuanyi cannot afford to be conservative in funding is in Rangers. It is a project that can guarantee electoral success, if in doubt, ask His Excellency, Chief Jim Nwobodo.
Understandably, the morale in camp is very low, the Governor must quickly intervene. Any attempt to politicize the affairs of the club will only spell doom. This is not time for the Commissioner of Sports, whoever he is, to flex muscles. He must stay away from the day to day administration of the club, if he wants to have a smooth tenure.The management of Rangers is headed by a big personality in Nigerian Football. But Chairman Christian Chukwu must strive to match personality with capacity.
NFF Referees’ Committee Response
Mr. Linus Mba, consultant to Referees Committee of NFF and FIFA Technical Adviser forwarded to me 2017 1st quarter of his committee’s report in response to my write up last week titled “League of blood and fine”. Excerpts: “There were certainly some hiccups from the start of the season – precisely from the 14th January 2017, which took some time to settle. As a result of varying technical interventions, there appears now this resolve by the generality of the referees and assistants to give the Leagues their best and indeed offering from now the most acceptable standard of football refereeing.
The matches, particularly in the elite league, had continued to offer the usual thrills and in some cases unpredictable results. So far the league had at this stage, recorded more home wins when compared with the previous season and again only comparatively few drawn games. The number of away wins is also far less than was the case last season. One would then begin to wonder whether the emerging message is a return to the old syndrome of a must home win at all cost which had in the past years proved counter-productive in fostering the most desired spirit of fair play at match venues?
While it is true that the premier league had continued to offer enough attractions and thrills that have been luring spectators back to the stadia, it is equally correct to say that some match venues appear to be slow in shedding the old habit of aggressive tendencies.
The LMC with the full support of the NFF had so far and commendably too, demonstrated in clear terms, very strong determination to put in place this season stricter security measures that would assure all teams; referees and fans of adequate and safer environment during matches”.
NOTE: No one can arrogate to himself the exclusive knowledge of how to reposition football administration in Nigeria. Violence and poor officiating do not only happen in Nigeria, but how are such issues tackled in other climes? Let us counter arguments with superior arguments, not intimidation and rants by hired attack dogs.
Till next week, keep attacking.