Club Owners and other stakeholders have reacted to the suspension of the 2019 South-East and South-South pre-season tournament by the Anambra State Football Association (FA), saying it was sad and a disservice to football development in the state.
Some of them who spoke to the Nigeria News Agency on Wednesday in Awka said the move diminished the spirit of football, caused great financial losses to the club owners and the state, while others blamed the action on breakdown in communication.
The pre-season competition which would have held at the NEROS Stadium in the serene town of Nanka, was organised for clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League and other amateur leagues in the zones.
NAN reports that 20 teams, including Rangers International, Delta Force, Rivers United, Abia Warriors and Warri Wolves were billed to participate in the eight-day football fiesta which was scheduled to kick off in Nanka, Orumba North Council Area on Tuesday.
But the Anambra FA had said on Monday that it was not aware of the tournament, and that the organisers never contacted the body, describing the planned tournament as illegal.
The FA said in a statement by its Secretary, Chijioke Onyedika, that the organisers’ action was capable of causing breach of public peace, noting it had invited them to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against them.
“The FA hereby states that this competition is not known to it, the FA declares this competition as illegal and hereby warns all affiliate clubs from both the state and outside the state to stay away this competition with immediate effect.
“Any team and technical attachees who participates in this competition shall be seriously dealt with in line with NFF statutes and code of conduct,” it said.
Coach Obinna Dike, Chairman of Anambra Independent Football League (AIFL), blamed the development on communication gap but regretted that the interest of football was not considered.
Dike, who is the chairman of DOSAD Academy, an Anambra-based amateur side, said the academy’s management had to invite its players scattered across the country to participate in the pre-season tournament which was a veritable ground for local and foreign scouts to source for players.
He said he was pained by the development, noting that Abuja and Enugu had always entertained his club with open arms.
According to the Rev. Father cum sports administrator, the academy have to call its players off season to participate in the tournament, rescheduled the travel of some of foreign players who are on break to play in the tournament.
“I personally invited some scouts to be here as a surprise to the teams, some people did not do the right thing on time and worst still, the interest of football was considered last.
“As stakeholders and brothers from the southern hemisphere bound by football blood, we cannot handle this issue that could have been done over a cup of tea, considering the colossal damage to football.
“My greatest pain is that no matter how I moan, those perpetrators don’t know the depth of the wound inflicted, for those who stressed themselves to be at the tournament, I sincerely apologise to you for football sake.
“Let your love for the game not diminish by this action or inaction, life goes on but time to consider other options too,” he told NAN.
On his part, Philip Udala, Chairman of Udala FC, winners of the just-concluded Anambra AIFL season, said the Anambra FA by the action had further killed the spirit of the game and those making effort to develop it in Anambra.
Udala wondered what the issues were that they could not be addressed without scuttling the genuine effort of lovers of football, adding that he had to commit his personal finance to enable the organisers stage a successful tournament.
“I told the FA people yesterday (Tuesday) that they are just being unfair to the state and the teams that were supposed to take part, this is a pre-tournament event, teams have their programmes and this one that is for us, we have destroyed by ourselves.
“They should have called the organisers to inform them on the need to involve FA and if they ignore you after that, you can wield the big stick, they just demonstrated high level of sadism.
“My players have prepared themselves just like other players to come and showcase their talent before the professional and national league clubs, but now their spirits are down and we are disappointed.
“The truth is that I don’t think I will play again if they call us back because we have other programmes, this is just an opportunity that came to Anambra but the FA ended up spoiling it, it is sad that they did not consider the benefit to the state because of their own selfish interest,” he told NAN.
Ikem Asika, a sports journalist, said the FA should have been more innovative to create competitions outside the traditional FA Cup rather than scuttle those put up by other people on the grounds that they were not carried along.
“Yet, the same FA that has failed in the promotion and management of football in this state is claiming the big boss, it is rather sad.
“They would have used this tournament as face-saving for not being able to organise a single football competition for three years outside the AITEO Cup, shame on them.
“Going through that the FA’s statement leaves much to be desired, it is time for stakeholders to call a spade a spade and a shovel a shovel,” he said.
The Editor-In-Chief of Fides Newspapers, Jude Atupulazi, blamed the organisers for not putting the FA in the picture being the association in charge of soccer in Anambra, but said that both should have sought amicable way of resolving the situation.
According to Atupulazi, the major issue was lack of communication, it was like some people organising a football event in Nigeria that involves bringing in foreign teams and not intimating the NFF.
“That will amount to a protocol breach and a slight on the FA, but having noted this, the issue, given it’s importance, could still be amicably settled,” he said.
On his part, Tony Oli, Chairman of Anambra Sports Development Commission (ASDC), told NAN that the a the action of the organisers as lawlessness and insubordination to constituted authority, noting there was need for official communication.
Oli said he was reaching out to all concerned, including FA and the organisers, expressing the hope that they could still find a common ground for the pre-season to hold in Anambra.
“We need the tournament, we need sports to develop in the state, we need the independent league, we need the FA for the standards to be kept and get them involved in our schools football.
“Please, I would want the organisers to reach out to the teams and see if we can get them back and the state FA should be involved as I have reached out to them,” he said.
Patrick Nwaogu, Chairman of the Main Organising Committee, who confirmed the suspension of the tournament to the NAN, said he was surprised that the Anambra FA accused them of trying to cause chaos.
Nwaogu regretted the lack of communication and said it was awaiting the FA board meeting on Aug. 23 where that MOC would explain the importance of the tournament and its benefits.
(Editing by Peter Ejiofor)