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MFM FC 2019/2020 Season: Before the bubble bursts after exodus of players, coach

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It is obvious that things are not taking the right shape with the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church-owned club, as it the looks ahead of the campaign in the coming season.

MFM gained promotion into the elite football league giving Lagos fans something to cheer about after about 15 years wait and desert of professional league absenteeism after the last Lagos-based club, Julius Berger exited in 2000.

It is pertinent to know that Lagos which had previously been the home of football in the past with no state to match its fanaticism when it comes to supporting clubs could be thrown into the obscurity of elite football for that long.

Lagos being a cosmopolitan city stands out in terms of facilities for football clubs to excel, especially its economic and social endowment which could be the reagent for any club to succeed.

Lagos also the commercial hub of the country is officially the most populated state after Kano and it boasts of four readily available stadia with unquantifiable opportunities for clubs.

Such facilities include the newly reconstructed Onikan Stadium, upgraded Agege Stadium, Teslim Balogun Stadium and abandoned National Stadium all in great standard.

In the past, Lagos enjoyed topflight football from elite clubs such as Stationery Stores founded in 1958 and Julius Berger founded in 1970. Both clubs had rich history in football in Nigeria.

For MFM FC, they have a hole to fill in the hearts of Lagos fans and in no distance time, they have already joined the powerhouse of dictators in the league and within their second year, they are already contesting for a continental slot.

MFM struggled and they were almost regulated save the last day miracle against a title chasing Ifeanyi Ubah, a team they had to beat to stay afloat.

It was a tough chase until Jos-based Plateau United needed to win on the last Match Day 38 after about 45 years of wait, thus turning from the last seasons zero to hero.

Besides all these feats, it is no news that MFM in the last two to three years has been selling the team’s regulars without replacing them with competent hands that could fill in their shoes.

Over the past few years, the club has suffered mass exodus of players who left in search of greener pastures, mostly because of what many will term as unfavourable club policy.

In the past years, notable players such as the wonder kid, Stephen Odey, who once rocked the elite league with his eye catching goals for MFM left for FC Zurich, Switzerland.

Odey’s time with MFM, witnessed a deadly combination of the attacking duo of Sikiru Olatunbosun and Chukwuka Onuwa; the attacking trio got the team a continental slot for Nigeria back then.

However, last year’s transfer window saw the former BBC’s “Goal of the Month” recipient, Sikiru Olatunbosun, leave the club for league winners, Plateau United, while the mercurial midfielder, Chukwuka Onuwa ran to the arms of Enyimba International FC of Aba.

The mass exodus continued unabated as regular players such as Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Ospino Egbe left for Lobi Stars, Tchato Giscard, Jesse Akilla, Monsuru Bahiru, Adebayo Waheed and Wilfred Ammeh all left the club in the wild.

Things also continued in the downward spiral at the current transfer window as MFM’s longest serving captain, Austin Opara, joined the league of transferred players to Enyimba FC of Aba to pair with right full back Stanley Okorom.

Before Opara’s departure, the quartet of striker, Tunde Abisoye, highest goal scorer for last the team, Chijoke Akuneto, wing back, Julius Emiloju, and Jonathan Zikiye had all left for Sunshine Stars FC of Akure.

For Opara who is seen by many as a cult figure in the team, his departure is a misnomer because he was regarded as the Minister of Defence in the team; he is an exceptional leader with rare qualities.

As the purge continued, maybe the final straw that broke the camels back was the decision of the team’s coach Fidelis Ilechukwu to leave the house that he had helped to build and sustain for 13 years.

Ilechukwu was last week Wednesday unveiled as the Technical Adviser of Heartland FC of Owerri on a three-year contract.

Many followers of the Olukoya Boys were stunned with the decision of Ilechukwu to leave the club; albeit they also saw it coming.

It is an open secret that Ilechukwu who earned his name as a “Special One”, a name adopted by the former Manchester United Coach, Jose Mourinho because of his exceptional performance as a coach was the brain behind MFM’s years of unprecedented successes.

Under Ilechukwu, even the big team quivers, whenever they were to face the team, within a short period, the Olukoya Boys had become one of the most feared clubsides.

Ilechukwu nurtured the team right from the foundation 13 years ago from the Nigeria Nationwide League to the professional league.

Without doubt, MFM has been decimated and with the transfer window about to be shut and the club not making any buy from the available players, what fate lies ahead for it in the professional league campaign?

Pundits have argued that MFM lacks a professional football club outlook which is true because the players transfer policy suggests a lopsided one.

For Ilechukwu, he did not mince words in condemning the players transfer policy adopted by the club and often had taken time to take a swipe at them even in the face of the camera.

Ilechukwu, after he got the continental ticket, lambasted his club hierarchy for failing to employ the services of experienced players to play the continental football; the money-spinning CAF Champions League.

The decision of the club not to shore up the squad for CAF Champions League later backfired as the team struggled in the competition by suffering elimination in the preliminary stage.

To make the matter worse, the club was alleged to be selling players at reasonable prices without making any effort at replacing the departed legs.

Some who commented of MFM’s present debacle, however, did not mince word as they came harsh on the club for slipping into dangerous zone leaving them in distraught.

An ardent MFM FC fan, Sunday Agunbiade, told the Nigeria News Agency that things were not looking good for the Church Boys this season, adding that they might be toying with a relegation battle.

“I don’t know how they want to do it after selling most of their active squad members to rival clubs without buying replacements.

“I am sure MFM will struggle when the season starts because I don’t see any miracle ahead that can save the impending danger.

“The club is not run like a professionally at all, it should be run like one.

“This is the problem Nigeria’s football clubs have been facing because they don’t have professional football club outlook, he said.

An analyst and sports writer, Afolabi Oni, said that MFM was guilty of unprofessional conduct in the affairs of its football administration, adding that the club’s transfer policy was not friendly.

“When you have a club that holds such policy administratively, what do you expect? MFM is not run like a football club at all.

“Maybe we should not expect anything from them this season because players are not magicians,” he said.

However, to assuage the tension in the air, the Media Officer of MFM, Olawale Quadri, equally told NAN that the fans should refrain from the panic button.

“The fans should be patient with the team as we are trying to sort things out and we are ready to make our fans happy as usual.

“There is no need to panic yet because the club will engage the services of best hands to manage the team,” he said.

Recently, the Olukoya Boys announced a new gaffer to continue from where the now dubbed “Working One’’ in person of Temitope Bolus, former Coach of Giwa FC of Jos, who is acclaimed to be a grassroots coach.

Bolus was a former assistant to Imama Amakpakabo in Rangers International FC of Enugu, and has been touted to have capacity to carry on with the legacy Ilechukwu left behind.

In all these, the question on the lips of many fans now is “Will MFM FC join the league of great teams that have done Lagos State proud but went into oblivion?

The examples are rife with former great teams such as ECN of Lagos (NEPA), Julius Berger, Stationery Stores and recently Ikorodu United but now almost unseen.

What future lies ahead of MFM, the season opener at the tentative date of Sept. 2 will decide what will happen.

Will it be a doomsday or a glorious one, time will tell.

KOJE/PDE

(Editing by Peter Ejiofor)

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editor@nnn.com.ng