Valencia CF board room. See their trophy count
Now
today was the big match day. Big, not because it was a Cup final or anything of
the sort, but at least it was going to be the team’s first game.
Let
us not make any mistakes about it, this team would be naïve, very naïve.
A
few of them had never in their lives played any opposition outside Nigeria;
almost all of them had never played any opposition outside Africa, so it was
that big a game for them.
But
we woke up as usual… if we didn’t wake up it would have meant we all died and
if we all died it would have meant I didn’t write this diary and if I didn’t
write this diary I wonder what you would be ready now.
Sorry,
I digress. I’m usually like this on Thursday mornings.
Making money for
your football club
Peter Draper flanked by LMC members
First
up was the Mestalla where the club chairmen, or owners as they love to tell
themselves were billed for a lecture by Peter Draper, Valencia CF’s Commercial
and Marketing director.
He
taught the chairmen on how to make their clubs commercial success. He started
from the fundermentals asking the chairmen what their dream for their clubs
was.
When
they all agreed that their individual dreams was for their clubs to be the best
in Nigeria/ Africa he then gave a detailed lecture on how this can be achieved.
From
getting the right facilities, getting the administration right to investing in
a playing or training structure that encourages the best talent to sign.
He
also noted the big three revenue bases for top football clubs.
Valencis CF president, Chan Lay Hoon and LMC chairman, Shehu Dikko
While
the lecture was on, president of Valencia CF, Chan Lay Hoon popped in to say hi
and was really excited at the number of people from Nigeria who were at their
base and hoped the partnership would last longer.
When
asked if Valencia CF would come to Nigeria someday to play pre-season games she
smiled and said it is something they have to think about.
After
the lecture I saw Mike Idoko of Lobi Stars in the team bus going over his notes
again and again as though he was about to write an exam. I was encouraged
because it showed he was trying to take something home from whatever he had
been taught. Hopefully, we see those changes at Lobi Stars soon.
The awesomeness of
the Mestalla
There
was something about Valencia CF’s home ground… something you do not get in any
stadium in the Nigerian league.
There
is this nostalgic feeling when you walk in, as though you are in hallowed
grounds.
I’m
sure it did not just happen by accident… they made it that way.
The
stadium is designed to make the fans know it’s their home and this ranges from
the paintings of big players who have featured for the club to markings of
trophies they have won in their time as a club and of course to the way the
stadium is built.
The
terraces are almost at 90% angle and so high up in the air making one feel that
you could fall off forward while celebrating a goal.
It’s
almost like the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund.
Photo of Mario Kempes adorns the wall of Valencia Offices
On
our way down after the one hour session I noticed the walls of the office had
historical pictures in frames from the clubs archives.
The
one that intrigued me the most was that of Mario Kempes, the Argentinean
forward who was top scorer at the World Cup in 1978.
I
had almost forgotten he played for Valencia. That was a good reminder.
No
stadium in Nigeria has photos of its past players on the office walls, not one.
So how do the fans relate? How does a young fan in Port Harcourt somehow know
of the great players like Finidi George, Rowland Orufe, Raymond Quarcopome and
Kayode Solomon?
How
does the young fan in Owerri know of Sylvester Okparanozie, Kevin Onwana or
Tony Merenini?
How
does the young fan in Enugu know of the Onyedika brothers, Christian Chukwu or
the Atuegbu brothers or even the likes of Sani Adamu in Jos?
Our
clubs chairmen need to return home from this training and begin to show
working.
Some
may talk of the Warri City Stadium but the truth is that it is not owned by
Warri Wolves but the Delta State Sports Commission but it has photos of past
sports men of Delta origin… I doubt if there is any from Warri Wolves, but
kudos to Delta State anyway.
Shopping at the
Valencia CF shop
As
we made our way out, most of the club chairmen decided to shop at the Valencia
CF shop and while they picked stuff ranging from jerseys to trainers I wondered
if they knew they could create the same for their clubs.
Nigerian club chairmen shopping
I,
for one wears Nigerian club jerseys. The only foreign club jersey I wear is for
Liverpool.
I
have jerseys for Abia Warriors, Dolphins, Sharks, MFM, Ikorodu United, Go Round
FC, Remo Stars and Lobi Stars.
Whenever
I wear I Nigerian League club jersey people ask me where they can get one.
I
try to explain that they have to call the media officer of the club or General
Manager and the next question is always, “Don’t they have a shop I can go to?”
No
Nigerian club has a shop, not one.
The
closest is Ikorodu United who at least have an organized way of selling their
jerseys at their stadium when they have home games.
So
I watched these club chairmen in excitement buying Valencia CF jerseys and
memorabilia and that question played on in my mind- You can do this for your
club. Your stay may not be permanent but leave a legacy that people will
remember you by whenever you are replaced by the real club owner, the state
government..
Getting ready for
the big game
fans receive the NPFL All Star side on arrival
On
return to the hotel we had launch and while others went back to crash I kept
myself busy typing Day 3 of my diary, then I grabbed some shut eye (just one
hour though) and got out to join the rest of the team as we embarked on the 30
minute trip to Alzira, venue of the friendly game against Valencia.
A
lot of people asked why the game was not played at the Mestalla but the small
stadium in Alzira and it has been answered over and over again.
There
was a forrest fire that affected the people of the area and the game was a
charity one to raise funds for those victims.
The
people did not take the game lightly either as they turned up in their numbers,
filling up the stadium.
It
was a small community stadium, maybe like the one in Omoku used by Go Round FC
(but of cause built better) and every single seat in the stadium was taken.
Of
course we all watched the game so I’m not reporting that here, just some
pointers.
The
people came out for a cause, filled up the stadium and had fun watching a great
game.
Can
any club in Nigeria actually organize a charity game for any cause and do it
this well?
At
the end of the game there was a pitch invasion by the home fans.
 

Pitch invasion after the game

It
was their chance to meet their players one on one and as soon as the whistle
sounded they ran in, male, female, teenager alike, and they took selfies and
signed autographs.
I
do not think pitch invasion after a game is a bad thing as long as it is done
in good faith.
A
pitch invasion that disrupts a game is very wrong and should be discouraged,
but what happened in Alzira to me showed the people loved their club.
In
Nigeria we frown against pitch invasion as though it’s an evil thing unheard of
anywhere else but it happens even in the most developed of climes.
But
like I said above, pitch invasion is evil if it is done to cause disruption of
a game, beat up the referee or players ut not at the end of a game to celebrate
a result and if it is done in an orderly manner like we saw in Alzira and have
seen in the English championship every year on play off final day.
“Area” held their
own too
Finally
I saw how “Area” held the team to ransom and they couldn’t leave.
 

Fans lie in wait for Valencia CF players outside dressing room

We
have seen Super Eagles games in Abuja, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Uyo and how
the players cannot leave the stadium at the end of the game.
Fans
would cordon off their exit point waiting just to catch a final glimpse of them
since they may not be allowed into their hotel after the game.
The
same thing happened in Alzira as at least five hundred fans waited at the only
exit to meet with the players.
After
the organisers waited for about thirty minutes and the fans refused to leave
they had to order the team bus to drive out and park just at the exit point so
the players could just get out of the dressing room and straight into the bus.
Those
scenes certainly reminded me of Nigeria where it happens every time the Eagles
play and even in League matches too.
We
went back to the hotel and after dinner, while men slept I stayed awake to edit
some audio clips of interviews I did and syndicate to the radio journalists on
my mailing list.
Tomorrow,
we go to Sevilla for the game against Malaga.

Day 4 Photo Splash

Nduka Irabor, Chan Lay Hoon and Shehu Dikko

Valencia coach, Pako Ayesteran answering questions after the game

That’s me and a fan at half time

I also did some shopping at the Valencia CF house

Memories are made of this

Chima Akas answers questions after the game

That’s me and Tunji Brown of Owu Sports

That’s me and another fan, Danny Shittu at half time

The Valencia CF fans turned up in their numbers

Good way to welcome the NPFL

Valencia Mascot ready for duty

The kids loved us

Nduka Irabor having fun with the kids

Small village club, UD Alzira has this for memories.. Wither NPFL clubs

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