Rivers United players at the reception dinner
By Precious Chukwu
To
go by the guest list alone, a gathering of sports royalty and a who’s who in
Rivers State, the reception for the players and management of Rivers United
Football Club yesterday was a rousing success.
Then
came the gifts; half a million naira for each player, a million naira for the
coach, and an upgrade in conveyance for the team (they will now arrive for away
matches in a brand new state-of-the-art luxury bus).
Their
supporters will be right behind that bus with a brand new coaster bus of their
own and there is no denying their efforts merit it (If they showed just half
the enthusiasm at the matches that they did yesterday night, it is no wonder the
team performed so well at home.
This
Author is still deaf in one ear from their boisterous celebrations).
A catalogue of
speeches
Hon.
Boma Iyaye, Commissioner for Sports, set the ball rolling on the night with a
welcome address that catalogued the successes in sport under Governor Wike’s
administration.
According
to Iyaye, the chief success of the sporting year was the reason for the party,
the amazing achievement of the Rivers United side who finished second and
clinched qualification to the Champions league a paltry 7 months after they
were formed by the merger of Sharks and Dolphins Football Clubs.
There
was a spot of humour as he highlighted the travails of a sports administrator
not the least of which was having been suspended by the Governor one month ago.
He
seized to opportunity to sincerely apologize to his boss, of course.
The
President Sports Writers’ Association of Nigeria, SWAN, Honour Sirawoo was next
on a speaking list, while Monday Sinclair, the man who made tiki-taka a staple
at Sharks FC years before the likes of Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola arrived
on the scene also had his chance to speak.
Monday
Sinclair is credited with the discovery of Super Eagles’ greats like Finidi
George, Taribo West, Peter Rufai and even Rangers coach Imama Amakpakabo.

Chief Adokiye Amiesimaka, who was part of the historic team that won Nigeria’s
1st AFCON title in 1980 also shared some words of support for the governor
whose decision to merge Sharks and Dolphins brought sanity to the state as far
as running a football club was concerned.
Comedy and
entertainment
There
was also space for comedy, and the comedians turned the event on its head as is
‘their way’.
J-Boy
led the way, commiserating with the Governor on the harshness of the economic
clime right now and surprisingly presenting him with a gift! A two hundred
naira recharge card for His Excellency’s phone which “must be empty” because of
the recession don’t you know.
Up
next Clint d Drunk, self-styled Special Adviser to the Governor of Rivers
State
on ‘Drunk Matters’ tasked with ‘Drunken Dispensations’ and His
Excellency’s
‘Personal Drunk’ who made the coach Stanley Eguma his muse,
ribbing
him endlessly for his photo in the program.
According
to Clint, the gaffer’s face was “squeezed like Nigeria’s economy, like the
naira against the dollar”.
Awards and
presentations
The
players took centre stage with an award for the star players of the season.
The
MVP award went to the goalkeeper Sunday Rotimi. There were also awards for fan
favourite, Bernard Ovoke (Top Goalscorer), Christian Weli (Most Consistent),
Frederic Obonmate (Best Homegrown Player) and Captain Festus Austin.
The governor
delivers his message
Then
the moment we had been waiting for arrived, a quick look at the players table a
little to my left confirmed that they had indeed been waiting impatiently.
An
expectant hush fell as the Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency Chief
Barrister Nyesom Ezenwo Wike’s address began.
He
started by acknowledging the presence of the Deputy Governor Ipalibo
Harry
Banigo, former Governor of Rivers State Celestine Omehia, the Speaker
Rivers
State House of Assembly Adams Dabotorudima, former Deputy Speaker
House
of Representatives Chibudum Nwuche, His Royal Majesty, King
Edward
Asimini William Dappa Pepple, the Amanyanabo of Grand Bonny Kingdom, Commander
NNS Pathfinder Commodore Kennedy Egbuchulam, Commander NAF 97 SOG Air Commodore
P.N. Dimfwina and others.
The
Governor had nothing but praise for Rivers United and promised to send them to Spain
for training ahead of their CAF Champions League campaign.
“Everybody
knows I am a Real Madrid fan. For me they are the best and most expensive
football club in the World.
“Yes
we say there is a recession, but we will do the best we can to see that our
boys are exposed in preparing them for the continental championship by making
sure that they go for their training outside the country.”
After
“declaring” for the boys and the supporters, His Excellency urged the commissioner
for sports to present to him within 2 weeks a roadmap for success in the CAF
Champions League and promised to do everything to ensure that the team makes
the people of Rivers State proud.
Hometown
boy Imama Amakpakabo, Coach of NPFL champions was not left out as the Governor
felicitated with him on the victory.
“For
me, Rivers State took first and River State took second, and so what I’m going
to say this night will also affect him. It does not matter where you are, but
the mere fact that you are a Rivers person and you make us proud, you must be
recognised.”
It
was a night to remember for the young players of Rivers United FC and
hopefully, like the governor said, if Rivers Angels win the league, “We will
all return to this place to host them too.”

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