By Ufuoma
Egbamuno
At
the end of Sunday’s unfortunate result against Club Africain in the CAF
Confederation Cup, a group of fans started a chant at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium:
“Eguma must go, Eguma must go,” they chorused in unison.
Now
while the chants didn’t last that long, for once, it showed the signs of
frustrations that had been brewing for embattled Rivers United manager, Stanley
Eguma.
Let’s
be honest, as manager of the renamed Rivers United, Eguma has not convinced a
lot of fans in the last 18 months. So much so, he got an ultimatum in the
middle of last season.
Fortunately,
that proved to be the turning point of his season.
An
away win in Warri against Warri Wolves and a hugely impressive home record
proved valuable for United as they went on to finish in second place just
behind eventual winners, Rangers International.
On
face value, finishing second, 4 points behind the league champions, when you
were expected to battle for relegation, was worth celebrating. It was indeed a
good achievement.
But,
for political reasons, the celebration went a step over the top.
How old is
Rivers United, really?
The
Rivers State Sports Ministry as well as the media department of the club
consistently have tried to show the world that Rivers United is a new club.
Former
commissioner of sports (there’s no substantive commissioner as at the time of
writing this) Boma Iyaye did explain last year at a press conference that
defunct state owned clubs Dolphins and Sharks merged to form Rivers United.
However,
the laws that govern league football in Nigeria as stated by the League Management
Company (LMC) show that Rivers United is a club that changed its name from
Dolphins.
A statement on the LMC
website published February 19th, 2016 reads thus: “Dolphins FC has
been granted approval to change their name to Rivers United FC by the League
Management Company (LMC) with a proviso that they comply with relevant rules
dealing with specific sections of the Framework and Rules for change of name.

The approval was granted pursuant to an application for change of name endorsed
by the Rivers State Government, owners of the club through the office of the
Commissioner for Sports.”

If this isn’t clear
enough, I wonder what will.
So, while finishing
second when that wasn’t expected is a good achievement worth celebrating, the
constant reminder by coach Stanley Eguma, the media department of the club as
well as the sports commissioner that Rivers United is a new club who are
playing on the continent for the very first time is nothing short of
misinformation.
While, that can pass
when for political reasons you want to blow the trumpet of the present
administration (who have indeed invested enormous resources on the team), it
shouldn’t be used to mask the shortcomings of the club on the continent because
it is SIMPLY NOT TRUE.
Rivers United are
former League champions, Federation Cup winners, CAF Champions League and
Confederation Cup campaigners who should be aiming to be like their rivals on
the continent.
And this brings me
back to the Eguma question. For a manager who has won a league title, a cup and
was an assistant manager when Enyimba won the CAF Champions League, a lot is
expected of him.
This season, Rivers
United have signed some of the best players in the land; have had first class
preseason training that saw the team going to Spain; and have not had major
issues with salaries or bonuses.
So, it is only natural
that a lot is expected of them.
Or, should we accept
that they are a new club who have done tremendously to remain the only Nigerian
club on the continent?
Languishing in 16th
place on the league table –albeit with 2 outstanding games against Akwa United
and Kano Pillars- as well as facing exit in the CAF Confederation Cup isn’t
good enough. For me, the buck stops at the manager’s table.
What is wrong with Stanley Eguma?
Eguma’s tactics, at
least this season, has left a lot to be desired. Like most NPFL clubs, Rivers
United have been good at home but horrible on the road. I have only been
privileged to watch all 4 games in the group stages of the Confederations Cup –
the game against Club Africain of Tunisia and KCCA of Uganda have one
similarity: reactionary football.
Only when the team
went behind did you see some level of seriousness. Add the FUS Rabat home game
where they only won courtesy of an offside goal, and you wouldn’t have been
shocked about last Sunday’s defeat.
I had the chance to
speak to KCCA manager Mike Mutebi when they visited Port Harcourt a fortnight
ago. He told me point blank that his philosophy is to play attacking football
regardless of the venue.
Despite conceding a
first minute goal against Rivers United, KCCA stuck to their guns and could
have probably gotten a point from the Yakubu Gowon Stadium.
Juxtapose that
philosophy with Kennedy Boboye’s league leaders presently or Imama Amapakabo’s
Rangers International last season, you will understand why Rangers won the
title; Boboye is well on his way to replicate that; and Stanley Eguma’s team
have  been poor this season.
You can blame
referees, poor pitches, security concerns all you want for the seeming tendency
for NPFL teams to win at home most times, you won’t be wrong.
But, make no mistake,
the greatest problem stopping teams from getting results outside their home
ground is the mentality passed on from managers: setting up not to lose instead
of trying to win games. Eguma is no exception!
Rivers United needs
its long-standing manager to change from his sometimes reactionary style of
play or better still, get a new manager with fresh ideas and a more daring
approach if they are to move to the next level.
But guess what, don’t
bet on it to happen anytime soon!
Someone close to the club confided in me that former Rangers
manager, Imama Amapakabo has been a long term target to replace Eguma. But
making that decision is a difficult one. One that may have far reaching consequences
than just football according to my source.
First, Imama is from
the Okrika region as the former commissioner Iyaye (who would most likely
return when the governor constitutes a new cabinet) while Eguma is Ikwerre.
It’s quite easy for Iyaye to be accused of nepotism if that decision is made.
Secondly, Eguma is a
relative of the governor. With the way we do things in Nigeria, you have to
have enough cogent reasons to sack someone that close to the governor. For now,
there doesn’t seem to be any.
So, some fans of
Rivers United can chant all they want about wanting Eguma out of the team.
Truth of the matter is that a camel would most likely pass through the eye of
needle before Eguma is shown the exit.

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