Uche Okagbue, Manager of FC Ifeanyi Ubah saw his lads lose a third game despite spirited efforts at making a mark in the NPFL Championship Playoff, but the sturdily built coach says they would fight to the end to earn respect.
Okagbue’s lads tried fighting back top reverse a first half two goals lead against Kano Pillars but only succeeded in getting in just one goal and it was their third loss in as many games in the five-match Championship Playoff.
Going into the fourth game against seven times champions, Enyimba International, Okagbue was very combative, declaring that “we will fight to the very end”.
FC IfeanyiUbah really were never reckoned to finish among the playoff sides after the club in a pre-season reorganisation released most of their top stars and assembled a bunch of young and relatively unknown players with a coach that was not associated with any previous success. Yet, they led their group from the early stages and after some setbacks, finished in the top three of the group to make the playoff.
The significance is not lost on okagbue, a former Nigerian youth international and alumni of Insurance of Benin and Rangers International who all through the tournament’s post match conferences never failed to point to the fact that FC IfeanyiUbah was never reckoned with to make it to the Playoff.
“I must say that we got here on merit because we competed with boys who were inexperienced and never were given a chance to qualify. I also believe the other teams are here on merit, so, you cannot look down on any of the teams. Unfortunately, we have not been lucky in front of goals compared with the chances we created but with two games to go, we have to fight for respect and ensure we did not leave the tournament without winning a match or earning a point”, Okagbue responded when asked if the team still has the motivation to do well in the competition.
The Coach has some reservations about officiating and was particularly bitter with the penalty that gave Kano Pillars their first goal in the 2-1 win and believes the error of judgement on the part of the match officials affected his players.
“In our time, we played football on merit and were selected from the league clubs to represent the country. Today, our age grade teams are having issues because most of them didn’t get invited based on merit”, Okagbue said in an obvious hint at his reservations about the penalty award to Kano Pillars.
He has a message for Enyimba International and Rangers International, their remaining opponents in the tournament which is n all Oriental Derby, warning that, “It is not going to be easy. We will fight for prestige and we will not be a pushover for any team despite not being in contention for the title or season’s ticket”
FC IfeanyiUbah has enjoyed positive reviews from fans and the media for the quality of their game which though has been marred by a lack of good touch on the final third. Some analysts believe the lack of experienced strikers in the front line has been their bane, a view shared by the Coach who has had to blame inexperience for their defeats.
“I am happy with how far we have come to this tournament. We are playing with young boys who were assembled at the end of last season when all the big players left and it is commendable how they have adjusted and become a team that finished well. Our major problem here has been the boys’ experience and if we can get to this stage next season, they should watch out for us”, declared Okagbue.