March 2020 was a very busy month for Nigerian football even though it was the time activities were locked down in the country.
It will be difficult to review March 2020 with just one event like we did for January and February, so we will do our best to summarize a few of them.
Enyimba and the bizarre excuses
Just before the lock down, Enyimba were knocked out from the CAF Confederation Cup by Guinea’s Horoya AC but the usual did not happen after the game.
Normally, you would hear the coach of the losing side blame poor officiating for the loss, but this time, Enyimba coach, Fatai Osho blamed something else.
Fatai Osho claimed that chemical agents were used on his players to stop them from giving their best in the game, hence the loss.
“When you lose a football match you want to congratulate the winners but unfortunately what happened here today is a big disgrace for African football,” an enraged coach Fatai Osho said at the post match meeting then.
“I don’t know why in this year 2020, you can put chemical agents on players to destabilise them.
“African football is going backwards, you don’t do that. It is a big shame and CAF should investigate this. You can’t put chemical agents on players to destabilize them.
“The health of these players is important. Horoya can win, it is not a problem, they have a good team and can win. But you don’t go the extra mile by putting chemical on these players.”
Did this really happen or was the coach just crying wolf where there was none?
Tobi Adepoju, a keen follower of the Nigeria Professional Football League told NigerianFootballer.com that the Confederation of African Football must give the best organisation for its competitions.
“I think the first thing is for CAF to give us the best organisation in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup,” Adepoju told NigerianFootballer.com.
We can’t continue this where clubs come up with dirty antics. You can’t frustrate clubs that come into your country and we have seen it this season with COVID 19.
“It is a big distraction for the players and it is sad to see such happen. Teams that cheat should be punished too,” Adepoju said.
Enyimba player kidnapped
March 2020 was not a good month for Enyimba as they were knocked out from the CAF Confederation Cup.
Then when their players were given a break to return home after the league was suspended, their midfielder, Dayo Ojo was kidnapped.
However, after a few days, they secured his release and the club was very happy about it, as a statement from their Media Officer, Zazi Bariza told.
“They have been released now and it is a thing of joy. As a football club, you cannot be happy knowing that your player is somewhere in the bush in the hands of kidnappers.
“All through the time he was in captivity, the club was in touch with the family and we are happy that they have been reunited with their family,” Zazi Bariza said.
Kayode Johnson is an independent Sports analyst and content creator based in Warri. He shared his thoughts on the kidnap incident with NigerianFootballer.com.
“The news of Dayo Ojo’s kidnap was unbelievably rude and funny. Quite unexpected because one would wonder what the motive of the kidnappers were,” Johnson told NigerianFootballer.com.
“We have heard about the plight of foreign based players- Christian Obodo many years back in Warri, Samuel Kalu’s mother, Mikel Obi’s dad amongst many others but for an NPFL player?
“Thankfully, his club swung into action and were able to secure his release from his abductors. One can only imagine his experience in the den and what was going through not just his mind, but also that of his immediate family.
“Sadly, this sparked a string of other kidnap stories in the NPFL,” Kayode Johnson concluded.
NFF shuts down all football activities for four weeks
With the COVID gradually creeping into Nigeria and a few recorded cases in the front burner, the inevitable happened.
The Nigeria Football Federation announced the closure of all forms of football activities in the country for four weeks.
According to the country’s supreme football –governing body, the shutdown would affect all on-field activities- the various National Teams, the Nigeria Professional Football League, the other Leagues, youth football programmes and even street football.
President of the Federation, Amaju Pinnick said then that the only football activity that will be permitted would be the work of the investigation committee into the death of Chineme Martins, which was inaugurated at about the same time in Benin City and was expected to submit its report in ten days.
Godwin Enakhena is a sports journalist, football administrator and business man and he told NigerianFootballer.com that he was in support of the lock down and stoppage of football activities.
“Stopping sporting activities in Nigeria was the only logical thing to do at the time. It is only the man or woman that is alive that will talk about sports,” Enakhena told NigerianFootballer.com.
“The pandemic was ravaging, it was every where. You know Nigerians don’t take things seriously. We thought it was a joke until we started seeing prominent people dying every day. What did we lose? We didn’t lose any thing, we didn’t miss football.
“At some point I wasn’t planning for tomorrow, because I felt that every body could just be wiped out. The government and NFF did the right thing and I will not query that at all,” Enakhena told NigerianFootballer.com.
Death on the football pitch
Now regarding the only sporting body permitted to work, a committee was set up by the Nigeria Football Federation to investigate the causes of the death of Nasarawa United player, Chineme Martins who slumped and died during a League game in March 2020.
At the inauguration of the Committee, NFF president, Amaju Pinnick said he was ready to lose his job as president than to not ensure the recommendations were implemented. Was that a threat? Was he really willing to give up the presidency of the Federation for this committee’s report?
How did the committee report go eventually? Any changes to the way football is run?
Charles Ogundiya is a sports correspondent with the New Telegraph Newspapers and he told NigerianFootballer.com that he is not sure Nigerian clubs are ready for these changes.
“I was glad when the NFF/LMC set up a committee to see to what happened and find a lasting solution to the problem. With the governor making available new ambulance and also seconding the club to the state’s hospital, I was expecting a better future for the club but at the moment, we are waiting for what the future will look like,” Ogundiya told NigerianFootballer.com.
“The NFF came up with some details going forward but are we sure all the clubs are going to take to the information and the new ways of doing things medically?
“I was privileged to meet with the doctor of one of the NPFL clubs and he told me that the clubs are not ready to adhere to new ways of handling the players, hopefully, the NFF/LMC will place sanctions on clubs that failed to do the right thing going forward.”
NigerianFootballer.com will continue its review of top footballing stories for 2020 with April in a few days.