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Sports News of Thursday, 10 June 2021


NPFL: Fear, anxiety grip clubs over matches in eastern Nigeria

The photo used to illustrate the story The photo used to illustrate the story

Clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League and the Nigeria National League have expressed concerns over the crisis and insecurity in the eastern part of the country, saying they have been playing matches in fears, The PUNCH reports.

There have been killings, attacks on government properties, police stations and schools, looting and destruction of properties in Imo, Anambra, Abia and Enugu states, which had led to government declaring curfew in some of the affected areas.

The incidents have caused panic among some key stakeholders in the topflight and second-tier leagues. Speaking with The PUNCH, Chairman of NPFL side, Adamawa United, Emmanuel Zira, said he’s been scared stiff releasing his players for away matches in the East. He said, “I have to be very honest, I’m scared and I already laid my complaints to the Chief Operating Officer of the NPFL. I told him that with what is happening now and with the way they are killing Northerners in the East, I’m really scared.

“I can’t continue to risk the lives of my players; that’s why I was calling that we should look at the league carefully because what is happening now calls for a lot of caution.” He added, “We are still going to honour our matches but I have told them to be very watchful. Providing extra security is not the solution in a place where they are killing policemen, burning police stations and army barracks.“For instance, I have a relative in the East who has not been seen since Monday after he went out to transfer money. Up till now, we can’t reach him.”

Chief Press Secretary to the Edo State Deputy Governor, Ebomhiana Musa, said the state-owned Bendel Insurance would play their final game in the eastern part of the country despite the crisis in the region.He said, “We will honour our remaining game in the East but we won’t provide extra security. Look at what happened to our boys in Ijebu Ode on Sunday; are we saying there is no police command in Ogun state?”

MFM FC media officer, Wale Quadry, said the club would remain vigilant as they continue to honour their away NPFL matches.“We played a game in the East last weekend against Enugu Rangers and it went well. So, we will be honouring every other match there as long as a state of emergency has not been declared in the area.“We just have to be vigilant while travelling; and most of the times we go with our (security) escort. We will continue to hope and pray for the safety of our players and everyone,” Quadry said.Team manager of Enugu Rangers, Amobi Ezeaku, says they’ve had one of their games rescheduled due to security concerns.He said, “We update the LMC from time to time about our observations.

For instance, our game against Ifeanyi Ubah last week was played earlier so that we could go back to Enugu in time.”IfeanyiUbah club chairman, Chukwuma Ubah, Chairman of IfeanyiUbah, who are based in Nnewi in the eastern part of the country admitted that footballers in the region live in fear following the unrest. He said, “The players are scared and worried; we had to bring our last game forward to 2pm. It wasn’t favourable but we needed to consider the players.

“We are just clubs and LMC will decide if matches will be moved away from the affected areas. But they are usually reluctant in taking a decision because they don’t understand what people go through and the risk involved, considering that the whole country is hot right now.

“Away teams travelling for matches are worried but the problem is that most of them are government-owned and are hell-bent on executing the matches just to have money in their pockets.”

Meanwhile, LMC spokesperson Harry Iwuala urged any concerned clubs to write officially to the league body.“The clubs should write officially to LMC, let them show what they wrote to the LMC because they can’t be talking verbally,” Harry told The PUNCH.“The last position we had with clubs was when they agreed that the league should continue after the prolonged break, a meeting was held and that was the last position agreed.“If they want the league to stop they have the right to ask but not putting one side in the media. They should know that writing an official letter to LMC carries weight and when they do that it is also left for other clubs to agree because one or two clubs cannot decide for 20 clubs.”

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