“Now, we will go home and continue with our preparation for the season and I’m sure we will do better than we did last season”
The quote above is credited to Enyimba returnee coach Paul Aigbogun after the NPFL Invitational Tournament, loosely called the Super Six. It was an extract from Wednesday’s post by Sam on why the gaffer needed to succeed this time.
I read that quote over and over again but one word stood out – HOME. Where was Paul referring to as home? Did he mean Aba, Umuahia, Port Harcourt or Calabar? Where is home? Where will be home? How is the home? What is a home?
Since winning the league in 2015, the Peoples Elephant have been on a merry-go-round journey the Hebrews will be proud of. From Umuahia to Port Harcourt in 2016, Enyimba used Calabar as home in 2017. All of these sojourns have been accomplished with promises of returning back to Aba to play with full support of the fans.
A quick trip to the contractor’s official site http://www.monimichelle.com indicates that the renovation was scheduled for 2 months. Two years on, work is yet to be completed. Enyimba is yet to return home. I wonder how long it took the contractor to finish the projects indicated on their site – TP Mazembe Stadium (3 months), Samson Siasia Stadium (3 months), Karkanda Stadium (3 months), Aper Aku Stadium (3 months). I doubt the renovations of the mentioned stadiums took 2 or more years.
It is been frustrating for the fans with the news about the stadium.
January 2016: Assurance from the contractor that Enyimba Stadium will be ready for the CAF Champions League. “We have started work in Aba and we intend to deliver in record time once the funds are available. We are also putting in place a turf which is world class” – Mr. Ebi Egbe, Director, MoniMichelle Sports Facilities Construction Limited
February 6, 2016: The headline on Enyimba’s site was “Egbe: Technical Enyimba will prosper on new surface” with Mr. Egbe sounding bullish about the timeline: “Our target is not just to be ready in time for the opening CAF Champions League game, but for the team to be able to train on it for two weeks prior!”. He did put a caveat: “However, this is a very capital-intensive project. We are in partnership with the state government, and the cooperation has been very encouraging. If they continue to hold up their end, we will most certainly deliver.”
February 14, 2016: Two weeks prior to Enyimba’s first home match in the CAF Champions League.
February 28, 2016: Enyimba defeat Vipers SC of Uganda in the CAF Champions League in Port Harcourt.
June 2016: “Fans of Enyimba are tired of promises (of a date when the club will return to Aba). I am however assuring you that God willing, our final CAF Champions League group game at home (against Mamelodi Sundowns between August 22-24) will be played in Aba. The final league games of Enyimba in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) this season will also be played in Aba” – Abia State Commissioner for Sport, Chinwe Nwanganga.
August 23, 2016: Enyimba defeat Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa in the CAF Champions League in Port Harcourt.
February 2017: “My brother nothing is happening. The Abia State government is not serious about the completion of Enyimba Stadium. I have been going to Umuahia every week to meet them. What I get is one story today and another story tomorrow, my brother, I am tired.” – Mr. Ebi Egbe, Director, MoniMichelle Sports Facilities Construction Limited
March 2017: Assurance from contractor that stadium will be ready in three months. Stadium was compared to the Bernabeu. “The only stadium close to it would be the Real Madrid Stadium, which is 110-72” – Mr. Egbe
March 2017: Pitch was compared with Arsenal and Manchester City. “When Enyimba comes back home, Africans will appreciate the pitch. I am here to bring the best pitch not only in Abia but the whole Africa. The pitch will be like that of Man city and Arsenal” – Mr. Egbe
July 2017: “The materials for the stadium have come in and it would be good for us to return to Aba with the title. The people of Aba would then welcome us with joy… We are very hopeful that the team will start the new season in Aba, come next season” – Enyimba Chairman, Felix Anyansi-Agwu.
December 11, 2017 (Guardian): Speaking while inspecting the job done at the stadium, Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu expressed satisfaction with the pace of work, adding that the project was among his priorities. Promising that Enyimba would not play its continental matches next season in exile, Ikpeazu said: “We are bringing Enyimba back home and my joy is that we have a competent contractor that is ready to deliver. We will provide the funds he needs to complete the job.”
Within the week, I spoke to an Enyimba fan that was at the stadium on Wednesday and he said he believes the Elephants will return before around February 2018. That is enough. The news about the completion of the stadium continues to drag. Will it drag to vision 2020? We will not start the new season on our beautiful pitch that was once rated the best in the country.
It is time to build a new stadium on my fantasy app. I would name it THE WHITE ELEPHANT STADIUM.
Chibuzor Amos is football lover, statistician and writer. The brains behind OptaNGR and owner of popular blog soccergunz. Follow him on Twitter @OptaNGR, @amoscp and @soccergunz