It was a dawn of a new Nigeria Professional Football League [NPFL] season on Sunday but one of the long standing problems is still quite evident. On a day that every league follower was quite excited to see the league return after about seven months of melodrama, a well-organized brutal act has added some bitterness to that joyous mood of many.
ICYMI – Plateau United and FC Ifeanyi Ubah played out a goalless draw in Jos and shortly after the game ended the centre referee Sam Agba and his assistants were descended upon by some suspected supporters of Plateau United.
This is a sad representation of how some see football over here. It is a game that a win is not constant; it is either one of the three [lose, win or draw] that can happen at the end of any game. Despite serious calls across several quarters to put an end to this incessant menace of crowd trouble and hooliganism, the last has not being heard or seen of it in Nigeria’s topflight football.
Truth is, most of the clubs have their thugs who represent them at these games for a fee. They threaten match officials before, during and after the game most times to ensure their side is victorious at the end of proceedings. I also find it startling that these hoodlums would walk majestically into the dressing rooms of match officials and that of visiting teams sometimes unchallenged off to do their master’s work – because they were certainly sent by an “Oga” at the top.
I was at a match venue in 2017 where some hefty looking hoodlums were threatening and intimidating the match officials even at the presence of security operatives. One said “if them born you well, make we no win this game”. Lo and behold, as the game was reaching its climax the referee had to award a miraculous penalty to the home side just to serve as his passport to leaving that stadium in one good piece.
The 2016 season has to be the best organized by the LMC. We had little or no crowd violence, good football followership and the league also witnessed massive social media hype – many of these were achievable because more games were on TV, meaning there was no hiding place for poor match officials and those who were fond of attacking match officials or the visiting teams were incapacitated. We will keep hammering on the fact that having games on TV highly reduces the chances of poor officiating, crowd violence and gives the league a presence amongst those who can’t visit a stadium around them too.
On their part, the LMC has to wake up to this challenging issue and make the security of match officials and away sides very important. State FAs should also be held responsible and not just the defaulting clubs alone. It is high time we had a more efficient way of dealing with these erring clubs.
With an abridged format being employed this season, fines and home stadia being closed for a game or two may not be quite damning enough but point deduction and/or total banishment from their home stadium will serve as a good lesson to teams that have delight in beating up match officials. The LMC must be a dog that bites not bark alone when any of the club sides decide to show their ugly self.
– Samuel Areo
Enyimba will sit out this midweek fixtures. We return to action on Sunday.