January 12, 2023
Elder Paul Bassey, experienced journalist cum sports administrator who is Vice Chairman of the Interim Management Committee of the Nigerian Professional Football League has revealed to Journalists in Uyo that, when it comes to football, people lay down their arms to watch matches plus other modalities for a successful 2022/2023 NPFL season.
DO YOU THINK SECURITY WILL BE A CHALLENGE TO THE SUCCESS OF THE LEAGUE?
I think we are moving forward, and it looks bright, the problem is systemic. We are operating in a country where security has been very, very difficult. I wouldn’t have blamed anybody two, or three seasons ago for refusing to go to Maiduguri or Kano.
WHAT ABOUT SUB STANDARD STADIUM?
On the issue of good pitches, five clubs this season have to relocate. Nasarawa will be playing in Jos, Loby will be playing in Kaduna, Abia warriors are struggling to get their stadium approved, so we have put our feet down. Kwara will be playing in Ibadan.
Those pitches have to be brought up to standard, if not we cannot cover matches there. It won’t be a good reflection of our league.
TALK ABOUT THE PREVALENT SECURITY SITUATIONS?
And one thing I have noticed, which I hope it stays, is that when it comes to football or sports, people lay down their arms. There was a day they told me in Maiduguri three years ago that in this crowd, there are terrorists.
They have only come to watch the matches, but when they go back, they resume their work. So far, these people respect sports, and they lay down their arms. It’s definitely getting better by the day, and that is the only thing that hampers people from taking their multi-million-naira equipment to go to areas that will expose them to either be destroyed or kidnapped.
WHY ARE WE PLAYING ONLY ONE MATCH TODAY?
Well, it was a drama, don’t forget that all this while the club owners were making a case for a full league. Some of us did not really understand where they were coming from. They talked about preparation, an abridged league being a dangerous league, the Elkanemi factor, Elkanemi was on top of their league, two matches to go, they lost those two matches, and went to relegation.
When we finally decided to go ahead, because we got the mandate of the Nigerian Football Federation that there must be an abridged league, it must end in May, and the next league must start in August. So we had no option, but to go ahead, and we said to ourselves even if is five, to six clubs that honour this engagement, we will go ahead. So they came, the NFF president came, and told them why there is no going back.
The argument which I have heard, and can only take is that they were not ready for this week’s league because they had insisted not to play, but since the NFF president has intervened, they want to honour him, so they want a week to apply for funds from their state government, a week to get their players psychologically tuned, get their travel logistics right, so we obliged but one thing we insisted was that we had gone to the world media, and the press, saying that the league on January 8 will start.
With that, the star match cannot be shifted. It behoves the IMC appealing to Akwa United and Insurance to see whether they can play that match, so why not, because right from the day of the draw the Insurance representative was there, we knew this match could hold.Of all the matches, we were sure this one was going to hold.
So Akwa United accepted, and insurance accepted, that is why this match is holding. As I’m talking to you, they are getting their logistics right, they are applying for funds from their governments, and their owners, especially for those that will be travelling, so that is why the matches have to be moved by one week, to allow them come in and participate.
CONFIRM, PLATEAU HAS WITHDRAWN FROM THE LEAGUE?
There was nothing like that, Plateau already denied saying anything like that. Even before that meeting, we had asked for the account numbers of the 20 clubs, fifteen clubs submitted their account numbers, so we knew we were going to go ahead. I’m happy that everything has been resolved, and football has become the winner.
They were so many intrigues, social media war all over the place, people were being quoted wrong, and it was not good enough. But at the end of the day, we have resolved it, the matches will start, and everybody will be involved by next weekend.
IS THE MINISTER COMING TO UYO?
About the minister, we are still trying to confirm because he is a very busy person, but the NFF president has arrived with Ibom air, from Lagos, the IMC chairman and my other colleagues have also arrived, so we have confirmed that 12 members of the IMC are here, the IMC staff too will be here because they are supposed to be here before everybody.
So, that is what is it, my colleagues, and club owners from the neighboring states have indicated interest to come. They have asked me to reserve tickets for them, though there won’t be problems getting ticket at the gate.One of them has even wired some money to me, and said he is coming with fifteen of his colleagues.
So there is a great demand, being that we have been starved of football for a very long time. I expect that will also play out for people in Akwa Ibom, as they will want to come and watch the league.