Chike Oti Arisah, a former Iwuanyanwu Nationale and Super Eagles forward has taken a swipe at the various Nigerian State governors and club managers for the mounting ills of the domestic game, submitting that they are indeed the reason Nigerian football has not leapt beyond mediocrity even as the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) kicks off today across the country.
Arisa, who is now a Sports Marketer based in Holland after obtaining a degree in Sports Marketing after an illustrious career, tells Completesports.com from his base ahead the kick off of the domestic top flight that it is indeed a shame that clubs in the country still depend on peanuts from State Governments instead of tapping the full potentials and values of their clubs in sponsorship and marketing.
“It is a pitty that our premier league clubs still always go cap in hand to governors for mere peanuts”, Arisah laments.
“These are clubs that have market values in millions of naira in the corporate sponsorship and marketing. But the officials would prefer being lazy and waiting on governors for mere pittance.
“Of course, the governors on assumption of office, would prefer non professionals for appointment into the management cadre of the clubs, preferring instead, to use such clubs as mere politically motivated public relation purposes.
“And you ask yourself, what will happen if a club chairman walks up to the state governor at the close of a season and hands over four or five million naira as revenue generated by the club?
“Or do you think it is impossible to achieve this? No, it isn’t. It’s a straight jacket possibility. Simple packaging, getting a good marketing department with the right personal and the club sails financially afloat. Just go out there, local and European bodies are ready to invest, it’s just about getting the right professional marketers, packaging the club well and it’s done”.
Arisah (Right) with ex-Super Eagles teammate, Charles Okonkwo
Arisah claimes that in the last 20 years, his outfit has been brokering Enyimba’s kit sponsorship deals. But he would not be drawn into the comparison of the Nigerian football league of his time and the present.
“No, it is not a matter of comparing those days and now. Each time belongs to its own setting and circumstances. The players of today are talented and are more driven by the big money reward in the game,” he says.
“But our time was dominated by passion of it and satisfaction you derive playing. So there should not be any thing like comparing both periods. Times change, so also everything in life.”
Arisah would recall his days at Iwuanyanwu Nationale, particularly the 1986 season when the ‘Scientific Soccer’ side pulled one of the famous comeback draws in the league, holding Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan to a 3-3 draw at the Adamasingba Stadium, Ibadan.
The Naze Millionaires had scaled the stadium fence to gain access to the stadium after the supporters of the home side were alleged to have placed fetish objects at the entrance gate.
“You see, I don’t believe in all those stuff, but you also know that the supporters are the ones you are playing for. They arrive the stadium in truck loads, all on their own just to cheer you.
“They pay from their pockets so their voices are bound to be heard. So when they warned us, we had to obey. That was it”.
Arisah now reveals the electrifying atmosphere at the Adamasingba Stadium on that occasion. He equally reveals that he would have missed the game if coach Willy Bazuaye (now late) had listened to him.
“Two days before that game, I fell sick and told coach I won’t be able to make the match day traveling contingent,” recalls Arisah in a most fascinating nostalgia.
“Coach (Bazuaye) said no, that instead I should start from the bench. The next day, my name appeared on the list of players for the trip and you know that time, Shooting Stars were in great form.
“We fell two goals down going into the break. After the restart, it was 3-0 and Bazuaye called me up. He spoke to me on the areas of weakness in our team and I said coach, I already know.
“And what was our weakness? We were playing with two strikers, meaning that one has to drop behind but the two were all on same front parallel line, thus, always freeing Wakilu Oyenuga in the middle and Odegbami from the right.
“So, when I went in, I plugged that hole and we accelerated our game. I scored the third goal that tied the game at 3-3. You asked about the atmosphere in our camp after the game.
“Of course, coach Bazuaye was very bitter. He never spoke but barked at us – that it was an easy game we should have won convincingly and easily too. It was fantastic. And I don’t know if you still have that kind of scenario in the league any more.”
Arisah would also speak on the rivalry between Iwuanyanwu Nationale and Leventis United, Abiola Babes, Rangers at that time. He also admits that the Naze Millionaires truly won the 1987 league following the disbandment of Leventis United and Abiola Babes.
However, Arisah points out the major drawback of the all conquering Iwuanyanwu Nationale team of the time.
“Our major shortfall at that time, I mean, 1986-1987 was goalkeeping. We didn’t have a quality goalkeeper. Our goalkeeper at that time was Angus Ikeji, a young goalkeeper who just came through the U-17 Golden Eaglets.
“I’m not saying he was not good but considering the intensity of the league then and having such a young keeper in goal, I think was one of our undoings.”
It would be recalled that Edward Ansah, a Ghanaian who was standing in between the sticks for Leventis United later joined Iwuanyanwu Nationale ahead the 1988 season following the disbandment of Leventis United.
Defenders Andrew Uwe, John Benson and striker Samson ‘Zion Train’ Ozogula also made the switch to the Naze Millionaires.
By Sab Osuji
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