BLAME OBI FOR PROBLEM OF ANAMBRA FOOTBALL -UMEH
• Peter Obi
The first Vice President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), who doubles as the Chairman of Anambra State Football Association (AFA), Chief Mike Umeh, has put the lack of healthy football activities in Anambra State on the door steps of the State Governor, Peter Obi.
In exclusive interview with Daily Sunsports recently, Chief Umeh explained that had the Anambra State governor shown any iota of interest in the beautiful game, the story would have been different. He also told Sunday Sunsports that over the years, he has been running the state football with his personal money.
When asked whether he has made any effort to draw the attention of Governor Obi on the challenges the State FA has been facing and the way forward, Chief Umeh said that he had done everything humanly possible to bring the poor state of Anambra Football to the state chief executive, but regretted Governor Obi has never shown any interest as it regards football in the state, as he has not done anything to show that he has any interest in the sport that most Anambrarians are passionate about.
Chief Umeh gave example of poor state of Anambra Football by declaring that there is no single standard football stadium in state, saying that even the one the Governor built in the commercial town of Onitsha, can't pass for a standard stadium. He revealed to Saturday Sunsports that the Onitsha stadium remains water logged most of the time, saying the problem came as a result of the fact that the state government did not seek expert advise when constructing sports ground.
Chief Umeh said over the years, all the clubs that came out of Anambra State were owned by private individuals. He gave the names of such clubs as Udorji United, Jasper United and Gabros United saying the state does not have a history of state owned clubs. He added that if Governor Obi had shown interest in football, the state would have been able to raise one or two teams that would have started from probably the National League and graduate to Premier League. The NFF vice President also lamented the fact that due to the lack of interest by Governor Obi, there are no football activities in the state regretting that as the first Vice President of the NFF, he has the capacity to attract international matches to Anambra, but can't do it as there are no facilities to prosecute such matches in the state due to the lack of interest by the state governor. He regretted that Anambrarians do not enjoy what Edo people are enjoying by hosting international matches in the state.
In his words: ' You know that our state Anambra is an exceptional case. We are handicapped. There is poverty all over the place; we are suffering in the mist of plenty.
'If you look at those clubs that have been in the first division, they are not own by the government. We have Jasper, we have Udorji and we also have Gabros. These are private owned clubs. Even the stadia in the state are also privately owned too. But when the state government is not looking in the direction of development of sports, what do you do? Umeh queries.
'We don't have sponsors because the government is not interested. The stadium they built in Onitsha, if you go there it is waterlogged, that stadium can't attract any international match. Because when they were building that it, the state FA was not taken into consideration, if they had taken us into consideration, we would have given them our technical input free of charge.
'The government over the years has not built any good stadium for the development of football in the state. All that we have been doing in Anambra State has been through individual efforts. I have been running football in Anambra State with my money and government has not given me a Kobo for that. This does not happen in other states, even the poorest states in the country have money to develop football. At least every weekend, people are busy but our dear governor is yet to understand the importance of football.
The government has to show an example; if the government shows example then individuals can now follow. The government has to say yes first, then we can start with the 2nd division or whatever division we can raise a team, at least to keep these boys busy.
'We can also raise standing teams from the local governments using the local government staff because we have coaches and scouts attached to the local governments, so we keep them busy. You can't do all these things without the supports of the government no matter how little. So, when the government supports then individuals can cue up.
Speaking further, Chief Umeh said: 'It is really tough to talk of sports in Anambra State. To start with, we don't have any good stadium in Anambra State. So, when you do not have good stadium, where do you train? Is Owerri not having a stadium? Is Enyimba not having a Stadium? Is Gombe not having a stadium? Is Sokoto not having a stadium, so where is Anambra Stadium? We don't have, Umeh fumed.