By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
Two years after its founding, the Anambra Independent Football League (AIFL), in a well-attended ceremony, on October 18, 2019 flagged off her Season 4 football league, spanning October 2019 to July 2020. Chief football scouting programme sponsor for AIFL through DOSAD Sports, Engr Dr Vincent Okeke, took the ceremonial kick off to declare the season 4 open.
Engr Vincent was accompanied to the official flag off by the AIFL Council representatives, as well as DOSAD Sports partners/Football scouts from Europe who just ended a –one-week scouting programme at Neros Stadium, Nanka same October 18.
The scouts included Bulgaria based Bang Sengue, Polish based Maciej Giwer and Russia based Maxim Chernov. The flag off received the blessing of AIFL silent supporter, sponsor and facilitator, Most Rev Dr Paulinus Ezeokafor, the bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese. Barr Valentine Obienyem, another DOSAD partner and AIFL supporter was on hand for the event.
The AIFL Council at the event, appreciated all who it said had been her helpmate since inception without charging any fee, and honoured them with what the Council described as AIFL DEVELPOMENT AWARD, in recognition of their selfless service to the youths through grassroots football development.
Speaking at the event which was held at Archbishop A.K. Obiefuna Retreat, Pastoral and Conference Centre, Okpuno, Awka South LGA, Anambra State, the AIFL Chairman, Rev Fr Coach Obinna Dike, thanked God for the growth of the league, which took its root from the flag off/launch of Directorate of Sports, Awka Diocese (DOSAD) Sports Initiatives (DSI), Volume 1, by DOSAD Director, Rev Fr Coach Obinna Dike, on November 25, 2016, at the then Retreat and Pastoral Centre Okpuno (REPACCO).
Rev Fr Coach Dike, who doubled as the DOSAD Director, traced the history of the AIFL, through the time the officials had an inaugural meeting at the Fides Media Complex on January, 2017. He commended the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese for his many supports to both DOSAD and AIFL.
The DOSAD director equally commended the Fides Director, Rev Fr Martin Anusi for what he described as the various friendly platforms which the director gave to DOSAD and AIFL to grow.
According to Fr Dike, the growth of AIFL from its launch in 2016 to February 22, 2017 when the League Council unanimously changed the name from Anambra Super Football League (ASFL), to AIFL, to March 17, 2017 the AIFL played an inaugural league at FC IfeanyiUbah Stadium Ozubulu-Nnewi, Anambra State, was made possible by the supports and commitment of its many supporters and partners.
The chairman announced that the season 4 of the AIFL would kick off on Friday October 25, 2019, at the Orumba South Local Government Sports Stadium, Umunze, the new home of Mekon United Football Club. (Season 4 Inaugural Match is now to hold Friday November 1, 2019 at Umunze).
According to Fr Coach Dike, who is also a sports psychologist, Mekon will at the match, trade tackles with Udala FC of Uke, which was the AIFL season 3 champions. The game will kick off at 3pm dot, which had been the official AIFL kick off match time.
Among the awardees honoured with the AIL Development Award were the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese and proprietor of DOSAD, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, who according to the Council, had been the silent bloodline of AIFL through DOSAD and the DOSAD management team of Rev Fr Coach Obinna Dike, Rev Fr Damian Ogwatta, Rev Fr Christian Umeojilinnaka and Rev Fr Evaristus Ezekwonna, who had contributed and approved fund to run the AIFL, outside the league regular levy.
Other awardees included Fides Media Ltd and the Fides Director, Rev Fr Martin Anusi, for free platforms such newspaper publications, meeting venues and digital platforms; the Chairman, Anambra State Football Association (ASFA), Senator Dr Ifeanyi Ubah, for free use of his FC Ifeanyi Ubah Sports Stadium, Nnewi; the Vice Chairman of ASFA, Barr Sir JBC Obikwelu; the former Anambra State Commissioner for Sports, and now, Attorney General of the State, Barr UjuNworgu; the Chairman, Anambra State Sports Development Commission Chairman, Chief Tony Oli; Barr Val Obienyem and Engr Dr Vincent Okeke, among others for their sponsorships and continued supports to AIFL.
(Below is an excerpt of the address of AIFL Chairman on those conferred with AIFL Development Award for their services to the AIFL free of any charge).
APPRECIATION/AIFL DEVELOPMENT AWARD
AIFL Council appreciates all those who have been part of her success story since inception. In particular, AIFL honours in a special way this evening, all those who had been her helpmate since inception without charging any fee. The AIFL Council therefore decided to appreciate them today with AIFL DEVELPOMENT AWARD, as testimony to their selfless service to the youths through grassroots football development. The brief mention of the awardees and presentation of award plaques hold this evening, while the full swing award ceremony holds at the end of season 4. Then, we shall have the full curriculum vitae of our awardees in book form.
From Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, the silent bloodline of AIFL through DOSAD, to the DOSAD management trio of Frs Obinna Dike, Damian Ogwatta, Christian Umeojilinnaka and Evaristus Ezekwonna, who all contributed and approved fund to run the AIFL, outside the league regular levy.
AIFL appreciates the various AIFL team sponsors, owners, coaches, trainers, managers, staff and players. They all put in their blood to get this still at its pride level today. We must not forget their families too, who indirectly are heroes of the AIFL.
To all those who selflessly sponsored football scouting programmes that offered career opportunities to AIFL, the council remains grateful. In this category are Engr Dr Vincent Okeke and Barr Valentine Obienyem.
FIDES Media and her Director, Fr Martin Anusi, had offered AIFL her office and use of both physical and digital platforms. Her FIDES weekly newspaper has been the official and regular print medium of the AIFL. Her versatile staff Uchechukwu Mercy Enem, has since inception devoted herself to AIFL as foundation media officer. She has collected no dime as salary or token till date.
AIFL news and updates ring through Anambra Broadcasting Service media, as well as Ogene FM, UNIZIK FM, Lumen Radio, Authority FM, and Blaze FM prominently. These have been anchored significantly by Engr Dr Iyke Nwokedi, Eze Onwuji, Ikem Asika, Frs Damian Ogwatta and Christian Umeojilinnaka, Mechizedek Ezenwekwe, Chijindu Itoroh and Michael Onwuzulike. Mr Chimezie Anaso and News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) have been good allies of the AIFL. Other media outfits that assisted AIFL in one other capacity or the other will be appreciated at our end of season 4 gala night. AIFL appreciates.
AIFL would not have kicked a ball without the permission of the Anambra State Football Association (ASFA). The Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Board members, and Local Football Council personnel all approved the AIFL without paying a dime. AIFL is grateful.
On a personal level, the ASFA Chairman, Senator Dr Ifeanyi Ubah, gave the AIFL free use of his sports facilities at FCIU Stadium Nnewi. Prominent opening and closing matches of the AIFL were played there. The ASFA Vice Chairman, Sir JBC Obikwelu has been the personal mentor of the AIFL. His advice, directions, presence and monetary donations to the AIFL has made us have wonderful relationship with both ASFA and Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). AIFL is really thankful.
Dr Poly Emenike (MON) and Chief Romy Ezeonwuka , equally availed the AIFL the use of their sports facilities, Neros Stadium Nanka and Rojenny Stadioum Oba, respectively, for her AIFL matches and programmes free of any payment. Others in this category include; St Anthony’s Catholic Church Enugwu Ukwu, St Patrick’s Catholic Church Awgbu, St Anthony’s Catholic Church Amansea, St Charles College Onitsha, St John’s Anglican Church Okpuno, St John The Cross Catholic Church Egbo Nnewi, Eziowelle Community and Anambra State Polytechnic Mgbakwu. The parish priest of St John The Cross Egbo Nnewi, Rev Fr Patrick Uche Unaegbu has been outstanding too. AIFL thanks you all.
Dr Barr Uju Nworgu was a real asset to the AIFL as the then Commissioner for Sports Development and Youth Entrepreneurship Anambra state. She directed all state stadia open and free to AIFL matches. We really appreciate her alongside her numerous personal support to both AIFL and her personnel. Thank you our dear gem.
The Anambra State Sports Development Commission Chairman, Chief Tony Oli has happily continued the patronage. His first contact with AIFL at the season 3 final at Adazi on August 2, 2019, set an AIFL record. He became the first person in AIFL history to pledge prize money. Not only that, he promised to draw more government support and goodwill to the AIFL. Thanks Chief Tony.
LIST OF AIFL DEVELOPMENT AWARDEES
1. DR ENGR VINCENT OKEKE
2. MOST REV DR PAULINUS EZEOKAFOR
3. DR BARR UJU NWORGU
4. SEN DR IFEANYI UBAH
5. REV FR DR MARTIN ANUSI
6. DR POLY EMENIKE (MON)
7. CHIEF TONY OLI
8. CHIEF ROMY EZEONWUKA
9. BARR VALENTINE OBIENYEM
10. REV FR DAMIAN OGWATTA
11. REV FR CHRISTIAN UMEOJILINNAKA
12. MR IKEM ASIKA
13. DR ENGR IYKE NWOKEDI
14. UCHECHUKWU ENEM
15. MICHAEL ONWUZULIKE
16. CHIMEZIE ANASO
17. CHIJINDU ITOROH
18. MR MELCHIZEDEK EZENWEKWE
19. EZE ONWUJI
20. ST ANTHONY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH ENUGWU UKWU
21. ST PATRICK’S CATHOLIC CHURCH AWGBU
22. ST JOHN’S ANGLICAN CHURCH OKPUNO
23. ST ANTHONY’S CATHOLIC CHURCH AMANSEA
24. ST CHARLES COLLEGE ONITSHA
25. ST JOHN THE CROSS CATHOLIC CHURCH EGBO NNEWI
26. REV FR PATRICK UCHE UNAEGBU
27. SIR BARR JBC OBIKWELU
28. EZIOWELLE COMMUNITY
29. ANAMBRA STATE POLYTECHNIC MGBAKWU
30. ANAMBRA STATE SPORTS DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION
31. FIDES MEDIA LTD
32. UNIZIK FM
33. ANAMBRA BROADCASTING SERVICE
34. OGENE FM
35. AUTHORITY FM
36. LUMEN RADIO
37. BLAZE FM
38. NEWS AGENCY OF NIGERIA)