By Mmaduabuchi Onwumelu
The Chairman of Anambra State Football Association (ANSFA), Mr Chikelue Iloenyosi, a.k.a. General, says that approval for Anambra State to own a football team just like other satates in the country has been granted.
Iloenyosi made the announcement at Awka City Stadium during a press conference which preceded the Round of 16 Match between Awka Capital Elite Football Club (ACE FC) and Nkpor Veterans Recreation Club.
‘We’re here to support the Government of Gov Prof Chukwuma Soludo on whatever he’s doing to make sure that we have an enabling environment here in Anambra State. We thank him so immensely for the approval, as well as for granting us access to use the Government’s facilities for the ongoing All-Stars Football Competition.
When quizzed on the disqualification of Ekwulobia Team for having a referee currently officiating in the tournament in their line-up, the FA boss said the decision taken in the match between Ekwulobia All Stars and Omagba All Stars was very clear.
‘Ekwulobia All Stars were alleged to have a referee currently officiating in the tournament in their match day squad list. This didn’t sit appropriately well with the rules as it affects justice and fairness.
‘We went through the Match Commissioner’s report and the referee’s report and even saw in the video footage that, indeed, he was listed for the match. So on the strength of the convincing and overwhelming evidence, we took the right decision which was to disqualify Ekwulobia All Stars Team.
‘Yes, we didn’t invite both teams to the FA Secretariat for hearing in the matter. Some people may feel it was appropriate to have both parties argue their case in the presence of the FA. But when we were convinced and there was clear evidence to prove the referee’s inclusion in the match day team sheet, as well as the video clips where he was seen shouting to his team, we needed no further argument or evidence on the matter before taking decision,’Iloenyosi said.
On the issue of some other referees taking part in the tournament, Iloenyosi drew a line between the two issues.
‘A referee is allowed to play in the tournament for as long as he’s not part of the officiating referees in the tournament. If you want to play, you don’t officiate. And if you want to officiate, you don’t play,’ the FA boss emphasized, citing some clear instances.
‘For instance, the Chairman of Awka South Referees Council is playing for Peace FC All Stars. He’s allowed to play because he’s not officiating any match in the tournament as a referee.
‘You cannot officiate in a tournament as a referee and at the same time play in the same competition as an active player. So that’s why we took the decision and also the reason why we didn’t invite both teams.
‘Of course, before then, the petition was already out and everybody had seen the handwriting clearly on the wall. We sighted the referee with his jersey, we sighted him when he was aggressively talking to his team and all that.
‘So it’s very, very simple. That’s why we did not invite anybody like we did in previous cases.Now, we’re going to take another decision on whatever they are writing to make sure that sanity prevails. There has to be a ban in this thing because we must make sure that Anambra State Football Association is not made up of moi-moi people.
‘We do everything on the basic principle of justice and fair play and we must ensure that justice prevails at the end of the day.This is the first of such tournament in the state and as such, there are bound to be issues.
‘And we’ve had to deal with such issues promptly as they arise without bias so as to maintain the integrity of the competition,’ the FA boss stated.
He disclosed that players were being penciled down in the course of the games and added that the selected players would play his team in a novelty match, adding that from the selected players, the team that would represent the state at the National All Stars Championship would emerge.
He said the challenges being encountered at the competition had to do with funds but quickly hinted that some public spirited individuals had extended some measure of assistance to the project.
He praised the state government for erecting the Awka Stadium, saying it had provided the hub for what he described as the current fast tempo of football and sports revolution currently sweeping through the state.
‘I’ve to thank the state government for this wonderful pitch. If the state government had not given us this infrastructure, we would not have been playing this tournament.
‘So, all the glory goes to the state government. And I want to thank the Sports Commission Chairman (Patrick Estate Onyedum) for standing behind me. He’s been in support of everything I do.
‘And I want to give a special thanks to the Governor of Anambra State for all the support they are giving to us.I want to thank the Deputy Governor who, despite his crowded schedule, still found time to grace the opening ceremony of this tournament. I will also extend my thanks to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon SomtoUdeze, and the Majority Leader,’ Iloenyosi said.