It has become pertinent to once again voice our concern about the state of the local football league, and charge all stakeholders to save it from further abyss.
It has only been few days since one of the darkest days in our football history - the attendant height of vandalism witnessed following Nigeria’s failure to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
While we try to recover from that, we cannot but decry how our football administrators are evidently not on top of issues regarding the conduct of our local football leagues, which should naturally form the bedrock of our national teams.
The issues are there to see, from bias officiating, hooliganism, bad pitches, etc. It is true that some of these vices are perpetrated by the clubs, but that is exactly the reason leaders are elected in the first place, to ensure there is a proper league framework that only those who abide by it will be found in our league. As the saying goes “where there is no order, there is disorder.”
The Nigerian league is supposed to be a respectable league among the comity of football loving nations, but sadly reverse is the case. The current ridicule ascribed to the Nigerian league, even within our own football family, is one of hopelessness that can never be redeemed. Some have described it as “dead and buried” or a “pig sty” "extremely dirty" and where “anything goes”.
A league where referees forget the ethics of their profession and favour the highest bidder. Some sympathizers would blame it on the failure to accord them their remunerations, and so in order to feed their families, they have resorted to taking bribes - an offence according to FIFA rules and the Nigerian criminal code. Others claim that the lives of referees are at the mercy of the home fans, and as such must do their bidding.
To those referees, we wonder if it will not be noble to reject these postings if they do not feel comfortable with the security, or if they have not been given what is due them. Would they not prefer to uphold the ethics of their profession and be respected the world over, rather than stain their badges, labeled criminals, injure their conscience and even sometimes put their lives at risk?
Also, why are clubs not made to face extreme measures like points deduction or demotion if people constantly and intentionally get hurt at their home ground? Why should away teams and general spectators keep fearing for their lives at match venues?
Why are bad pitches approved for matches when it is obvious they are detrimental to development of the game?
Many will be quick to blame it on the current economic state of the country. Nevertheless, we know that Nigeria will only work when leaders and individuals entrusted with tasks, give a good account of themselves. It’s about ‘playing your part’ ,which we are trying to do as a football club - encouraging FairPlay, investing massively in propagation of the league to the globe, bringing global standards in football development by adopting the famed EPPP, among others.
With other private investments queuing up to watch the success and longevity of Vandrezzer FC especially, it is unfortunate to know that these vices are far from abating.
On Sunday, April 3, 2022 spectators were shocked at the decision of Adeleye Odunayo, an official of the Ondo State referees council, which put a further hammer to the already tarnishing image of Nigerian arbiters. Odunayo manufactured a penalty for the home side Ekiti United against visiting VFC, in addition to officials coming out of the tunnel for the second half of the game about 20 minutes late. He threw caution to the wind with his careless calls all in a bid to frustrate our players and ensure the home side almost always had the advantage throughout the rest of the game.
While we anticipate a positive response by the NNL to this latest happening, we recall with sadness how our previous complaints have either been treated with levity or outrightly unattended to in the past. On the 7th March 2021 - Osun UTD FC - assaulted our crew and destroyed our broadcast equipment, sold tickets to fans at a supposed closed door match, broke COVID-19 prevention protocol, hobnobbed with the match officials, invaded the pitch, among others, only for them to get a three game stadium ban, after which they returned to status quo.
We continued to be victims of terrible officiating for most part of last season, and now, these vices are back rearing their ugly heads again. Every matchday it is also the tale of fans restiveness or bias officiating elsewhere, which makes it seem the league bodies are either encouraging them, or are helpless towards these evils.
If the latter is the case, then help must be sort from anywhere possible to SAVE OUR LEAGUE and ensure drastic decisions and penalties are taken. What happened to the role of secret assessors? Do they not report the truth even if match officials report contrary after taking bribe or fearing for their lives?
How seriously does the league management take video evidence for use in formulating sanctions?
At Vandrezzer FC, we have clamoured, protested, appealed, refrained from playing a game, and even once pulled out of the league. We will not refrain from further actions to show displeasure over the shoddy organisation and devisive happenings in a league where we are investing hard earned private monies.
To this end, we have communicated to the NNL that we will henceforth not honour any more away games this season, except there are assurances of free and fair officiating, proper remuneration of referees, proper security, and good playing pitch.
We believe that the Nigerian league can work, and we will continue to push for that, even as participants in the league. We use this medium to also call on fellow clubsides in all divisions, the media and all lovers of Nigerian football, to rise up and kick against these vices threatening the growth and existence of our football league.
Let us start doing now, what the coming generation will be proud of. Or are we going to say "it's not my business" , when indeed, it is our business!
Vandrezzer FC...Victorious Together!