16th May, 2016
A cross-section of football fans in Umuahia, the Abia state capital, have expressed concern about the deplorable condition of the football pitch at the Umuahia Township Stadium.
The fans called for immediate steps to be taken to upgrade the facility.
The fans spoke following Sunday’s match between hosts Abia Warriors Football Club and Rivers United FC, which ended 1-0 at the waterlogged pitch in favour of Abia Warriors.
The match was a week 17 match in the 2015/2016 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), with the lone goal coming through Michael Olahan in the 20th minute.
The poor state of the pitch inhibited a free-flow of the game between both teams.
The ball was most times trapped and could not bounce on wet portions of the turf.
Frank Amadi, one of the fans, said that the pitch’s poor condition was a problem for both teams and hindered the players from performing well and displaying their skills.
“Fans are not happy because we cannot enjoy good football here and no scout can easily identify a good player in this kind of pitch,” Amadi, a London-based businessman, said.
He wondered why the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and the NPFL approved the stadium for matches, describing the turf as sub-standard.
Amadi said the Confederation of African Football (CAF) did not approve the pitch for the Champions League because of its situation.
He said that was why Enyimba International FC of Aba were made to play their home matches in the continental competition in Port Harcourt.
The football fan argued that, with the state of the turf, all the players were uncomfortable and were exposed to sustaining injuries during the game.
“Even though Abia Warriors have been winning their home matches under the present condition of the turf, but the fact is that the pitch is deplorable,’’ Amadi said.
Another football enthusiast, Kennedy Akor, emphasised the need for the Abia state government to upgrade the pitch in order to ensure that both players and fans enjoyed good football.
Akor, who described football as “a viable business’’, urged the government to provide an enabling environment which would encourage the state’s teams to showcase their talents and win laurels.
He expressed worry that the pitch was still waterlogged two hours after the rain, and urged the state government to replace its natural grass with a synthetic type.
Akor said the synthetic grass would enable the rain water to drain as soon as the rain was over.
Both coach Stanley Eguma of Rivers United and coach Kennedy Boboye of Abia Warriors FC also admitted at a post-match briefing that the pitch’s poor condition affected the players’ performance.
Boboye, who sounded helpless, said the situation distorted his game plan for the match.
“There is nothing we can do. This is our own pitch, but I advised my players to continue to throw the ball to the opponents’ half so that we can play the game in their own half,” he said.
During the match Abia Warriors’ Chisom Chikatara lost a penalty kick in the third minute of three minutes added time.