By Femi Adefioye, Lagos
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has warned that unless the Enugu State Government urgently upgrades obsolete and dilapidated facilities at the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium, Nigeria’s representative in the 2016/2017 Confederation Cup, Rangers International FC of Enugu, may end up playing its home matches outside its base.
The Enugu club side will be representing the nation in the forthcoming CAF soccer tournament expected to commence in the 2nd week of February 2017, immediately after the end of the ongoing African Nation’s cup taking place in Gabon.
The Flying Antelopes, tutored by Coach Imama Amapakabo broke the club’s 32 years trophy drought jinx in 2016. Before last year’s victory, Rangers, had won its last trophy in 1984.
Speaking with Sports writers Wednesday shortly after inspecting various facilities at the Stadium which had over years hosted all Rangers national and international home matches,the NFF delegation expressed disappointment with the poor state of facilities at the 25,000 capacity stadium owned by the state government.
Director of competitions in the NFF,Mr. Bola Oyeyode, who was accompanied by Dr. Christian Emeruwa, the federation’s national security and integrity officer, and an Assistant Director, Technical, Mr. Rafiu Yusuf, insisted that unless the facilities are urgently upgraded to international and FIFA standards, Rangers, will have no option than play its home matches elsewhere.
The visibly angry NFF officials, who were conducted round the stadium by the chairman of the state football Association (FA) Hon. Chidi Offo Okenwa, also made it clear that FIFA and CAF do not compromise standard hence, things must be put in proper shapes.
Oyeyode, said they were in Enugu for the facility tour with a view to ascertaining the true state of the Rangers stadium, so as to enable the NFF prepare and forward a comprehensive report on the facility to CAF ahead of its inspection visit to the stadium.
He however, regretted that the stadium management lacks maintenance culture which resulted to the terrible condition of the sporting edifice, adding that almost all the facilities are dilapidated and are in bad condition.
According to him, “when you look at the general environment at the stadium, it is nothing to write home about, even the lightening, plumbing, pubic address system, dressing room, among others, are not in good shape, there are illegal structures everywhere, including beer parlour and eating joints inside the stadium premises, this is highly unacceptable in modern day football administration”
“Although the Astro – turf pitch is okay, but there is still need to upgrade it to meet international standard, because we know that the last time the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium hosted an international soccer competition was in 2009, during the FIFA U- 17 junior world cup.
“I must say that we are not impressed with what we saw on ground, and I want to make it categorically clear that the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium is only 35 to 40 percent ready for the CAF championship, and that is the reason why something urgent must be done about it”.
“When we go back to Abuja we are going to forward our report to the state FA office, in which we will point out all the areas that needed urgent attention, but if they fail to do the needfull, it will them mean that Rangers will play their matches in alternative venues outside Enugu.
The NFF officials, had during the inspection tour, handed down the stadium management a five- day ultimatum to clear the entire premises of every manner of unwanted item,as well as take care of all the drainages and water channels within the main bowl and environ.