At the moment, there is serious wailing and gnashing of teeth in the camp of Kwara United following the decision of the Organising and Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to upturn the earlier verdict given by the League Management Company (LMC) in the case between Rivers United and Jigawa Golden Stars.
Rivers United had written a petition to the LMC against Jigawa Stars whom it accused of fielding an ineligible player, Richard Christopher who had accumulated five yellow cards and was suspended for the week 34 fixture.
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However, on July 28, the LMC responded to Rivers United’s petition by saying Jigawa Stars didn’t intentionally field suspended Christopher in their match with Rivers United.
Consequently, LMC upheld the result of the week 34 match at the Ahmadu Bello stadium Kaduna which ended 2-1 in favour of Jigawa Golden Stars.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the LMC, Rivers United then wrote another petition to the Organising and Disciplinary Committee of the NFF who sat on the matter on Thursday, August 5 and overturned the earlier decision of the LMC as it awarded the match to Rivers United.
The O&D committee decided that whether intentionally or not, Jigawa Golden Stars had fielded an ineligible player in breach of C5 of the NPFL Rules and should be punished accordingly.
The committee also said Jigawa Golden Stars were very untidy and cluttered in the management of their official registered email address and their official letter headed paper as well the administrative management of their records.
However, the crux of the matter remains the fact that the decision by the O&D was taken and made public on Thursday, August 5, same day the last matches were in progress across match venues.
Although Akwa United had won the league with a match to spare, there was fierce competition for the remaining two continental tickets.
The quartet of Nasarawa United (65 points), Kano Pillars (64), Rivers United (63) and Enyimba (63) were in hot pursuit of the tickets to represent Nigeria in next year’s CAF Inter Clubs competitions.
In far away Uyo, Enyimba defeated Dakkada 3-0 in the final match to finish in second position on the table with 66 points but the trio of Nasarawa United, Kano Pillars and Rivers United suffered painful losses at Abia Warriors, Heartland and Sunshine Stars and were leapfrogged by sixth placed Kwara United who defeated Katsina United 3-0 in Ilorin to finish in third place with 65 points.
Based on the results of the final day matches, there was wide celebration in Ilorin as Kwara United automatically qualified to represent Nigeria in the CAF Confederation Cup.
However, before the celebrations in the camp of the ´Áfonja Warriors’ could reach the nooks and crannies of the state, it was cut short when they realized that while they were busy pummeling Katsina United, the NFF O&D had awarded Rivers United three boardroom points.
Following this decision, Rivers United who had lost 0-1 at Sunshine Stars leaped over Enyimba with 66 points to finish in second place on superior goal difference. While Enyimba on 66 points dropped to the third position to pick the Confederation Cup ticket, Kwara United with 65 points were effectively left in the cold in the fourth position on the table.
Already relegated, Jigawa Stars decided not to appeal the decision of the O&D, leaving Kwara United who are adversely affected by the award of three points, three goals to Rivers United to take up the matter with the Appeals Committee.
Kwara United then approached the Appeals Committee of the NFF for the O&D decision to be reversed but the committee quashed the appeal for what it called lack of merit.
Without doubt, the decision by the Appeals Committee has not gone down well with the ‘Afonja Warriors’ who have already expressed readiness to seek redress at the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).
Consequently, the Chairman of embattled Kwara United, Kumbi Titiloye, rejected the decision of the Appeals Committee and alleged that its chairman, Barrister Eddy Mark is an employee of Rivers State government, and wouldn’t do anything to hurt the interest of the state.
“Kwara United reject this decision in its entirety and will put NFF on notice immediately before proceeding to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS)”, he declared.
Other football stakeholders in Kwara State also condemned the O&D for making such a crucial decision on the final day of the NPFL season.
Many have wondered why the match in question was played on July 21, but it took the NFF committee two weeks to make such an important decision.
However, most of the stakeholders who spoke to Trust Sports unanimously said instead of wasting scare resources on pursuing the case at the court of Arbitration for Sports, Kwara United should concentrate on preparations for the coming season.
A former Super Eagles goalkeepers trainer, coach Amusa Adisa said the decision of NFF is ill-timed. He, however, advised Kwara United against wasting funds on any appeal.
“The decision should have come earlier. NFF shouldn’t have waited till almost the end of the league.
“Appealing the decision will cost Kwara United a lot of money and time and at the end of the day, it’s the same people who will decide their fate. They should forget about going to CAS and just focus on next season. Kwara United should start early preparation for better performance”, Adisa added.
On his part, a veteran sport journalist and popular sports personality in the state, Mr Bayo Isa, said the sports fraternity in Kwara should take the harsh decision as a learning curve.
He said “It’s no fault of ours but we have to take it like that and move on having learnt our lessons.
“The people’s expectation is that Kwara United should represent the country in the continent but here we are. In life, you win some and lose some.”
Also, the state Secretary of the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), Mr Ayinde Wahab described the development as unfortunate.
“The people of Kwara have worked really hard to get the continental ticket this season. But it is unfortunate the NFF took a decision that came too late to jeopardize all the efforts we’ve have made to be in the continent.
“We feel very bad and highly dissatisfied and disappointed. We hope to get a fair result at the appeal which is our right. But Kwara is a sport loving state and either in or out, we will continue to support our darling team and use this development to better our performance next session,” he said.
Aliu Salman Mohammed, the General Manager, Kwara United Ladies football club said “The club and management should put this behind and make more efforts to win the league next season.
“The fans are not happy but this development should not be allowed to affect the team next season.”
A former Technical Director of the Kwara State Football Academy now the Technical Director of Kwara Beach Soccer, Paul Odey also said the NFF should have suspended the league when complaints came up to allow for everyone to be heard and addressed.
He said it is rather unfortunate that an innocent club is now forced to swallow the bitter pill.
“Kwara United should take this in good faith and move on. They should be proud that they have won a continental ticket again after so many years.
“This should give them the belief that they can still do it next time. The only thing is that they should not change too much of what they did to get this far. And if I were them, I will not even go to any CAS”, he added.
It is now left to be seen, if the management of Kwara United will listen to the wise counsel from some of the football stakeholders in the state or go on another appeal as earlier threatened.