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Ortom please save Lobi Stars from nomadism

High-flying Lobi Stars of Makurdi are among the five clubs that are playing their home matches away from home in the ongoing NPFL season because…

High-flying Lobi Stars of Makurdi are among the five clubs that are playing their home matches away from home in the ongoing NPFL season because their traditional home grounds have been rejected by the Interim Management Committee (IMC) for not measuring up to the required standard.

Therefore, apart from Lobi Stars, Niger Tornadoes, Kwara United, Nasarawa United and Enugu Rangers are the other clubs that have adopted alternative venues for their home matches. While Tornadoes who had the Bako Kotangora stadium Minna as their home ground have moved to Ahmadu Bello stadium Kaduna, Rangers are playing home matches at Awka City stadium in Anambra State, Nasarawa United started in Jos but have joined Tornadoes at Ahmadu Bello Stadium Kaduna while Lobi Stars are playing at the New Jos Township stadium after the Aper Aku stadium Makurdi was rejected by the league organisers.

Among these ‘nomadic clubs’ it is only Lobi Stars that are doing exceptionally well in the abridged season. While the rest are struggling to settle in their adopted home grounds, Lobi Stars are busy devouring visiting teams at the New Jos Township stadium. The ‘Pride of Benue’ are yet to drop a single point in their home matches. They first pipped Enugu Rangers 1-0, walloped Bayelsa United 3-0 before the midweek 1-0 humbling of hitherto undefeated Sunshine Stars for a perfect home run.

Meanwhile, Lobi Stars neighbours and regional rivals, Nasarawa United are already gasping for breath having emerged as one of the two clubs without a win. In fact, like their fellow strugglers Wikki Tourists, Nasarawa United have only one point in five matches. The ‘Solid Miners’ who are suddenly liquid in performance lost their opening match 1-2 to Enyimba, were beaten 2-1 at El-Kanemi Warriors and returned home to be thumped 3-0 by visiting Akwa United.

These repulsive results left the State Government with no option than to hand the management and technical crew a three-match ultimatum to get the desired results or be sacked. Despite the sack threat, Nasarawa United could only draw their next match 1-1 with Gombe United at the Pantami stadium. Things then moved from bad to worse for the coach Bala Nyiku tutored lads as they returned to their latest adopted home ground in Kaduna where they were beaten 2-1 by their former ‘landlords’ Plateau United. Nasarawa United’s next match comes up today in Ibadan against equally desperate 3SC. Even a win against the ‘Oluyode Warriors’ may not be enough to save the embattled management and technical crew from the wrath of the government and people of Nasarawa State.

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However, amidst these embarrassing results posted so far by the ‘Solid Miners’, something positive and significant happened last Friday in Lafia. The Governor of the State, Engineer Abdullahi Audu Sule, led a powerful government delegation to a tour of the Lafia City stadium to ascertain the progress of renovation work on the sports arena. This came as a surprise to many because a Governor whose club has brought him nothing but disappointment is willing to do much more for the same club. Going by the assurance given by the contractor, Mike Adamu, very soon Nasarawa United would be back home for their remaining matches.

In view of the above, it has become necessary to call on the Benue State Governor, His Excellency, Samuel Ortom, to as a matter of urgency, ensure that the Aper Aku stadium Makurdi is renovated as soon as possible for Lobi Stars to come back home. It is disturbing that out of the five stadia banned by the IMC, it is only Aper Aku stadium that is left unattended. The rest are being given the necessary attention to bring them up to the required standard. The case of Aper Aku stadium shouldn’t be different. As a matter of fact, the present management of Lobi Stars had renovated most parts of the edifice so the major problem now is the artificial playing surface which is completely worn out and unsuitable for professional football.

Without doubt, Governor Ortom has made Lobi Stars one of the best sponsored clubs in the NPFL. The club is not going about cap in hand. Interestingly, the present management of Lobi Stars led by the Deputy Governor, Engineer Benson Abounu as Chairman and former Nigerian international, Dominic Iorfa, as vice-chairman/CEO, has also exhibited commendable fiscal responsibility. Therefore, it won’t be wrong to say such prudent management of funds should attract more government support.

So, even as almost everyone is right now preoccupied with the 2023 elections, it will be gratifying, if Governor Ortom would listen to the passionate appeals by the sports loving people of Benue State for the bad playing pitch of the Aper Aku stadium to be replaced for use by Lobi Stars and other football clubs in the state. Apart from it being a parting gift to the sports loving youths of the state, the gesture would also boost Ortom’s chances of achieving his Senatorial ambition.

Lobi Stars are feeling at home in Jos but a responsible man does not live in his brother’s house forever. A time will come when the ‘Pride of Benue’ would need the backing of their teeming home supporters. Moreover, the Nigerian league is won or lost in the second stanza. Most of the good things we are seeing now may soon evaporate into thin air. It is at such critical moment that clubs usually need their vociferous fans to propel them to victories.

Therefore, as Lobi Stars are shining brightly, the Government of Benue State which has been so supportive must not wait till the club picks a continental ticket to begin to upgrade the Aper Aku stadium with fire brigade approach. What is worth doing is worth doing well and timely too.