By Abiodun Adewale.
The allegations and counter-accusations between Nigeria’s representative on the continent this season, Rivers United, and the Nigeria Football Federation might not be over soon with the latest knock on the glass house by the club over comments made by the NFF President about its stadium, The PUNCH reports.
In a statement released by the club on Sunday, Rivers United slammed NFF President Ibrahim Gusau and other individuals for sabotaging its effort in playing their CAF Confederations Cup home games at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt, forcing it to adopt the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo.
CAF had announced in January that the Nigerian representative will play in Uyo, raising concerns about why their home ground fell short of CAF requirements despite hosting their preliminary games.
Rivers State commissioner for Sports, Chris Green, had earlier told The PUNCH that the NFF failed to inspect the facility, while the NFF President as quoted by PFAN Taskforce Chairman, Harrison Jalla, explained that Rivers United on their own volition picked Godswill Akpabio Stadium as Alternate venue, while he also noted the Adokie Amiesimaka Stadium is a standard stadium but the playing pitch has to be upgraded for international matches.
The club have however further cleared the air on the circumstances that led to CAF rejection of their home ground.
“The Confederation of African Football (CAF) wrote to the NFF via an email dated December 15, 2022 to, between the 23rd and 27th of December 2022, carry out a routine inspection of the football pitch of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt (home ground of Rivers United FC) ahead of the group stages of the CAF Confederation Cup.
“The correspondence from CAF also requested for an alternate venue to be named by Rivers United FC. This is standard procedure for clubs participating in Inter CAF club competition. Accordingly, the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo was named by Rivers United FC as an alternate venue.
“On January 5, 2023, CAF, as a result of the failure of the NFF to provide any kind of response to its earlier correspondence, wrote again to the NFF stating that Rivers United FC had no venue to play its group stage matches,” the club statement explained.
The club further stated that CAF ordered them to play at the Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abuja which then prompted the NFF to respond.
“It was at this point that Nasiru Jibrin the facility officer of the NFF now contacted Rivers United giving the excuse that he too was not informed of the letter even when he was copied by CAF in the original email,” the club went further.
“Jubrin then informed Rivers United FC that he would contact CAF, putting forward excuses which he claimed would allow the African Football Confederation to give a waiver as to gain time to enable him carry out a supplementary inspection of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium thus raising suspicion to CAF on Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium as expressed by CAF earlier that Rivers United FC has no Stadium ready to play CAF matches.
“He then asked Rivers United to take photos of the Stadium and pitch and forward to him as he was, at the time, in Algeria for duties related to the African Football Championships (CHAN).
“A few days later, the NFF sent Aliyu Ibrahim (Ali Cairo) to Port Harcourt and conducted another inspection of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, and, subsequently, the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo. On further enquiry, we were very reliably informed that Ali sent the photos he took at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt to Jibrin who wrote a damning report of the facility in Port Harcourt.
“CAF based on the delay, suspiciously and duly acted on Jubrin’s report and Rivers United was then ordered to play its group stage games of the 2022-23 CAF Confederation Cup at the alternate venue earlier picked – the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, the club stated.
According to the fixtures released by CAF, Rivers United will begin their campaign February 12 against ASEC Mimosas away from home, before playing their first home game against the same opponents February 19.