*Players Remember Orji Uzor Kalu
By Onochie Anibeze
Heartland were so ruthless that there were no Pillars to hold Kano at the end of the match. Heartland were 4-0 super courtesy of Emeka Nwana and Uchenna Agba who scored two each.
But the atmosphere was ironic. Pillars arrived Owerri a happy and united team, well piloted by Ibrahim Galadima. Their fans arrived in more than ten luxury buses. They were all in the traditional yellow Kano Pillars coulours. Interestingly, they took the side of the stadium with yellow seats. It made them unique.
Heartland went into the game sad over their poor welfare. But that did not quench the hunger in them. They were fired on by the carrot CAF is dangling before them. They will be $1.5m richer if they win the Champions League and will make another $3m from the World Club Championship. These targets have been the motivating factors, not their management or government of Imo State.
In the camp of the players, the feeling was that of disappointment. The players wishedÂ Imo Had a governor like the former Abia State governor Orji Uzor Kalu who inspired Nigeriaâ€™s first ever Champions League with Enyimba FC in 2003 and repeated the feat the following year.
â€œHow we wish we had a governor like Orji Uzor Kalu,â€ one player said.
They are being owed salaries for two months and bonuses for three Champions League matches are yet to be paid.
Champions League semifinal match normally attracts an electric atmosphere. It was lacking in Owerri last Sunday. Take this. Governor Ikddi Ohakin was said to be out of the country and his Chief Of Staff was also not in town. And they were the only two sources said could make things move for the club.
â€œThereâ€™s nobody to motivate the players but they know what is at stake and will play the match,â€ one official said bitterly before the match. It came to pass.
The indifference of management and government of Imo appeared to be robbing off on the fans who strolled into the stadium showing no signs of a city with football culture, a sharp contrast to the Iwuanyanwu Nationale days when Prince Lemmy Akakem management brought dynamism and colour to football management.
â€œI donâ€™t think the governor here appreciates the magnitude of the stage his club has attained,â€ a senior journalist said, adding â€œif Orji Uzor Kalu had this opportunity, he would inspire both players and the people and you will feel the Champions League everywhere.â€
A club source however informed that Ohakim distanced himself from the club following the mismanagement of the initial fund he allocated to the team.
â€œThe governor approved over N400m and they squandered it. So the man got annoyed and has refused to do a couple of the things for the club. After all, he was enthusiastic about winning Champions League and even set up a committee to that effect. But everybody is not disenchanted. It should not be so. Only Mitchel Obi is a committee member still strongly committed to the clubâ€™s campaign. It is bad because we may have difficulties in the final if we succeed in Kano,â€ one club official said.