Two attackers were fielded in defensive positions when Heartland played Bayelsa United in Owerri on Sunday.Â It was not planned to be so for Heartland.Â Coach Kelechi Emeteole had no option but to do so since many of his players were reluctant to play.
They were agitating against non payment of their allowances and bonuses in the Champions League. They still won 2-1 but their mood was nothing to write home about.
That is the sad story of the club that plays a Champions League semi-final tie this weekend.
Interestingly, the tie is against Kano Pillars, another Nigerian side.
Heartland were moody when they moved into camp to start their preparation Monday.
They have not been inspired. Their journey to this stage has been rough. The allowances and bonuses for Champions League matches they played in Liberia, Morocco, Cameroon and Tunisia have not been paid. Up till Monday, they were still being owed salaries for two months. It was against this background that some of their players refused to play their league match against Bayelsa.
“But I don’t think that will solve our problem because our management does not care about our welfare,” one official of the club said yesterday.
“We have a 419 management,” one player lamented, adding “we have shown commitment by winning matches but they have done their own job. We are not happy.”
Heartland have been consistent for two seasons, placing second in the league and doing well in the Champions League.
“We are playing Champions League semifinal without the proper motivation. We believe that the government means well for us but we don’t understand why they have allowed things to get bad.
A team playing in the semi_final of Champions League should have better management. The football we play is superior to the management that we have otherwise we would have long been knocked out,” another official said.
Heartland play highly inspired Kano pillars who are being supervised by Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, one time sports commissioner in Kano and one time chairman of the Nigeria Football Association, the board that won election to run Nigeria’s football but which was schemed out for the current Lulu board.