By Onochie Anibeze
Governor Ikeddi Ohakim of Imo State yesterday beat his chest over the achievement of Heartland Football Club and regretted that the media have not been able to celebrate their runs in the CAF Champions League, the biggest club competition in the continent.
Heartland play in final on Saturday in Congo against TP Mazembe. The first leg ended 2-1 in favour ofÂ the Nigerian side whose journey to the final has been rough.
Governor Ohakim had started on a high tempo, setting up a committee to ensure they win the Champions League and funding them adequately. Unfortunately, the N500m he approved for the club for the campaigns was poorly managed. Consequently, the players were owed allowances and bonuses up till their semi-final tie with Kano Pillars. The governor, we gathered, insisted on accountability and charged those responsible to take care of the teamâ€™s bills. But government later intervened and cleared the debts including two months salaries being owed the team. And yesterday, while addressing editors in Vanguard, Ohakim said that his government had, among other motivational actions, ensured that the team will fly to Congo in a chartered flight and will be in high spirit for the Cup final.
â€œIf I didnâ€™t have interest in the club, they will not be in the final of the Champions League. I deserve compliment for that. We set up a committee to ensure success and the committee raised money apart from the funds that we also made availabale. We are ready for the final. But we have written CAF to warn that we may pull out of the final if security is not guaranteed.
I went to Kano and nearly lost my life.Â We have done enough to make our team ready for the final. We could have scored up to four goals in the first leg but the heavy rain that day affected our play. We employed good coaches, signed good players and the team is getting results. What else do you want?Â Iâ€™ve told them, if they give me the national team Iâ€™ll take them to places.
Even if we donâ€™t win the cup in Congo, getting to the final is a big achievement and the media have not done enough to celebrate our achievement. We have blocked all loopholes that may work against us in Congo and by the grace of God we will bring that cup to Nigeria.â€
The team had booked to fly Ethiopia Airline to Congo and were billed to leave Nigeria on Wednesday.
But this was later shelved after due considerations.
Governor Ohakim also informed that his government had restructured sports environment in Imo State and very soon he would swing into action in other sports like boxing and athletics.