December 19, 2009

Oleh Stadium, amateur display by Warri Wolves, Kano Pillars

By Patrick Omorodion
The last match between two Nigerian club sides I watched before last Sunday was the African Champions League semi-final first leg encounter between Heartland of Owerri and Kano Pillars at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri.

The encounter was explosive and had all the trappings of a continental final, comparable to matches played in most European Leagues. The four goals (all against Kano Pillars) in the match were all classy and showed that the country still has strikers that are waiting to take over from the present ‘tired’ legs in the Super Eagles.

However last Sunday as I sat in my living room to watch a Glo Premier League (leant Globacom has pulled out) match between Warri Wolves and Kano Pillars at the Oleh Stadium, I got the shock of my life the way players from both sides played as if they were school boys engaged in an inter-hostel competition.

John Chibuike of Rangers contesting against Ahmed Kadiri of Bayelsa Utd

Their play was so unco-ordinated that my nine year old son, Victor, who kicks every object he sees these days, told me in strong language that “Daddy these players are not playing good football”. Yes, it was that bad.

I had to ask myself if these were not the same Kano Pillars that gave Heartland a good fight in Owerri a couple of weeks ago even though they went down 4-2. The same Pillars side that sent out Al Ahly, the African Champions League defending champions from the 2009 edition of the same competition.

Taking a closer look at the Oleh match, I discovered that the
culprits were the homers, Warri Wolves who ironically shot to the top of the Glo Premier league after the 3-0 thumping of the Kano boys.

They could not string passes together and played what was popularly called police game in the seventies and early eighties. From the defence, instead of working the ball through the midfield to the attack and getting the goals, they just shot the ball straight into the opponent’s area to no one in particular, the way primary school pupils played on their bumpy pitches.

The Kano boys had to play the Warri Wolves game but occasionally put the ball on the ground and tried to work their way into the box. With the defence of the homers which seemed impregnable, their efforts yielded no fruit.

Once they lose the ball to the Warri boys, what one noticed was another aerial floater into the opponent’s area and another scramble ensued. The game continued like that till it ended with Warri Wolves winning 3-0.

Anybody who did not watch that match will think the home side really took the visitors to the cleaners but the truth of the matter is that it was a very poor exhibition of the standard of the Nigerian league and one wonders how it got the rating as the best league on the African continent.

Moments after the poor show at the Oleh stadium, Supersports switched to the Ghanaian League, also sponsored by Globacom, where Hearts of Oak were hosting their biggest rival, Ashanti Kotoko at the Accra stadium.

The lush green grass made nonsense of the pitch at the Oleh stadium while the display put up by the two biggest clubs in Ghana left no one in doubt on why Ghana’s football is growing every day and has left Nigeria’s game far behind.

Their ball control was superb while both sides put the ball on the ground, worked from the defence through the midfield to the attack. Even the goalkeepers hardly shot into space but preferred to allow their defenders begin the attack from the rear.

It was a marvel to watch and showed why Ghana has exported better players to top clubs abroad than Nigeria these days.

If the poor play exhibited by both Warri Wolves and Kano Pillars was as a result of the poor state of the Oleh stadium pitch, one wonders why the organisers of the Premier League have failed to restrict games to the standard stadia across the country used for the recent FIFA U-17 World Cup?

Chief Oyuki Obaseki should not beat his chest that he has done too much for the league and therefore deserves a second term when matches are still being played on bare or sandy pitches across the country and play is still amateurish.