The Dan Anyiam stadium, Owerri was yesterday evening, thrown into confusion, following the alleged attack by irate fans of Heartland FC, on players, coaches and fans of visiting Anambra Warriors, the FC Ifeanyi Ubah.
This came as the mind-pulsating Derby between the duo Nigerian Premier League clubs ended in a barren draw after 90 minutes.
Trouble was said to have started when FC Ifeanyi Ubah players, coaching crew and fans were navigating their way out of the Dan Anyiam stadium, back to their base in Nnewi, as enraged Heartland FC fans barricaded the gates, hurling stones and other sharp objects at the visitors’ buses.
An FC Ifeanyi Uba fan, Ifeanyi Ugochukwu, who was an eye witness, narrated their ordeal to Vanguard.
He described the experience as a war-like situation saying, “Like any other match day. I woke up on Saturday with a great sense of enthusiasm and optimism that we (FC Ifeanyi Ubah) will get a good result and above all, give a good account of ourselves away at Owerri.
“I did what I had to do for the day, bid my peeps farewell and navigated to the Ifeanyi Ubah International Stadium, Nnewi to join up with other proud fans of our dear club to witness the Oriental Derby. Transportation was adequate, organisation was top notch and soon, we were on the road in a joyous and bullish mood. Little did we know that we were headed into a storm and nobody came with an umbrella.
“They say change is constant. They say when it rains, it pours but what happens when a change is so abrupt, even time cannot capture or envisage it? What happens when it decides to pour instead of raining and you didnt get the memo? Right from the second, we set foot at Dan Anyiam Stadium Owerri, we knew the atmosphere was highly charged and tensed as I even tweeted about it but we also knew it was part of the game especially in derbies so we didn’t get perturbed by that. Despite the obvious threats of death and bodily harm (which is usually just a scare tactics) we marched forward as warriors we were.”
The feeling that something was wrong
Continuing, John said: “The most interesting thing happened at half time when the referee called the game at a close for the first 45 but refused to enter his room with his assistants. They stood in the pitch under the heavy downpour for fear of irate fans despite the scoreline being goalless and that was when I got a feeling that something was seriously wrong.
“The players returned to the field for the second 45 which ebbed to and fro between teams with the referee not being biased towards anybody but if anybody should accuse him of bias, it should be us as he awarded an average of a free kick (within 20yrds from our goal) every 2 mins. It was a nail biting experience for us but when I saw the 3 minutes added time, I decided to walk out to avoid the stampede since the locked all gates bar one which is against the football rules. Little did I know that I had barely escaped the beginning of a hellish evening.
Inciting Heartland fans
“As I was leaving the gate, I saw and heard Ifeanyi Onuigbo a.k.a Mbamba inciting the Heartland Fans to violence. Recall that Ifeanyi Onuigbo was also the person who instigated the violence in Nnewi during the 1st leg where he assaulted our club Chairman, Mr Chukwuma Ubah (who didn’t press charges) and he also incited the Heartland players to beat up the referee. He was the sole architect of this trouble too as he got Heartland Fans to bar the gates, beat up the referee before turning their attention on us.
“Seeing the situation deteriorating by the second, made worse by the fact that the Police details stationed there all ran away like children, we thought the best option was to make it to our vehicles and leave the scene. That was what we did. The fans having pummelled the officials to their satisfaction, turned their attention to our fleeing vehicles and came for us. We would have escaped unscathed if not for the traffic jam that Owerri is known for. We got ambushed at the traffic jam, surrounded and in a well rehearsed and orchestrated move, missiles were hauled at our buses with the express intent to kill. Most of the missiles include: big granite stones used in laying of foundations, steel pipes and massive wood.
Female fans molested
“Our female fans were molested, most of them had their clothes torn, valuables were stolen including my brand new Lenovo tab 2 pro while others lost lots more running helter skelter to safety which ranges from gutters to bush to people’s shops and homes. This raged on for minutes on end even as security personnel in Owerri calmly drove past with their sirens blaring and didn’t even stop despite our cries for help. The whole ordeal lasted for about 3 hours. 3 hours of sheer horror and panic.
“Many of our fans actually wet themselves and the worst part was seeing a man who came along with his wife and child, separated from them as he wailed and called out to them. His wife had fled for her dear life, the child had ran in the other direction and the man was trapped in the bus with myself so there was little he could do as we hunkered down and prayed for the madness to subside. Seemed like forever but our club Chairman, Mr Chuma Ubah on hearing what happened, returned with security personnel who were able to repel the blood thirsty hooligans and led us all to safety with women, girls and children put in a chartered bus and evacuated back to Nnewi first as we slowly made our way to safety.
“I have heard about wars. I have read about wars. I have imagined wars. None of them comes even close to what I experienced. It’s the most shocking experience of my life and by far the most frightening. I had a pipe smashed at the base of my skull in a classic murder move which left me semi paralysed for a long time in sheer agony and excruciating pain for my refusal to take off my FC Ifeanyi Ubah Jersey. The only way my jersey would ever live my body was in death and I was naturally very afraid at that instant but I couldn’t disrespect my club and city. I guess the adrenaline in my body was enough to keep me in the ‘flight mode’ to keep me alert and I felt the full crush of the pain once I landed in Nnewi.
“I have been given a neck collar. I am in untold pains at the moment, but one thing is sure: if time is rewound back a million times, I will still do the same thing I did all over again.”