By John Egbokhan
The League Management Company (LMC) has come under stinging attack for its reaction to the tragic death of Nasarawa United defender, Chineme Martins weekend at the Lafia Township Stadium.
Martins died after slumping during the match-day 23 fixture of the 2019-2020 Nigeria Professional Football League with Katsina United.
The match ended 3-0 in Nasarawa United’s favour but the mood in the stadium and the Nigerian football landscape was fouled by the unfortunate and untimely death of the young defender, who passed on because of lack of medical facilities in the stadium.
And the player’s death was made the more painful as it happened in the full glare of Nasarawa State Governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, who saw how the ambulance stationed in the stadium failed to start as frantic efforts were being made to rush the distressed Martins to the hospital for urgent medical care.
For many football stakeholders, the LMC laid the ground for the player to die as it was simply inconceivable that the league-governing body could allow a top-flight game to hold without a functional ambulance and adequate medical facilities in the event of any unsavoury situation like the one which played out on March 8, 2020.
Martins’ death has been attributed to negligence and incompetence as the stadium ambulance was not in working condition and the medics incapable of administering proper CPR (resuscitation) on the player.
His passage raises the death toll of Nigerian footballers and others around the world while on active duty to 24.
It was not the first time that a player in the domestic league was dying while on active duty as few examples of players from the Nigerian top flight who slumped and died during a game no thanks to poor medical care include Amir Angwe of Julius Berger in 1995, Charity Ikhidero of Bendel Insurance in 1997 and Emmanuel Ogoli of Ocean Boys in 2010.
With the latest death of Martins, the LMC has faced renewed call for it to clean up its acts after it attempted to pass the buck to the teams when it published an image of its Chairman, Shehu Dikko presenting defibrillators to clubs after a one-day training conducted by FIFA Medical Committee member, Professor Ephraim Kramer of South Africa on March 5, 2015.
Also appearing in the image with broad smiles was Dr Muazu Abdulkadir, head of NFF Medical Committee and the team doctor of Enyimba International.
Defibrillators are devices that restore a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse or show pulse or send shock to the heart. They are used to prevent or correct an arrhythmia, a heartbeat that is uneven or that is too slow or too fast. Defibrillators can also restore the heart’s beating if the heart suddenly stops, which some feel may have been the case with Martins.
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In essence the LMC was attempting to use the twitter post to inform Nigerians that it gave defibrillators to clubs to prevent the sort of unsavoury incident that claimed Martins precious life and that it was the fault of the clubs for not making use of them.
But the pertinent question that still begs for answers is why has the LMC failed in its duty of enforcing the rules as enshrined in its statutes?
An ex-international, Yisa Sofoluwe said ‘’the LMC presented clubs with defibrillators and went to sleep. That is not how to run a league that wants to compete with the best in the continent, or wants players to stay back instead of rushing to Europe’
Also reacting via his twitter handle, a member of the House of Representatives, Akin Alabi lampooned the LMC for the timing of the post at a time that the country was still grieving over the death of the young Martins.
‘’Whoever is behind this handle is (not serious). What type of rubbish is this? Trying to exempt the league management from the death of the player. What a nation’’.
The consensus by Nigerians is that the LMC should not only set out standards but should have the courage and audacity to enforce them.
As one avid league fan, Shehu Gambari said, ‘’It is not enough to donate defibrillators, are they trained to use them or are they functional and are they available at match venues or in some shelf inside the club offices. Enough of these unnecessary deaths.
‘’So after the presentation what happened to them? How many of your teams still have them today? How many people in your teams know basic CPR? Emotional intelligence is knowing what to say and when to actually say it.’’
Another fan, Mac Chukwudi said, ‘’the circumstances leading to the death of that player mirror the rot in almost every sector in the country. There are no easy ways, no short cuts. Things have to be done the right way if we are to have a professional league’’.
As week 24 matches of the NPFL hold across nine centres this weekend, there is a general sense of fear and panic amongst Nigerian league players that the ill-wind that blew and claimed the life of Martins may still be blowing and it behoves on the LMC to rise above the tide and ensure full compliance with its rules as stipulated in its statutes.
Meanwhile, in his reaction to Martins’ death, one of the invited players to Super Eagles 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifying games against Sierra Leone, Moses Simon tweeted that his ‘’heartfelt condolences goes out to the family, management, players of Nasarawa United and also the entire football family in Nigeria on the death of Martins Chineme and may his soul rest in peace’’