Chairman of Warri Wolves Moses Etu has opened a lid on the dirty pastimes of players in the Nigeria Professional Football League and pleaded with them to stop using hard drugs like tramadol and codeine, especially before football games, JOHN EGBOKHAN reports.
Warri Wolves have not been consistent in the league this season, making many to feel that they may not survive the drop. What is your assurance to the fans?
The government has done everything for us and no one is being owed. All the players and the coaching crew have received their salaries and the government has also paid some match bonuses so it is now left for them to deliver and they need to consolidate on their present position.
In the last five games, we won four and drew one against Akwa United in Uyo. We defeated Kastina United 2-0. We defeated highly-rated Sunshine Stars 3-0 in Warri and last weekend, we defeated MFM 2-0 at the Warri City Stadium.
My message to the players is to consolidate on this victory so that the government would know that its investment in the team is not in vain. We also need to keep winning in order to attract more fans, who have started coming back to the stadium, believing that the players are playing good football.
And talking about our position, we are just occupying the tenth position and once you lose a match, you will find yourself close to the relegation zone
The difference in points between a team in the tenth position and the one in the relegation zone is so little, which is why I keep reminding my players not to forget that last season some teams went on relegation based on goals difference, so we can’t afford that and we have learnt our lesson from the past, when Warri Wolves went on relegation because of just one point. However, God brought us back to the Premier League so we cannot afford to experience that again.
What is your plan for the club this year?
I keep telling people that we have come to stay in the Premier League and our aim is to stabilise and remain in the Nigerian top-flight. Next season we can be thinking of other things like a continental ticket but if it comes this year, we would gladly grab it and present it to the sports-loving governor of Delta State, who despite his huge investment in football has nothing to show in terms of medals or trophies.
This has been my pain and my greatest challenge before he leaves office in 2023 is that I should be able to present something to this great man in terms of a trophy and continental ticket.
How comfortable are you with the technical crew led by coach Evans to steer the club in the direction which you just pointed out?
Our coach said recently that the management is giving him and his crew 500% cooperation, that whatever he asks for, we do it for him and we demand results. By the time we made our recruitment, there was no money and the way things are in this country when you do not have money, the word spreads like wildfire and in such circumstances, players were scared to join us but along the line when government brought money we started making some signings and were able to bring in six players and five of them are regulars including our first-choice goalkeeper. They are getting what is due and good for them just as they are giving us positive results too.
Most of our clubs are notorious for owing players salaries and allowances. I’m tempted to ask if you are owing your players’ salaries and how many months if you are owing?
We are not owing my players a kobo because the government has given me the money and I have paid them last month’s salary. In fact, government has given me the team’s salary for March and it is just for me to say I want to pay and they say okay go ahead. I also have April salary with me and the money that we will use in playing the remaining matches of the season is with me.
A fortnight ago, one of the players in our league, Chineme Martins died during a game between Nasarawa United and Katsina United and in an attempt to stop a recurrence, the League Management Company is enforcing the rule that any club that do not have medical facilities in their stadium should not be allowed to host matches. As an insider, what other measures do your proffer to stop such a tragic incident like the one in Lafia?
We pray that nothing like that happens again in our league. What the LMC has done is a wake-up call to all of us on the need to have a full complement of health facilities in our stadium and in going forward, I have warned my players against the use of hard drugs and that if any of them is caught he will be expelled. I think other clubs should also toe this line.
How rampant is the use of hard drugs among our league players?
There is no doubt about the use of hard drugs among our league players, especially in the northern part but I have told my players that the eleventh commandment is thou shall not be caught and that once I catch you with any hard drug, you will be expelled.
What happened in Nasarawa is unfortunate and it should not happen again and now that the LMC has decided to wake up everybody, it is now left for us as club managers to do more monitoring and put all medical facilities in place at all times.
On our part, Warri Wolves have a full complement of medical facilities, which were tested by the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick. We have competent medical personnel ready to attend to any emergency situation.
Can you give us an idea of the turnout of fans in the Warri City stadium and how supportive have they been to the club’s quest for success?
We have recorded about five thousand attendance this season and the most has been ten thousand. The important thing is that fans are coming back to watch us and all we hope for is to get more of them coming into the stadium to support us.
We also hope that our fans would give us their total support, unlike a situation where Warri fans would be supporting the away team against Warri Wolves inside the Warri City Stadium. It can be so frustrating when your fans turn against you by supporting your opponents.
We are working hard to change that narrative by collaborating with the leaders of the community here so that we can get full support from the home fans any time we are playing in Warri.
Knowing your antecedents as a temperamental person, how have you been able to cope with managing Warri Wolves players?
It has not been smooth at all because as you mentioned, I am that sort of person who easily gets irritated and annoyed but since becoming the Chairman of this great club, I have had to change a lot even though it was not easy as I have to deal with a lot of people from different backgrounds.
Some of the people I am managing confessed to me that they thought that I would have used cutlass to cut somebody’s head by now but by the grace of God, I have turned the corner and become a more restrained person.
And I must give credit to the Chairman of Enyimba, Felix Anyansi-Agwu for helping me to become the person that I am today. He called me aside one day and said I would go far in this job if I can control my temper.
When he told me this, I was shocked and from that moment, I started working on my temper and today, I will always remember Anyansi-Agwu for being that person who shaped me to become what I am now.
Having been in the system for a long time, what is that thing that has not allowed Warri Wolves to become a force to be reckoned with in the Nigeria Professional Football League?
First is the attitude of Warri people. Some of the boys here collect money from visiting teams to work against us during match days. Some people also believe that they should be in my position and because they are not, they work against our cause to move this club forward.
We are also challenged by a lack of sponsorship from the private sector. Could you believe that I signed an agreement with consultants, some are based in Lagos to help us get private sector sponsorship but as at this moment, we are yet to get any concrete deal from these consultants in terms of sponsorship?
In the absence of this, what we are trying to do is to manage the little that government gives us. I can boldly say that when it comes to cash management, I am one of the best because as a trained journalist I don’t dream beyond some areas. I know my limit and I am contented with what God has given me.
I travel with my players on the same bus. I sleep in the same hotel with them and eat the same food with them, so they know my problems and I know their problems. I am very close to the players. I know their background. I know those who some consider rascals, In fact, I feel if I were able to manage Gbolahan Salami, considered the Mario Balotelli of Nigerian football, then I can manage any player.
How do you attract top players to Warri Wolves, bearing in mind that such big names attract more fans to the stadium and generally help improve the fortunes of the team?
One problem we have in the Nigerian league is that we promise players the moon and stars but end up disappointing them by not paying what we promised them. Here in Warri Wolves, we are modest and sincere in our negotiations with players, who know that whatever we promise to pay is what we would pay.
We have top players in our fold and also have younger ones who are ready to make a name for themselves. I enjoy a good relationship with these players, who love me and I love them and we have a target and will get there by the grace of God
No player from the local league made the Super Eagles list for the now postponed AFCON 2021 qualifying match against Sierra Leone. What kind of message does that send to managers of Nigerian clubs?
The coach cannot pick from the local league because he has not been watching the games. There was no way he would have picked the best from a league he has not watched since the start of the new season.
His assistant coaches who are Nigerians are supposed to be watching these games and give him input on who to select but the question is are they watching the games?