…One of the first three FIFA-badged Nigerian referees
By Jacob Ajom
Nigeria football has seen a lot of development over the years. Many who laid the foundation for the growth of the round leather game are no more, while a few of them, though old, is still very much around. Yesterday, September 24, one of the early administrators, Chief Augustine Chike Anisha clocked 98. Regrettably, Chief Anisha marked his birthday on his sickbed.
When Sports Vanguard put a call across to the old man, he hadn’t much to say. He sounded audible and coherent. He remained calm and collected as he picked his words. “I am sorry, my dear, I can’t talk because I am on my sickbed. Maybe when I get better, we can talk. Thanks for the call and for wishing me a happy birthday.” he said.
However, before he ended the call, he was able to tell us his age. “I will be 98 tomorrow(Friday),” he said with much enthusiasm.”
His close associates, Chief Jonathan Ogufere and Arthur Kwame told us a lot about the man. Ogufere, former WAFU President who is now President of the Nigerian Association of Sports Veterans said, “Chief Anisha was one of those early footballers to emerge from the Warri/Sapele axis. After his active years as a player, he took to officiating. It’s on record that himself, late Sunny Badru, and late Rev Father Slattery were the first FIFA-badged referees in Nigeria.
“He actually officiated in several FA Cup matches in Lagos. Subsequently, he was given an award by the old National Sports Commission
“Thereafter, when Mid-West was created, he played a vital role in the football revolution of the golden years of the Ogbemudia era. He was the head of the Sports Commission in the Midwest and was key to the Sports Revolution under Ogbemudia.”
Chief Anisha was not even a trained sports administrator, a field he excelled in. Ogufere told us, “As an individual, A. C. Anisha was a surveyor, trained in Ibadan in those early days. Although he is now aged and still alive in Asaba, he seems to have been forgotten. He is on a wheelchair and has lost his sight, but he has done so much. We don’t want to talk about those who are dead, but it is shocking that this man who sacrificed his career and all for the sake of sports, living in the state capital, Asaba, can be so forgotten by the government, is sad. He has done so much both for the old Bendel State and Nigeria.
Another veteran sports administrator, Arthur Kwame was full of praise for Chief Augustine Anisha and grateful that he had the opportunity of working closely with the man.
According to him, Chief Anisha was “not just a referee, he was also an excellent football administrator. When you recall sports in the old Mid-West, especially football, he was the man behind those glory days. And he was also relevant at the national level. He was one of those instrumental to the development of Nigerian football. Apart from being a first-class referee, he was committed and dedicated to the development of the game. He actually volunteered his life for the game of football.
“I learned one or two things from him.”
Kwame continued, “The first thing I learned from A. C. Anisha was the art of listening to others talk. “You have to allow people to talk before you take a position on any issue. You don’t lord it over them. Once you have a superior argument or a more reasonable point than the one you hold, then you have to let go.
“Secondly, he taught me how to be very accommodating in football, especially. There are various interests and sections in football that one must learn to accommodate. Once you don’t accommodate, you lose out at the end of the day. But one must accommodate with caution, not just every Dick, Tom, and Harry.”
On what connects Anisha, late Badru, and Rev Father Slattery, Kwame said although all three were referees, Slattery and Anisha were steps ahead of Badru in the game.
“Badru was purely a referee, while Slattery and Anisha were also astute sports administrators, apart from being top-class referees.
“Father Slattery, as a referee, was very strict. He would not take nonsense from any player and as an administrator, maybe because of his religious background, he insisted things moved in the right direction. He was very observant of the rules governing football at the time.
“Another aspect of Reverend Father Slattery was that he also was an educationist. He was the pioneer Principal of St Finbarr’s College, Bariga, Lagos. That was why the school was doing so well in the Principal’s Cup those days.”