Vincent Akinbami, the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Sports Development to Gov. Gboyega Oyetola of Osun, says the increasing rate of hooliganism in the Nigerian football league is worrying.
Akinbami told newsmen on Monday that drastic action was needed against cases of hooliganism at match venues as well as referees and other officials involved.
“It is high time the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and all the league management boards start taking drastic action against hooliganism and bad referees to avoid killing the league.
“If this is not done, we may well be on the way to killing our football, in spite of the immense efforts put into developing it at all levels,” he said.
Akinbami stated that it was time Nigerians started to take a dispassionate look at the league competitions across the country to determine whether they were getting better or deteriorating.
“There are so many indices for us to do this: whether what we have is commensurate with what we should have, given the talents and resources, or whether what we have can compare with what other countries have.”
Akinbami said it was worrying that hooliganism was now becoming something of a norm, with club officials, referees, players and their fans getting away with criminal acts.
He appealed to the NFF, the League Management Company (LMC), Nigeria National League (NNL), Nationwide League One (NLO) and Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL) not to shy away from applying the measures.
“It is important to apply the stick, no matter whose ox is gored, and in order to ensure we stem the tide of what we are having now.
“A lot has happened in recent weeks this season, and in order not to allow things degenerate, we must start to apply the laws as they should.”
Akinbami pointed at Sunday’s incident in Ado-Ekiti where he alleged that Osun United FC of Osogbo were robbed of at least a point and also had their players and officials attacked.
“I witnessed the worst officiating in Nigerian league in the last 20 years in Ado-Ekiti on Sunday in our NNL week 19 match against Ekiti United.
“The centre referee, Arinze Victor from Delta, was neutral in the first half of the game. But he changed totally in the second half, and at a time he signaled to the First Assistant Referee to stop picking calls for him.
“In the 85th minute of the game, the Secretary of the host club, Ayodeji Olowolafe, poured water and threw the bottle at the players and officials of my team on the away team’s bench.
“I was not spared too, while sitting in the crowd. This led to an uproar, with some of us running into the pitch.
“Almost immediately, our goalkeeper was held down in the penalty box for Ekiti United to score the only goal of the match.
“We were forced to run into the pitch because of the threats from some of the fans,” he stated.
The aide to Gov. Oyetola, who oversees the state-owned male and female football clubs, said this was not only a clear case of biased officiating but also intimidation.
“Not only that, the stadium’s gate was totally thrown open, and it is an indication that COVID-19 protocols as specified by NFF and NNL were not complied with.
“There was also a threat to the lives of the match referees during the game’s half-time.”
Akinbami said this was a match both the NNL and NFF should seriously look into and apply the sanctions in order to serve as a deterrent.