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LMC must take charge to halt hooliganism at match venues, says Udi

By Samuel Ifetoye
04 July 2021   |   3:03 am
Former international, Duke Udi is a former coach of Akwa United, Akwa Ibom State and has had coaching stints with several clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL)

Former international, Duke Udi is a former coach of Akwa United, Akwa Ibom State and has had coaching stints with several clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL). In this interview with The Guardian’s SAMUEL IFETOYE, Udi bares his mind on hooliganism in the nation’s premier league and offers a possible solution to the recurring decimal.

A fan kicking a referee at a league game, as Udi wants stiffer sanction on erring clubs by LMC…<br />

Why do you think there is still hooliganism at league venues across the country?
VIOLENCE is part of our character and there are rules made for erring clubs involved, but nobody wants to follow the rules, which is the bane of our society. You will see an educated person, who sees a one-way sign, knows he is not expected to drive through it, but he still disobeys the law. A government official that should set an example for those who are his followers will break the rules. That is the case with us in this country because everybody wants to win the league without following the set rules. I have never seen a league that has two winners: it is only one team that wins and the rest will end up in second, third, or fourth positions. To stop violence in our league venues, we have to come hard on these erring clubs. We have to start deducting three points from these erring clubs, at least for a start. Not this N1 million, N2 million fine, which doesn’t work as far as the Nigerian league is concerned. It is only when we do that that everybody will sit up and start reasoning properly.

How did the win-at-all cost syndrome begin at the clubs?
You can imagine when the coach of a newly promoted club is being told to qualify his team for the continent next season where you have bigger teams that have been playing in the league for 15 years to 20 years? These desperate clubs put a lot of pressure on the coaches, players and management and this is how violence brews, hence the must-win attitude especially by the league’s host teams. For as long the home teams are made to bear the cost of the match officials’ welfares, there will also be violence perpetrated by the home fans, who feel the referees and assistant referees must respond positively to the generosity accorded to them. This is why we have violence ensuing, leading to the disruption of games. At times when games are not in the favour of the home teams, you will see chairmen of these clubs leading thugs to beat up match officials. At a league match, I heard right from our dressing room at halftime, where home team’s officials were arguing and shouting with the referee and at the end, it resulted in the referee and the assistant referees being beaten seriously inside their own locker room. I am a coach in the NPFL and I know what I am talking about. There are so many things these club officials do to make sure they win a league game on home soil. The pressure of these home teams’ officials on referees is so enormous that you begin to see unfavourable decisions over the away teams simply because they want victory at all cost. This is what some of us see at league venues, which and made me think that there must be a way out of this crisis, which I think the LMC must start with point deduction to serve as a deterrent to these erring clubs so that the madness can stop once and for all.

What is your assessment of the COVID-19 control compliance at match venues?
The COVID-19 restriction will never be adhered because of the porous nature of our stadia. That is why you still see fans come into the stadium illegally when there is still a ban on spectatorship by the government at league venues due to the pandemic. This is because some of these fans jump over the fence and enter unlike in Europe, where the gates are well secured. To me, the only stadium where spectators can’t access easily due to the ban is the International Stadium in Uyo. Once the gates are locked, nobody goes into the stadium because it is a modern type that can be compared to what we have in Europe. But how many of these stadiums do we have in Nigeria? I am just stating the obvious fact why illegal spectators can also cause violence at match venues. In other climes, if you don’t follow the rules, you either go to jail or they deduct points from the erring host club for ineptitude. If it is six points they want to remove they don’t care. They set an example for others to follow and when you see that thing next time, you will not do it again.