NFF, Heartland still on war path

The feud between the Nigeria Football Federation and Premier League side, Heartland seems far from over as the club has thrown another punch at the country’s Federation.

Heartland travelled to Abuja a few weeks back to honour a game against Ocean Boys who had been banished to the nation’s capital after violence in a football match against Kwara United.

However, on getting to Abuja, the appeals committee of the NFF had reversed the decision of the NPL and instructed that Ocean Boys return to their home in Yenagoa.

The NFF had on Thursday said it was shocked that Heartland refused compensation of five hundred thousand naira (about $3,300) for an ill advised trip to OWerri.

Chairman of the NFF’s disciplinary committee, Leye Adepoju explained, “Instead of appreciating the gesture from Ocean Boys FC, Heartland have surprisingly gone to town to say it has been short-changed. Who short-changed the club?

“The issues involved here are unambiguous. The Nigeria Premier League took a decision to banish Ocean Boys from Yenagoa to Abuja after a troubled match. Ocean Boys protested against this decision, and the Nigeria Premier League knew about the protest, and also knew the protest was to be heard before Ocean Boys’ next match.

“The NPL should have informed Heartland which happened to be the next opponents of Ocean Boys about the protest and the fact that the protest was to be heard by the NFF Disciplinary Committee before the match involving the two teams.

“Heartland claim to have arrived Abuja for the match on Monday morning. The match was scheduled for Wednesday, and by Monday evening, the Disciplinary Committee of the NFF had taken the decision that Ocean Boys return to Yenagoa immediately.

From the bill sent to NPL and copied to the NFF, Heartland said its players and officials stayed in Abuja until Wednesday. What were they doing in Abuja until Wednesday after learning of the decision on Monday?” Adepoju queried.

But Heartland won’t give up without a fight.

Media officer of the club, Cajetan Nkwopara insists that neither the NFF nor Ocean Boys did them any favour.

He described the statement credited to Adepoju as unfortunate.

Cajetan Nkwopara said the NFF’s disciplinary body had not done the club any favour that would warrant them to crawl on the street of the Nigeria to show gratitude.

Instead, Nkwopara said Heartland merely asked for a refund as a result of the financial loss they suffered after the disciplinary body altered a match programme that was already in progress.

“The matter before the NFF Disciplinary Committee was on the issue of a fracas that took place in Yenagoa when Ocean Boys hosted Enyimba and the banishment of Ocean Boys from their home ground,” he explained.

“The Committee did not limit itself to the issue at hand rather, it went ahead to re-schedule a match that had been already programmed and thereby caused us huge financial loss.

“Whereby the Committee thought it necessary to delve into a matter outside what was brought before it, it ought to have notified us since it was aware that we’re going to be directly affected by whatever decision it was going to reach.

“The refund we asked for was not an amount invented from the blues. It is the true reflection of expenses we incurred as head cost in transporting, feeding and accommodating over 33 persons in Abuja for three days.

“To disabuse our mind of any doubts our, respected chairman of the NFF Disciplinary Committee may contact the Accounts Unit of the NFF to find out what the Federation usually spend in camping even the lowest of the national teams when they camp for three days outside Abuja

“Our humble submission is that the Disciplinary Committee was in a position to know that the judgment it was giving was going to affect an innocent party in a harsh manner and took no measure at all to prevent it or safe-guard the interest of the innocent party.” The spokesman argued

Nkwopara said the N500,000.00 the body said should be given to Heartland was inadequate to cover for the N1,021,500.00 (about $6, 700) the club spent as over-head cost and also does nothing to ameliorate the physical and psychological pains they suffered while on that trip for which they were also demanding another N1,000,000.00

On the allegation that Heartland embarked on an ill-advised trip when they travelled to Abuja, Nkwopara said it was the same NFF through its affiliate the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) that directed the Owerri side to go and honour the match in Abuja.

“We only obeyed a directive from the NPL which is an affiliate arm of the NFF to proceed to Abuja. Everyone knows that it would have been easier for us to travel from Owerri to Yenagoa than from Owerri to Abuja. We were merely acting in line with the regulations set by the NPL as approved by the NFF.”

Nkwopara argued further that Article 15 of the NPL states that a team banished from its home ground must honour at least three matches on its new ground before appealing the ban and wondered why the NFF disciplinary body ignored such a vital rule when it hastily rushed to overturn Ocean Boys banishment.

“We wonder the interest and haste the Disciplinary Committee showed in dispensing with that case,” Nkwopara added.
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