The shame of the Rivers State FA Cup part 1

On Wednesday, May 29, 2013, Sharks FC emerged winners of the Rivers State FA Cup, courtesy of a goal scored by Thompson Stowe in the first half.

Dolphins’ goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi had failed to take control of a back pass and Stowe stole the ball from him and scored.

Aside from that the FA Cup in Rivers State was enmeshed in controversy from its very start up until the final match.

No referees for games

Just before the start of the competition, there was some controversy involving referees.

From what I gathered, the state FA wanted to appoint referees for the games but the Rivers State Referees Society refused.

Their argument was that it had never happened that the FA appointed referees for FA Cup games in the state but the Society.

The FA, led by Barrister Christopher Green but powered by its secretary, Benjamin Ibigoni Akubo stood their grounds insisting that they would constitute a referees appointment committee which they did, a committee made up of a couple of retired referees as well as FA members.

The referees swore that they would not honour any appointments not made by them and in the end, and to call the bluff of the referees, the state FA decided to use coaches of clubs in Port Harcourt as referees for the FA Cup games. See Pic above

FA Secretary, Benjamin Ibigoni Akubo told that he could defend his action anywhere in the world.

“When we have referees who are causing trouble, what do you want us to do? What we have done is within the confines of the law governing football in the country and I can defend it anywhere in the world,” Akubo said.

On his part, Rivers State FA chairman and member of the NFF executive board, Barrister Chris Green told that the FA was right to use coaches as referees for the FA Cup games.

“The referees here wanted to hold us to ransom and we couldn’t allow that. We decided to rather engage the coaches after speaking to the various clubs who didn’t object. There is nothing wrong with that I must add. There is no where the law says we must use “licensed” referees rather it says “qualified” referees. I could decide to engage a shoe maker who has perfect knowledge of the game for the job. His non certification does not mean he is not qualified,” Chris Green said.

However, Secretary of Dolphins, Ahmed Abdulrahman told that there was no time the clubs were informed that coaches would act as referees.

“We knew there was an issue between the referees and the FA and I remember when we went for our first game we protested the use of people who were not referees but the FA people said it was within the laws of the game.

“It is their game and when they spoke with so much surety about it, we felt if we did not adhere they would walk over us. We also thought that the issue may be resolved by the next game so we really had no choice but to play.”

Team Manager of Go Round FC, Soni Uboh also confirmed that the clubs were never pre informed by the Rivers State FA that they won’t use referees for the games.

The Go Round V Sharks controversy

In the 2nd semi final of the FA Cup between Sharks and Go Round FC, an amateur Division One League side, the drama continued.

Go Round were 2-1 up with about 15 minutes left to play when the captain of Sharks, Odinga Odinga got up from the bench and was speaking with someone through the perimeter fencing bringing back memories of four years ago.

In 2009 in the FA Cup semi final, Sharks had ended a game against Christ the King Church, CKC FC goaless and the referees, as the rules stated had signaled for penalty shootout.

The serving sports commissioner in the state then (names withheld) allegedly instructed social miscreants known as Area Boys to run off with the match balls.

When that happened, the idea that visibility was poor and the penalty shoot out could not hold came into play.

By the next day, there were talks about a replay from the start of the game and CKC refused to honour the game granting Sharks a walk over and qualification for the final.

But that was in 2009. In 2013, after the Sharks captain spoke with that “unidentified” person through the fence, word began to spread that a similar incident would soon occur.

Before long, in the 84th minute of the game, a miscreant ran into the pitch and kicked the match ball out.

There was no single policeman present in the stadium. When fans at the stadium began to murmur that they had seen that happen before and it was coming from Sharks because they were losing the game, another miscreant, most likely acting on instruction ran towards Sharks players on the pitch and punched one of them to submission.

After normalcy was restored Sharks said they could not continue the game because their player was injured and they had completed all three of their changes.

Eventually the FA Secretary, Benjamin Akubo asked the referees to call off the game which they did.

One day later the FA said the game would be replayed from the start because they could not determine the fan who invaded the pitch.

As usual, and according to script, Go Round refused to play and were walked over by Sharks.

Team Manager of Go Round FC, Soni Uboh in his anger suggested when he spoke with that the Rivers State FA Cup be scrapped.

“They realized with two minutes to go that we were actually going to beat Sharks and Go Round would have booked a passage to the final meaning qualifying for the Federation Cup at the expense of Sharks. So what they needed to do was to stop the game, cause confusion and see how they could get the opportunity to get a replay. This I must say has always been the case but I dare say this time it won’t work as we are going to pursue this to all logical conclusion” said Soni.

Uboh goes on to point out instances where premier league sides Sharks and Dolphins had previously been given undue advantage in the FA Cup over other teams. He cites a celebrated case of Sharks Vs CKC FC in the last year of Kadiri Ikhana’s reign as Sharks coach (about 4 seasons ago) where CKC bluntly refused a replay after their game against Sharks was disrupted.

That same year Go Round FC had a similar experience with Dolphins FC in the other Semi final.

Uboh says if this trend is allowed to continue it would further dampen the morale of other clubs in the state. He thus informed of his intention to pursue the case to the end by filing a protest to the NFF and thus discourage what he termed an un-holy tradition.

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