There will be no drums nor trumpets to cheer the Super Eagles as they take on the Chipolopolo of Zambia away in Ndola on Sunday afternoon to kick start their Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign, no thanks to a gash in the body of the hitherto famous traveling Nigeria Football Supporters Club.
A split in the orchestra hit an irreversible crescendo on Saturday morning leading to the exclusion of the cheer group from the Nigerian delegation to Ndola.
Disjointed troupes from different splits of the club had turned up at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on Saturday morning, claiming to be the authentic support group for the Super Eagles but the Nigerian delegation led by the Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, and President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick kept them out as the team jetted out at about 6.50am aboard an Arik Air chartered aircraft for the crucial encounter scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
www.sportstalkafrica.com investigations revealed that the decision to leave the supporters behind became a fait accompli as a result of the protraction of the dispute for the leadership and control of the body between one faction led by President General Rafiu Ladipo and another headed by National President Vincent Okumagba.
Our investigations revealed that ahead of the trip to Zambia, the factions had moved separately to be designated as the authentic supporters while the leadership of the NFF insisted, but to no avail, that they must resolve their differences and present a common front.
Disgusted by the vehemence of their opposition and fierceness of their animosity NFF President Pinnick was said to have raised the issue with Sports Minister Dalung who was said to have advised that both factions should nominate members and provide a harmonised list but the suggestion was equally refused by both parties insisting on the exclusion of each other.
Both the Minister and the NFF President where thus compelled to reason that the nature and character of the conflict in the supporters group is such that having them on same flight could possibly constitute a major distraction to Super Eagles.
The minister who tried every last minute persuasion to bring the parties to reason at the airport expressed curiosity at their conduct and finally decided together with the NFF President to leave them out in other not to jeopardise the concentration, mood and spirit of the team, especially the players, as they focus on the mission.
“We have seen different types of conflicts and how they lead to destruction. This conflict of the supporters club has been on even ahead of the Rio Olympic Games. Both factions are claiming to be the original and authentic body to the exclusion of each other. We have intervened and advised them to make peace and be better organised but they have refused. This country is too big for any single person or group to insist that it must be them or nothing happens. Now they brought separate lists for the trip to Zambia. They came to the airport as separate groups. We asked them to harmonise, they refused. Their disagreement is so vehement that we cannot have them on same flight with the players. What if their animosity degenerates to physical violence? We have a serious assignment at hand and we cannot be exporting conflict with us,” an obviously disappointed Dalung explained.