Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ocean Boys, Lobi in twists & turns

The Matchday 33 game between Ocean Boys and Lobi Stars in the Nigeria Premier League (NPL) was awarded to the former by the match referee but controversy continues to dogged the circumstance surrounding the outcome.

The game in question was billed to be played behind closed doors at the Samson Siasia Stadium in Yenagoa following a sanction placed on the home side, Ocean Boys by the Organising and Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

Ocean Boys are under sanction after an altercation in their home game against Kwara United on June 26.

A group of supporters of the club were alleged to have assaulted match officials on same day after that 1 - 1 draw.

On June 5, fans of Zamfara United were alleged to have held up their game against Enugu Rangers at the Sardauna Stadium in Gusau for 30 minutes.

Zamfara United got a warning from the Premier League and played two home games behind closed door. But Ocean Boys after the June 26 game were handed a banishment by the NPL to play their remaining games in Abuja.

The 2006 champions took their protest a step beyond the NPL to the NFF disciplinary committee. That committee upturned the earlier decision to just two games behind closed door.

A top official of Ocean Boys, who preferred to speak on anonymity, allegedly pointed fingers at the NPL for running the championship on double standards.

"The truth is that the league board is using different rules for the clubs. I don't see why they should banish us to Abuja over what happened in our game against Kwara United (on June 26).

"I think we are being singled out for this ill treatment because we dared the league board by taking our case to the NFF Organising and Disciplinary Committee," the official alleged.

But vice chairman of Lobi Stars, Dominic Iorfa, who also doubles as the club's head coach this season, told that a former player of his team came to De-Prize Hotel on Azikoro Road, where Lobi were lodged, with policemen demanding payment of money owed him by his former employers.

"I'm not in Yenagoa with the team. But my team officials called me to inform me that a former player of ours came to their hotel with policemen to demand for payment of money we owe him.

"I ask where was this player in 2009 and 2010? Why didn't he come out to attack us before now? Our team of players and officials left Yenagoa since their safety isn't guaranteed," Iorfa said.

Iorfa added that Lobi Stars have notified the Premier League about the development.

"I have spoken to officials of the NPL about it. I also spoke to the deputy chairman, Shehu Gusau, who many refer to as acting chairman, since I couldn't reach the chairman (Davidson Owumi)," the Lobi Stars' vice chairman said.

Lobi Stars' spokesman, Ator Terkula, who witnessed the incident claimed the player, Okey Akabuogu, now on the payroll of Ocean Boys, stormed their hotel at about 9am local time with five policemen.

Terkula also said the match commissioner witnessed the incident at the hotel where Lobi Stars were camped.

"We left Yenagoa after a player came with policemen to our hotel claiming that he is our former player and wants us to pay him. This happened around 9am (on Sunday) when some of our team members were away to the pre-match meeting.

"The match commissioner came to our hotel and saw the whole situation and even met the player," Aterkula said.

General Manager of Ocean Boys, Tony Ogola, said his club have suspended Akabuogu over the matter. He added that the club knew nothing of the player's visit to Lobi's hotel on Sunday.

"Akabuogu has been suspended by Ocean Boys because we don't encourage our players to take laws into their hands. So it is out of place to say Ocean Boys used intimidating tactics against an opponent before a game.

"Ocean Boys as a team also travels to other venues to play and we will not want anyone to harass us. But truthfully I must say that I am not happy with the dimension that this matter has taken," said Ogola.

Spokesman of Ocean Boys, Eddy Ohis, also lend his voice to the matter by condemning the alleged attack by Akabuogu.

He said Ocean Boys had no prior knowledge of the player's plan to storm Lobi's hotel camp on the same day of the botched game.

"Ocean Boys do not know anything about this whole situation. Yes Okey Akabuogu is our player but we don't encourage our players to go violent on our opposition or anybody for that matter.

"So the Ocean Boys management is dissociating itself from this incident because we didn't send the said player to attack anybody neither do we involve in violent conduct," said Ohis.

The player in the centre of the whole furore, Akabuogu, told on Monday that he was never accompanied by armed men to Lobi's hotel camp.

The 32-year-old centre-back also revealed that he did not inform his club officials of his plan.

"I didn't go to their hotel with gunmen or policemen. I'm not a violent person. How can I go to a hotel that is close to a police station with gunmen? When I went to the hotel there was a patrol team of policemen in front there and I told them why I came there. I didn't tell anybody in my team and I didn't even tell any of my teammate.

"I only went there to demand for the N700,000 Lobi Stars owe me. I signed for them in 2007/2008 on a N2.2 million deal excluding salaries and match bonuses. They paid me by instalments of N1 million and N500,000. But till date they owe N700,000.

"The match commissioner came from the pre-match meeting and saw me that I wasn't with armed men. He told me to leave the hotel and I did," said the former Enugu Rangers and Enyimba man told

Akabuogu also said he was yet to receive any "official letter from Ocean Boys" on his suspension.

"I'm sorry for causing my club and the league trouble but I need this money now because my family depends on me alone," said Akabuogu.

Following the walkover ceremony performed by the match officials on Lobi on Sunday, the NPL Acting Executive Secretary, Tunji Babalola, said the league body will take a stand when it receives the match report.

He declined to make further comments on the outcome of the troubled game.

"We will determine that game when the match reports are turned in by the match commissioner and referee," Babalola said.

The NPL has placed Ocean Boys centre-back, Akabuogu, on indefinite suspension for misconduct.

"Okey Akabuogu, a registered player of Ocean Boys FC of Bayelsa is suspended indefinitely for his conduct in bringing the game into disrepute, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation on an allegation that inhibited the match between Ocean Boys FC and Lobi Stars FC being played at the Samson Siasia Stadium on Sunday, July 17, 2011," a statement released by the Premier League on Monday read.

But the last has not been heard of the twists and turns of this matter, as it will definitely take a political dimension off the pitch with the NFF and NPL set for a new chapter in their face-off.

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