Sunday, March 04, 2012

Kwara Utd, Sunshine Stars trade blames

One of the nine Nigeria Premier League (NPL) Matchday 12 games came to an abrupt end following fans encroachment into the pitch, can report.

The match between Kwara United and Sunshine Stars came to an end just few minutes to full time after a melee at the Ilorin Township Stadium on Saturday.

Genesis of trouble
The game in Ilorin was already tainted with the hosts being suspicious with the sudden replacement of the centre referee a day before kick off. was informed that Reverend Father Andrew Eze from Enugu was initially picked to officiate the game before Sanni Mohammed from Kaduna was handed the job of centre referee for the game.

"We had our reservation before the game," Kwara United spokesman, Ajide Olaeoye began over the telephone with "Reverend Father Eze was supposed to officiate the game as the centre referee but to our utmost surprise Sanni Mohammed was appointed in his place with no explanation at all."

The game & the drama
Kwara United got in front in added time of the first 45 minutes through Anthony Okemmiri before Atanda Sakibu pulled Sunshine Stars level on 83 minutes.

But the Ilorin fans began to get restive when calls from referee Mohammed did not go their way.

With less than five minutes left to play, Mohammed turned down a penalty appeal in Kwara United's favour after Bolaji Shakin was believed to have been upended in the goal area of Sunshine Stars leading to protest from the players of the home side.

However Olaeoye claimed that Sunshine Stars' team manager, Gabriel Aborowa incited the home fans by running onto the pitch thereby prompting fans of the Ilorin club to climb over the perimetre fencing to encroach into the turf.

"The Sunshine Stars team manager was first to run onto the pitch. He left his seat and ran straight to the centre circle. Our fans on seeing this decided to leave the stands and encroach the field. As much as we tried to stop them it was difficult," the Kwara United image-maker disclosed.

Sunshine Stars' head coach, Gbenga Ogunbote defended that the home side's claim for a penalty was unfounded.

He added that the fans of the host team took laws into their hands by invaded the pitch after the referee turned down a penalty appeal.

"I didn't see our team manager run onto the pitch when the match was ongoing. The score was 1-1 at the time and because the referee didn't award them a penalty, which was not honestly a penalty in my own opinion, their fans left the stands and ran onto the pitch attacking anyone in sight," said Ogunbote, who said he was lucky to escape without being hurt.

Assault on match officials
A source at the stadium told that the referees were allegedly beaten up by the fans. But Olaeoye defended that the match referees were not assaulted. He claimed that the policemen on ground protected the referees out of the stadium.

"That's not true (that the referees were beaten up). We made sure that they got protection from the policemen on ground, who escorted them out of the stadium," he claimed.

Attack on Sunshine Stars
Ogunbote, however claimed that nine of his players were allegedly attacked following the violence that erupted at the stadium. He added that goalkeeper Moses Ocheje and Alaba Osawe were stabbed with broken bottles while striker Ukeyima Akombo was "beaten mercilessly."

"What happened yesterday (on Saturday) was terrible. I was lucky to escape because I was standing when the fans started attacking everyone on the pitch. Nine of my players are injured as a result of this and the worst of them are Ocheje and Osawe who were stabbed with broken bottles.

"Another of our player, Akombo was beaten mercilessly. They were all taken to a hospital for treatment. And the doctor told us that Osawe was very fortunate to escape serious bodily harm as the wounds from the stab on him was bad," Ogunbote said.

Ogunbote further claimed that the reserve jerseys of his team were stolen by angry Ilorin fans.

NPL statement
The league arbiter is yet to make an official statement on the Ilorin melee, according to the NPL acting executive secretary, Tunji Babalola. He denied reports saying Kwara United have been banished to Calabar or Abuja.

The NPL is expected to make an official statement on Monday after the match commissioner, Bala Umar from Plateau would have submitted his report.

"It's not true. The NPL hasn't taken any decision on the matter yet. We will go through the match commissioner's report and make our decision official in a statement. For now, we have not taken any decision," he said.

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