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Although Enugu was the cynosure of all eyes when the curtain was drawn in this year’s league last weekend, Umuahia was a place where there was also wild celebration.
Abia Warriors who started the season on a wonderful note going 10 matches unbeaten were close to being relegated before they pulled the chest nut out of fire.
Warriors got one vital point away in Port Harcourt against title chasing Rivers United in week 37 to be in good stead to remain in the elite class. They thereafter returned home and got the job completed with a 2-1 victory over 3SC on the very last day.
Club chairman Emeka Inyama in this chat with Saturday Sunsports said it would have been an outright disaster if Warriors had gone down.
Enjoy the interview.
Your club started the season well. What went wrong?
Inyama: It is difficult to explain. We started the season well and our target was to finish in the top bracket, even if we fail to win the title. Our target was to at least get a continental ticket. We have a good team and a sound coach in Kennedy Boboye. But we fought many enemies within, people who wanted the club to go down. But we fought them back with prayers and you can see that the good Lord answered our prayers. The Lord that started the miracle in Port Harcourt where we got the draw we needed did not fail us at home in Umuahia when we hosted 3SC.
How motivated was the team, were the boys not treated well as the season progressed?
Inyama: This team remains one of the most motivated side in the league. I can beat my chest and boast about that. We take players welfare as number one priority. We don’t owe salaries and we have an administrative set up that is unique. Come to our secretariat and see things yourself. So, our sudden drop had nothing to do with the team not being motivated. Given the level of support we receive from His Excellency Okezie Ikpeazu, it would have been a disaster if we had gone down. I m happy those who wanted to see the club go down by fettish means failed.
Moving forward, the state government has big plans for the team. The Umuahia stadium pitch is to be renovated after that of Enyimba. Our club house project is also there. Abia Warriors would in the near future be run like any modern professional club in the world. Relegation would have shattered all these.
Again to the glory of God, I m an administrator that has never failed in any thing that I have ventured into. I thank God I m making a success story out of the Abia Warriors job. I thank the governor for believing in me.
Do you think the sale of Chikatara affected the team?
Inyama: I really don’t think that was our problem. Agreed we missed Chikatara in the team, but we had other good legs. As I said earlier, we know where we had problems and we thank God we were able to solve the problem without it leading us into relegation. You can imagine a team that started so well only to be losing games right here at home. That was why we didn’t want to sack Boboye even in the midst of poor results, until he (Boboye) opted to resign on his own. We knew what we were passing through was largely not a technical problem.
what are your plans for next season?
Inyama: We will go back to the drawing board and re strategize. We would try and retain a good number of our players as we have always done. In fact, I m sure none of our players would want to leave because they are enjoying their stay here. But those that fail to meet the disciplinary standard we would show the exit door because here we pay high premium to discipline.
Your take on the 2016 season, the performance of LMC, refs etc?
Inyama: I think we have had a wonderful season. The LMC has done well on all fronts. The league is being taken to the next level. You can see the massive turn out of fans. The referees have also done a good job. Teams are now getting results on the road. If it was some seasons back, getting a draw in Port Harcourt would have been an outright impossible mission. The league can only get better. I urge corporate sponsors to throw their weight behind the league ahead of the next season.