Remo’s classless statement on their fans’ assault on ref shows tacit culpability

By Daily Sports on January 22, 2019

Views: 1,146

Newly promoted Edo state based Bendel Insurance FC of Benin City began their new life in the top flight of Nigerian football (NPFL) in heartwarming fashion for their supporters around the world as they went and got a1-1 draw away against another just-promoted club, Remo Stars on Sunday, January 20.  The encounter took place in the latter’s Shagamu base with Insurance shooting into the lead through old warhorse Charles Omokaro in the first half. 

Remo drew level in the second half through Victor Mbaoma but violence was to ensue after the game following a disallowed goal which Remo thought they had scored in the second stanza of the match. 

News reports have it that center referee Bethel Newness was mercilessly attacked and brutalized by fans of Remo FC after the game.

This is a sad reminder that Nigeria’s domestic club football has surely still not come of age. At a time in world football when mouthing racist comments against a player in the stands is coming under big scrutiny and culprits receiving the deserved condemnation and punishment is a given, Nigeria’s league football is still enmeshed in the barbarism of players and match officials coming under direct physical brutality in the hands of hooligans from the stands. 

Intimidating referees and other match officials is something that has stuck in the Nigerian game and there’s evidence aplenty for any constant visitor to Nigerian stadia where local League matches take place that violence (or threats to use it) is a tool many, if not all, clubs across the divisions of the local game tacitly encourage as a last resort to win at all costs. 

The evidence of this can be glimpsed from the official reaction of Remo Stars to the ugly attack on ref Nwanesi. While ostensibly condemning the brutal attack on the ref, Remo Stars couldn’t hide their disdain of the official by alleging that he made questionable calls against them throughout the game, including the decision to rule out their goal. 

It is quite classless for a professional clubside to include a tacit justification for the physical assault of a referee supposedly under its protection, despite its assertion to the contrary. 

When a club so openly offers a negative comment on a referee’s performance in the context of reacting to a matter as severe as the bloody assault of the referee by its supporters, then one can best imagine what that club could have done outside the watching eyes to encourage the violence meted out on the referee in the heat of the moment of the immediate aftermath of the match. 

While Remo must now face the full wrath of the football laws with regard to the barbarism of its fans, it is important to acknowledge that the problem of physical assaults on refs in the Nigerian league is only a symptom of the general malaise of the organisation of league football in the country and not the cause. 

With the management of club sides desperate for success, bribing referees and making home stadia unduly hostile to the opposition, while relaxing security to its barest minimum are things that are still very much associated with all the clubs in the country.  

When one sees the photos of a battered referee, how does it make going to the stadium to watch league games attractive? Who wants his kids to be in such toxic environments?

For many years now, there have been calls from a few saner heads for a more sober reflection on the ills of insecurity and corruption in the Nigerian league to be followed by the implementation of tough safeguards to ensure that what led directly and remotely to the kind of unfortunate incident witnessed in Sagamu last week does not reoccur. But too little has been achieved in this regard as violent fans still have their way and genuine suspicions of corruption all across the different levels of the running of the game still holds sway. 

Until such a time when state governors or top government officials won't walk into stadiums with hordes of hooligans mixing with SSS personnel and making threats to match officials; until such a time when we can have skilled match stewards, the likes of which we see in the English Premier League, who are empowered to identify and throw out any fan crossing the boundaries of sane self-conduct during games; until a time when refs will be scrutinised for any traces of corruption and evidence of such acted upon fairly and firmly, the Nigerian league will continue to lag behind in its current state of being largely too unattractive to worth one contemplating ignoring the chance of going to a viewing center on any given weekend to watch the Arsenals and Chelseas of this world for the experience of going to the stadium to watch the Remos of Nigerian league football. 


Photo shows battered referee Nwanesi receiving treatment. 

Source Daily Sports

Posted January 22, 2019

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