Chairman of Ifeanyi Ubah Football Club (FCIU), Dr Ifeanyi Ubah said its challenging to run a football club successfully in Nigeria.
He made this remarks during a chat with THE SPORTDIVAin Abuja. The Senator-Elect said passion is the only factor that keeps him going in the football business.
“The challenges have been 90% against 10%. 90% on the wrong side and 10% on the good side. The 10% is about the name and the passion that I have for football. 90% is the expenditure and many people talking about a man managing his own football club in bad light, which is none of their business. Nobody is doing what I am doing in Nigerian football. No Nigerian had invested in Nigerian football more than me,” he said.
Speaking further about the strategy of FCIU, Dr Ubah said his team has carried out the necessary research in Nigerian football and they decided to field young athletes from the grassroots.
“We have studied the Nigerian Football terrain, and we have come back to the basic. We did a study on Nigerian football and discovered that it was unnecessary parading football mega stars which cost the club a lot of money. So we decided to go to the grassroots.”
“We also decided to look at the MFM template and we found out that it was a very good template that focused on the grassroot. You know that FC Ifeanyi Ubah started with top football stars.”
“We started with some Brazilians, but we decide that first and foremost as a private club, we must look at the cost of running the club knowing fully well that so many players came in and many never had impact on the club.”
“So, we took a very deep and realistic stand. We had to start working with the grassroot football talents. We had to start finding them young and if you look at FC Ifeanyi Ubah today, you will not see any known name in the Nigerian league.
“The players we have now are all very young and we intend to continue with this template.”
“We will continue to work very hard to remain in the NPFL. We know that the players at the first instance, they will be jittery of playing against big players, there will be a lot of psychological imbalance, but by the time the players gets to the second and third year in the league, they would have improved greatly.”
“Our template is to give it five years test. Nobody knows where we would be. Our focus is to remain in the premier league, he explained.
Talking about the process of club administration, he said, “Investing in Nigerian football is a lot of stress. Also, the Nigerian context, how would you take a vehicle from Nnewi to Maiduguri. You have to go for two days if you don’t want to go by flight. There are lots of things not going on well for a private club in Nigeria.”
‘To compete against state owned clubs is not easy. These clubs gets funding from their states. You see Enugu state governor is investing in Rangers. Rivers state governor is investing in Rivers United. Abia state governor is investing in both Abia Warriors and Enyimba. But in my state, Anambra, my governor is not investing one naira in my club, he stressed.
“For the first years in NPFL, the only time we got money from Anambra state governor was when the club won the Federation Cup and it was N10m which cannot even pay the salary of my players for one month.
Speaking further about FCIU’s deal with the team sitting on the 11th slot of the English Premier League table – West Ham United, Dr Ubah revealed that some of his team players are currently plying their trade in West Ham United.
“We have some of our young players in West Ham United. We have performance data of our players and we regularly send it to West Ham United and through the partnership with West Ham United, we have been able to send our players to other clubs outside London.”
“The partnership is working very well. We are also looking at investors too; how West Ham United can also invest in Nigeria football but, because of little or less visibility of people involved in the Nigerian football sponsorship, it scares other people away,” he added.
He continued by saying that, “If for an example, BETWAY is sponsoring the Nigerian League, and you see other international brands like Heineken investing in the Nigerian football but they look at these things. International brands do not find the Nigerian football structure attractive for sponsorship. We will keep on working hard to get to the standard where Nigerian football can be attractive for more sponsorship from other international brands.”
However, the billionaire businessman says he doesn’t have any regret investing in Nigerian Football.
“I don’t think there is any regret investing in Nigerian football, personally. The only thing I know is that they don’t have good listening ears. That is the truth,” he concluded.