Torrents of commendations have continued to pour in for Nnewi-born billionaire and Proprietor of top Nigerian Professional Football League side, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, following the successful football partnership deal his club signed with English Premiership side, West Ham United.
This came as West Ham United, stormed Nigeria between October 5-6 to further consolidate its partnership deal with FC Ifeanyi Ubah, as well as hold technical discussions with the club and the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, on the way forward towards developing young talents and the Nigerian football in general.
Last Wednesday, icons of the Nigerian sports industry, ex-internationals, sports journalists, football administrators and stakeholders converged at the Eko Signature Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos, to witness the historic visit of English Premiership side, West Ham United to Nigeria, even as they were entreated by Dr. Ubah to an elaborate dinner.
The meeting which gave life to the partnership deal between the Hammers and FC Ifeanyi Ubah, also saw journalists engaging Dr. Ubah and the Managing Director, West Ham United, Mr. Angus Kinnear in an interactive session bordering on the essence of the partnership deal, as well as the way forward for the development of Nigerian football.
Eminent sports icons, administrators and ex-internationals who graced the event were the Chairman Senate on Sports, Sen. Obinna Ogba; President, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah; Managing Director, West Ham United, Mr. Angus Kinnear; President NFF, Amaju Pinnick; Chairman, League Management Company, LMC, Malam Shehu Dikko; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Sports, Christian Ohaa, who represented the Minister of Youths and Sports, Solomon Dalung.
Others were Chairman, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Mr. Chukwuma Ubah; Technical Director of FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Mitko Dobrev; Head Coach of FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Rafael Everton; ex-internationals Henry Nwosu, Julius Aghahowa, Peter Rufai, Victor Ikpeba, Pastor Taribo West and Victor Aghali, Joseph Yobo, among others.
Also in attendance were President-General Nigerian Football Supporters Club, Dr. Rafiu Ladipo; former Super Eagles Head Coach, Ambassador Fani Amun; Super Eagles Midfielder, John Ogu; Chinedu Harryson, Guiness Book of Record Holder for holding a ball on his head from Redeemed Camp to National Stadium among others.
New vista in football development
However, lauding the success of the partnership deal, NFF President, Amaju Pinnick stated that Ubah has created a new vista for football development in Nigeria.
Pinnick said: “I must say with the entry of Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah into the Nigerian Professional League, he has been able to refocus, rebrand and rebrand football in Nigeria. I was opportune to talk with one of the NFF sponsors, and he was asking, ‘who is this Ifeanyi Ubah that is going to bring Brazilians to play in the NPFL?’ I know someday, players from England will come to play in his club. Ifeanyi Ubah is a very ambitious man.
“I want to thank him and saying that he has created a new vista for football development in Nigeria. I will also call on other prominent and eminent Nigerians to emulate what Ifeanyi Ubah is doing. This is very key to the development of our football and sports sector. Off course, we want to buy English Premier League clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, but we also need to develop our own here in Nigeria. We also need to partner with clubs here, we have to chart a new course for the enormous talents we have in this country.
“In every part of Nigeria, there is enough talents. For instance. When FIFA President Gianni Infantino visited Nigeria, while in my car driving from the Airport in Abuja, he was busy looking at both sides of the road. When we got to Abuja National Stadium, he said to me, ‘Pinnick, I counted three football pitches. From the Airport, people were p,aging football on a Sunday. Nigeria, indeed, is a blessed nation.’ Those were the words of President Infantino.
“So, the blessings that are there to be discovered are being nurtured, conditioned and primed for greatness by the likes of Chief Ifeanyi Ubah. We must always commend him. If we have 20 Ifeanyi Ubahs in Nigeria, doing what he’s doing now, our sports industry will be better for it.”
According to the NFF President, “Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, is a man that doesn’t care how much it costs, he just wants to do it and do it right. Now, he’s partnering with West Ham United. Well, I am very happy with this partnership because we know that West Ham United is a club that is so popular in England, especially in East London. West Ham, last season, did so great in the English Premier League, that qualified them for the Europa League.
“West Ham has a very teeming population and fans. People are very fanatical about West Ham United. The club has a very rich history. So, I want to believe that FC Ifeanyi Ubah is in the right place with their partnership with West Ham United. West Ham United is a massive club, that not just believes in English players, but also in African players and players from other nationalities. I can assure you that this Union has come to stay.
“If all the clubs in the NPFL go into this kind of partnership, even with clubs in developing nations, our football will be better for it. Our clubs need to go beyond their confined to tap into the endowment of other nations. Our clubs need to go into technical partnerships like this. Thank God the LMC has a similar partnership with La liga. I want to again, give kudos to the management of FC Ifeanyi Ubah, they have blazed the trail.”
Our biggest task in NPLF
Similarly, the Chairman, League Management Company, LMC, Malam Shehu Dikko, stated that “indeed, what Chief Ifeanyi Ubah is doing is the vision we have for the Nigerian football. We have sat down with everybody in the Nigerian football federation, the League Management Company and the clubs, and discovered that the biggest task we have to develop the Nigerian football, is to bring it to the hearts of the fans. We need to get back the hearts of our fans to the Nigerian football.
“So, I want to congratulate Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah and West Ham United and everybody who ensured that this partnership deal was a success. My assurance is that the LMC is behind you and I wish you successes.”
Ubah is a man of vision- Kinnear
Speaking at the event, the Managing Director, West Ham United, Mr. Angus Kinnear, thanked Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah for his confidence reposed in West Ham and for inviting him to Nigeria.
He said “the fantastic achievements of FC Ifeanyi Ubah within two years shows that the driver, Dr. Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah is a man of vision. In the next two to 10 years, we want to look back and see that we have created a lot of value in the Nigerian football industry.”
Building a formidable team
However, Speaking at the event, the Proprietor, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah said he has taken a good step by building a formidable team, FC Ifeanyi Ubah.
According to him, the team just joined the NPFL in the 2014/2015 season ended 11th and this season ended 4th.
“This is a laudable feat. We are bringing a lot of professionalism to the team. As you all know we have Brazilian and Bulgarian coaches, with foreign players from Brazil, Niger, Congo, Ghana among other foreign countries,” Ubah said.
He disclosed that as Chairman of the Anambra State Football Association, “Our vision is to get kids involved in football. Nigeria is a nation of over 180million people. Nothing should stop us from producing the future Chiristiano Ronaldo’s and Lionel Messi’s of these world.”
He reiterated the huge investment that sports, particularly football offers, saying it’s so huge even than the allocation of all the tiers of government.
Why we partnered West Ham United
Ubah, however, revealed that “We have over 18 areas why we are partnering with West Ham United. Ranging from scouting, merchandising, going to England to play friendly matches among others,” adding that “with this partnership with West Ham United, we are going to be producing over 50,000 footballers in Anambra soonest.”
According to the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s oil giant, Capital Oil and Gas Industries Ltd, “Our partnership with West Ham United is going to bring a lot of revenue to our club. It will also enable us to explore the potentials of our players in the international football community. It will also help us to give our team a safer platform like our partners and contemporaries in Europe.
“This partnership is on a multi-interest platform. Looking at our ongoing International Stadium, we are getting a lot of input from West Ham United, to build our stadium like the West Ham Olympic Stadium in England. We have a lot of educational input from West Ham United. Their Chief Scout will come to Nigeria three times to scout for young talented players.
“This is a huge booster for the Nigerian football in general. In FC Ifeanyi Ubah, we want to add the best players to our team, so that we can be attractive to them. We are using West Ham as a platform to transfer our players to international football communities. This partnership is of utmost importance to us. It’s my anticipation that before the end of the year, we should have one or two of our players, or two Nigerian players in West Ham United.”
He stated that “We don’t want West Ham to go to countries like Malta to scout for players. We want them to come to Nigeria, to scout for our players, to enable us develop our players. We also aim to extend this partnership across the world- in Italy, France, Spain, Germany among others. But off course, a journey of a million miles starts with a step. Today, our exclusive partner in the United Kingdom is West Ham United, and I believe that West Ham United will treat us well. West Ham must also know what we are doing here to promote them.
“Nigerians used to be a country of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal. I used to be an Arsenal fan, but now I am a fan of West Ham United. We started with our own jersey- Blue, Red and White. As from next season, you will see us in West Ham Jersey. This a big plus for West Ham United, as we are using this innovation to drive a huge traffic to the Hammers.
“Also, football is about competition. What we want in Nigeria, is to have situations whereby the stadium is filled to capacity on every match day. We have achieved this in Nnewi our home soil. Our last match with Enyimba in Nnewi, we had in our stadium over 19,800 spectators coming to feel the game. We are really working hard to see how we can support the growth of football in Nigeria.
“Our Feeder team is one that is important to us too. The ‘football made in Anambra’ that we are organizing will bring together a 50,000 families football fiesta. All these gear towards producing young talented players that we will be giving to West Ham on a platter of gold, thus a first right of refusal. Like I have always said, one player can change the fortune of a state. As we have seen today in Nigeria, we can also see that this is the right steps in the right direction to diversify and move our economy forward.”
Our focus next season
The Chairman, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, Chukwuma Ubah, on his part, said it was the intention of FC Ifeanyi Ubah to get a continental ticket, but said the team ended 4th in the just ended 2015/2016 season of the Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL, saying the team is appreciative of the support it’s getting from Nigerians.
According to him, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, which is billed to play the finales of the Federations Cup, with winner between Enyimba and Nassarawa United, will buckle up next season to win the league, as well as pick a continental ticket.