Ikpea recounts Supporters Club experience in Cote d’Ivoire

..Says Club deserves govt and NFF support

By Ifeanyi Eduzor

Few weeks after the 2023 AFCON finals in Cote d’Ivoire in which the Super Eagles came back with silver medal, National Chairman of Nigeria Football Supporters Club, Rev. Ambassador Samuel Ikpea is still sad over the ugly experience the club had in the tournament just as he regretted that there was no government support for the unseen twelve member of the National team.

Recounting their experience to, Ikpea noted that the club travelled by road for three days to the West African country positing that they had the good, bad and terrible experience at the tournament.

” You know that January is always a tough month and considering the high cost of flight ticket, we decided to go by road. We did all the documentation, put our buses in order and hired some while members paid for their transport fare.

“But in all these, we got no assistance from the NFF which was wrong because it is a Nigerian project and I believe that every Nigerian is supposed to corporate for it to be a success.

” On our way, we went through all boarder formalities and getting to Abidjan, we discovered it was not an easy road to cross in terms of accommodation. Things were very expensive and considering our large number, we were spending close to a million naira every day on accommodation alone.

According to Ikpea, things became so bad that at a stage they almost ran out of money but were lucky that the owner of the hotel is a Nigerian positing that if the owner was to be an Ivorian, news would have gone viral that they were not able to pay for their accommodation.

” Accommodation was one of the greatest challenges we faced in Cote d’Ivoire but thank God that the owner of the hotel is a Nigerian. Kudos must however go to Damila Industries, makers of Classic Peanuts, our new Patron, Dr Musa Segun who was there to assist us and the makers of Goldberg, Life Beer and Zik Energy Drink who supported us financially and made the burden on the club less.

” We also had problem of feeding and match tickets. Getting tickets was not easy. NFF gave limited tickets to us but had to increase it when they discovered we were actually on ground with large numbers but this could also not go round l.

” At the beginning of the championship, a ticket was sold for 5,000 CFA which is equivalent to N10,000. So, if you want to buy 100 tickets, you know what it will cost”, he stressed.

Ikpea lamented that they tried all their best reaching out to Government and Ministry of Sports Development but nothing came out of it neither was there any government support to the club nor the Ministry just as he stated that efforts to have meaningful discussion with the Nigerian Embassy in that country was unsuccessful as the Embassy claimed they received a letter from the NFF informing them that there was no Supporters Club on ground in Cote d’Ivoire but that the NFF when confronted denied writing any such letter.

” I want to say it that there was no type of support from either the government or the Sports Ministry. We tried having series of meetings with the Ministry but each time they will come up with the excuse that we’re not united but that to me is not a genuine excuse because we all were at the stadium supporting the team and we have a leader through whom they can channel their support”, he stated

On how they surmounted some of their financial difficulties without government support, he explained that they got in touch with the President of Nigeria Community in that country who actually helped them .

” At a stage, we got in contact with the President of Nigeria Community in Cote d’Ivoire who promised to help us and he actually did.

“When one of our buses had gear problem, he took us to his Spare Parts shop, gave us the parts and Engine oil to fix the vehicle

” We also have another good Nigerian who incidentally is from my state, Edo State by name John Imoke. When they told him that somebody from his state is the leader of Nigeria Supporters Club; though he’s not a sports lover, but he picked interest in us.

” He’s a very wealthy man in that country. He fed about 200 of us for two days, hosted my birthday and when we were going for the semi-final match in Boauke, he hired a bus for us because we were not sure that our bus will make the six hours journey to and fro from Abidjan to Boauke. Infact he was the man God sent to rescue us”, he noted.

Ikpea expressed surprise that not minding their patriotism, commitment and love for the country, no member of the club was deemed good enough for a national award.

” It’s surprising that the government gave national award, land and flats to members of the Super Eagles and their coaching crew without anyone saying thank you to the Supporters Club which to me is an anomaly.

” Super Eagles players and their coaches are like Civil Servants and they’re paid for their services to the nation but here in our club, you see people who are doing a thankless and selfless job.

” We abandoned our families and our businesses for close to a month. We used our hard earned money, dedicated our time and risked our lives to support the team. In some cases, we have been attacked, our buses shot at, water, stones, bottles and other dangerous weapons thrown at us, yet nobody is appreciating what we’re doing

*We’ ve been doing this since 1955 risking our lives. When we traveled to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup, we traveled from Sao Paulo to Brasillia on road for three days and yet nobody is appreciating us”, he lamented.

Ikpea appealed to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Sports Ministry and every other stakeholder including the NFF to look on the achievements of the club and appreciate the members appropriately noting that it will not be too much for some members to be considered for national award just as he stated that there is need for government, the Sports Ministry and the NFF to give financial support to the club whenever they are traveling to support the national teams

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