BY IHUNANYA OKOYE
It was jubilation without limits and similar to a broken marriage restored back to life as Enyimba fans from all walks of life converged at the newly renovated Enyimba stadium located in Aba, Abia state, Nigeria to welcome home their beloved team, Enyimba Football Club as the state officially commissioned the stadium on August 26, 2018.
After three years of exile in stadias, namely: Umuahia Township stadium, U.J Esuene stadium in Calabar and the Adokiye Amesiemeka stadium in Calabar; Enyimba FC is finally back to their base.
The story of the refurbished Enyimba stadium will not be complete without mentioning the brains behind it in the persons of the state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu and the contractor, Mr. Ebi Egbe who survived missiles in form of criticsms from the fans of the club to deliver a world class stadium.
THE QUALITIES OF ENYIMBA STADIUM THAT STANDS IT OUT FROM THE REST
Among the equipments installed at the Enyimba stadium are the natural and synthetic fusion pitch which according to the contractor costs the Abia state government 1.5 million euros. The contractor further said that the pitch accomodates 1,600 metres of drainage and 6,000 square metres of the outer area concretisation. According to the contractor, the Abia state government released another 300,000 dollars for the installation of the latest technology in LED Floodlight.
What more? The VIP and hospitality areas of the stadium were upgraded in line with the 21st century standards. The state government also constructed 32 public toilets in the stadium and added more entrance and exit gates bringing th total number of gates to 12.
Also refurbished in the stadium were the basketball, volleyball and handball courts as well as the sports hall and gym. The stadium also as a perimeter fence for security.
Unfortunately for the Enyimba stadium, it does not have a track for athletes to train on. According to an official of the club, track and field athletes at the moment train at the Umuahia township stadium or school environments. The club official said the absence of the track was the fault of those who constructed the original
plan of the stadium. He adds that if the track would be constructed in future ; then the spectators stand and other buildings in the stadium would have to be demolished.
The official also pointed fingers at the original plan of the stadium for the inability of the contractor to remove the pillars that holds the roof of the spectators stand. According to him, demolition of the buildings in the stadium must take place before the pillars can be removed. It would be noted that the pillars at the Enyimba stadium have in the past years deprived fans the comfort of viewing games at the stadium.
On the maintenance of the pitch, the contractor, Mr. Ebi Egbe expressed willingness on the part of the state government to maintain it as at when due. However, most fans of the club think otherwise, saying they will “believe it when they see it .” We cannot blame the fans for having such negative conception, afterall, most stadia in Nigeria that are in a bad shape were assured of regular maintenance by federal and state governments.
NOW TO THE QUESTION , CAN ENYIMBA STADIUM HOST INTERNATIONAL GAMES
Mr. Ebi Egbe is of the opinion that the newly renovated Enyimba stadium can host international games because the stadium now has the necessary equipments to do so despite the absence of the track and the viewing obstruction of the pillars.
The secretary of the club, Mr. Chibuzor Nwaogu also agrees that Enyimba can host international games but points out that the location of the stadium can be a snag. For those who have not been at the Enyimba FC stadium, it is located in the middle of a popular market in Aba known as ” Ahia Ohuru” which makes the road to the stadium crowdy and somehow impossible for fans to get to the stadium when games are fixed on market days.
Proffering solution, Mr. Nwaogu said that the only way Enyimba can host international games now is for the state government to order traders who sell along the road leading to the stadium to move into the main market to allow smooth and easy entry into the stadium on any match day.
Another option according to Mr. Nwaogu is for the state government to relocate the market to another area in Aba.
On the stadium capacity which hosts up to 20,000 fans, Mr. Egbe posited that Enyimba FC stadium capacity is a bit equal to the other stadia in Nigeria that have hosted international games.
An investigative report revealed that : the Stephen Keshi stadium in Asaba, Delta state has 22,000 capacity for fans, Ahmadu Bello stadium in Kaduna has 16,000, Godswill Akpabio stadium in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state has 30,000 and UJ Esuene stadium in Calabar, Cross River state accomodates 35,000.
In other stadia in the country: Adokiye Amiesiemeka located in Port Harcourt, Rivers state has 38,000 capacity, Sani Abacha stadium in Kano state has 16,000 and Warri township stadium can contain 20,000 fans.
with the above report, it can be deduced that Enyimba FC stadium which is the correct name according to a club official can host international games only if the Abia state government makes the route to the stadium passable, advertise the stadium often and play the politics of the game.