The Super Eagles clash with the Chipolopolo of Zambia may go ahead without the traditional trumpets and songs of the Nigerian Football Supporters Club as they’ve been dropped by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for the Ndola trip.
The NFF reached the decision just before the team left Abuja on a chartered Arik Air Flight to Ndola, as members of the supporters club were mired in internal wrangling.
Two factions of the Supporters Club – led by Rafiu Ladipo and Vincent Okumagbo – stormed the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport Saturday morning laying claims to being the authentic version of the fans’ body, and could not find a common front when the NFF asked them to do so.
Guardian reports that the Okumagba faction suggested the federation picked 10 of their members and another 10 from the other group, but Ladipo allegedly dismissed that suggestion, arguing that Okumagba had no right to suggest who would make the trip because ‘he has been suspended by the national body.’
Hence NFF President Amaju Pinnick, decided to ditch the supporters, claiming it would be a big distraction to the ambition of the Super Eagles in Zambia if the factions took their fight to Ndola.
“We don’t need such distractions. If the supporters cannot put their house in order, there is no other option than to drop them from our trip,” Pinnick said.
“Right now, all we need is a united front to beat Zambia in our opening group game because that is the only way we can begin to think of winning our group.”
A member of the Ladipo group later accused the NFF of bias because “Okumagba and Pinnick are from the same state,” although his claim was dismissed by an NFF official who said stopping the factions from the trip was the last resort as the federation had tried severally to unify the groups to no avail.
“This issue cropped up during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the then NFF leadership could not resolve it because the factions refused to shift grounds.
“The main issue is that some people feel that Ladipo has no right to continue claiming the leadership of the group because they have elected leaders. But because of what Ladipo feels he has done for the club, the man does not want to go.
”It is unfortunate that we are going to Zambia without supporters club because they help in pushing our boys to success even in the face of adversity,” he said.
The long-running dispute has seen the supporters club lose their top place on the continent to the Allez Casa of Senegal.