HEARTLAND FC CRISIS:
REMEMBERING ‘BASH’ REBRAND MAGIC ON HEARTLAND AND NDUBUOKE’S HISTORY IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT
Recently, our darling Heartland Football FC, disappointedly crashed so terribly against Mountain of Fire FC and this time at home.
This readily brings to mind the ceaseless turbulence in the club’s sporting journey.
Just before the emergence of sports loving Governor of Imo State, Governor Emeka Ihedioha CON, Imo was generally woeful in sports development.
It was rather a pitiable situation for the Heartland FC handler, Goodfaith Chibuzo Etuemena popularly known as Bash. This was even as he had tread on a very thing rope like we have in a circus to remain afloat.
One thing no one can take away from him was his penchant for excellence and good image of the club, despite the nonchalant attitude of the past administration towards sports among which football was not spared. Little wonder, it is easy to say that it was an administration of wobbling and fumbling.
In hia testimony, Kelechi Nwachukwu said; “the truth remains that in August, 2016 when Bash assumed office as Chairman of Heartland FC, the club was already seated in relegation waters at 18th position after 33 matches and with only five matches left to the end of the season. The 33 matches were all executed by the management led by Hon. Ugonna Ozuruigbo a. k. a. OZB which had Solomon Onu as a key member.
“I can remember five remaining league matches, Gombe Utd and Ikorodu Utd were home while El-Kanemi Warriors, Sunshine Stars and Plateau Utd were away. At this point, it must be noted that Bash was to do the herculean task of rescuing the team from relegation using only players already recruited by the predecessor and he did not drop any official either.
“After winning the home game against Gombe Utd, Heartland FC jumped to 16th position but just a few days later, the decision of the LMC deducting three points and three goals from Heartland FC as a result of the fight in a previous game with Ifeanyi Uba, was communicated. Bash was not the one in charge when the fight and punishment was decided but had to inherit the liability. This again worsened the situation.
“In the away game against El-Kanemi, the players were involved in an accident on the streets of Maiduguri while going to honour the match and many had to play with injury because the LMC which had already fixed a deadline for the closing of the league season could not give an extension longer than just few days postponement.
“The home loss to Ikorodu was regrettable but that was not the only reason Heartland was relegated. That very season, Heartland FC had lost and drawn many home matches which put the team in that precarious situation before Bash arrived.
“Under Bash, Heartland did secure a vital away point in Sunshine which gave them a hope in the last match with Plateau Utd in Jos.
“The list of referees for the last game of the season was released about a day before the match and though, there were concerns in some quartres, the management did not have enough and convincing reasons under that short notice, to cause or persuade the LMC to change the referees for Plateau vs Heartland FC match out of all the referees pencilled down for the last matches in 19 different centres.
“Anyway, the final match in Jos which saw to Heartland FC’ relegation in 2016 is still a controversy in the annals of Nigeria league officiating.
“Of course, Bash being the person in charge on the day relegation was pronounced on Heartland FC can vicariously own up the blame but to show that he knew his onions, he quickly fought and brought the team back to premiership.
“Again, the fact that he was in charge for those last five matches, does not exonerate those who instigated internal crises and instability in the team which began with the removal of Fan Ndubuoke, ran through the period of Okey Ibe and then to the period that OZB was in charge.
“As stated above, Bash met a Heartland that was already engulfed in management crises and the team at that time was also technically relegated( two home matches and three away matches to the end of season in a Nigerian league).
“Bash was not in charge when Papilo FC defeated Heartland FC for the Imo State FA Cup as claimed by few persons.
“Heartland FC’ retrogression began when the team could not honour it’s return-leg match in the 2013 CAF Confederation Cup. Then, came the policy of substituting the Sign on fee in place of an enhanced salary package or structure which made many quality talented players and coaches to abandon the club one after the other. On top of that was the ensuing animosity and silent battles occasioned by constant removal of Chairmen or General managers of the club.
“In three years, Bash tried to build a new team from the ashes of ruin and at the same time, repackaged the image of the club.
“What he achieved in terms of repackaging the club as a viable business entity to which the organized private sector could associate and subscribe to within a short time of his reign, remains unequalled. With him,we saw a Heartland that suddenly became an international brand gaining sponsorships and partnerships at home and abroad.
“Players’ welfare was given utmost priority.
Salaries and bonuses were promptly paid in addition to many other motivations. The team wore the best quality jerseys in the Nigerian league and could also fly by air to honour away league matches.
“Another area Bash scored high points but which these two are not acknowledging is that Bash healed old wounds in Heartland.
He usually would get down to the roots of the matter in other to correct either real or perceived wrongs perpetuated or claimed to have been perpetuated by previous Iwuanyanwu National and Heartland FC management teams.
“Under Bash, the same team which could not honour it’s continental match(under the same state government) to Gabon in 2013, was able to embark on an internally financed three-week preseason training tour to Turkey in 2018.
“Also, under Bash, the Heartland FC ran four teams. The main team, the Team B, The U-15 and the U-12 team which was just in the formative stage. The Team B got to the finals of the Nation-wide league and only lost at the play-off which would have seen it enter the NNL. The same Team B got to the national FA Cup Round of 64. Both feat are records in Heartland FC as no previous management had paid attention to the youth team as that by Bash.
“What this signified is that Bash had better vision and plan on how to run a modern club with emphasis on youth and talent development.
“An example is the case of Mr. Fan Ndubuoke who was appointed as Heartland FC Chairman by the government of Chief Ikedi Ohakim in October, 2010 but was retained by the government of Owelle Rochas Okorocha after he came to power in May, 2011. Ndubuoke went ahead to serve under Okorocha for more than three years.
“The fact is that the true stories are known to Imolites. They may be silent now, but they know what is going on.
Bash is not a politician, he bears no grudge against anyone over his removal but records must not be twisted in other to blackmail him.”
Beyond Kelechi Nwachukwu’s position in defence of his boss Bash, it will be foolhardy for anyone to begin to pretend that Bash was bereft of vision of where he wanted Heartland FC to be.
Bash showed patriotism and believed in development of the young talents. This can be appreciated by his effort in trying to groom and expose talents through his partners.
Lists of players who are today making waves within and outside Nigeria as a result of Goodfaith’s nurturing are endless.
Bash has been variously recognised for his his leadership.
EKO 2018 Super 4 witnessed his distinguished recognition as Best Club President.
Heartland FC also emerged 2016/2017 League Aeason Best Behaves Team (EKO 2018 Super 4)
The Sports Unit of My Radio Fm also honoured Bash with the Distinguished Leadership award.
Sports Writers Association of Nigeria also celebrated his leadership with a merit award as Football Trail Blazer and friend if SWAN.
Fan Ndubuoke also being an experienced and award winning Sports Administrator with his exposure, it is expected that he should show disinterestedness in sports affairs in the state but be more concerned with issues that would bring about progress and development.
All eyes are on him as to what he will do to change the tide. With the early crisis already creeping into the Naze Millionaires, he needs no soothsayer to understand the harm this might cause the club if not nipped in the board.
Under Ndubuoke’s administration as Heartland Boss, he also passed through crucibles but he held his own. He ended with a bang, winning FA cup, which threw up some hope in the polity.
Fortunately, the present Governor of Imo State, Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha is a sports lover. His antecedents with sports is there for anyone to appreciate.
For love of sports, we are aware of his policy to develop sports at the local government levels. He created sports commission superintended by Chief Fan Ndubuoke. This is the time to encourage him to do more.
Like Edmund Burke beleives, the father of conservatism, there is no need doing away with ideals that work.
If Bash is a good Manager, it does not the matter which government employed, we believe that Fan Ndubuoke as father, should be able to bring everybody together to move sports forward.
NewaTrack purposely edited out Solomon Onu and Ori Martin’s stance on the vexatious issues, including blame games, it should not be the spirit for those who wish to turn around already bad situation.
It is expected that very soon, right things will be done and Imolites will look forward to having a reinvigorated Heartland FC.