Stakeholders have called for sanctions on reigning champions of the Nigeria Premier Football League, Enyimba, following the handwritten jersey number worn by Innocent Gabriel during their clash against Wydad FC in the African Football League in Uyo on Sunday.
The nine-time NPFL champions played host to the Moroccans at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in the first leg of the quarter-finals in the African Football League.
Defender Gabriel’s jersey No.3 was handwritten instead of it printed, which sparked criticisms.
A top official of the club played down the anomaly, saying it was as a result of a mixup between continental body CAF and two-time African champions Enyimba.
“Basically, there was a mix-up during the registration with CAF. Innocent Gabriel’s squad number is 5 but we realised they registered him as number 3 on the CAF system. We realised late and we just had to improvise,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
But Shuaib Gara-Gombe, a former Chairman of the Gombe State FA, said Enyimba’s mistake was a disgrace to the country’s football.
“For a team like Enyimba there is no excuse for such an act because they were informed that they would be playing in the Africa Football League and that competition is a tournament of its own and different from the League and even the CAF Champions League,” he said.
“Enyimba should be above writing the name and number of a player with a marker in an international game, it is an embarrassment and totally unacceptable and therefore they should be heavily sanctioned.”
Retired Nigeria striker Victor Ezeji, who won the CAF Champions League with Enyimba, was also left disappointed.
“In as much as there was a mix-up, whose fault was it because they gave their squad numbers to CAF, not CAF giving to them, so where was the mix-up coming from?
“Let’s agree it was a mistake, but who made the mistake? In a situation where something like this happens, somebody’s head has to roll because it was a major disgrace to Nigerian football. It’s a continental game that the whole world watched, it is not acceptable.
“That mistake was an avoidable one if they had done the right thing because when I was playing with Club Africain in Tunisia we used to travel with a small printing machine, these are things that our clubs should be looking at but the problem still lies with the fact that we are used to wearing just one jersey and even when it gets torn there is no replacement for it.”
He added, “I know there are printing presses in Uyo that they could have quickly used but they have seen it as our usual way and they used a marker. Now, look at the embarrassment they brought on the country.”
Journalist, Osasu Obayiuwana, added on Twitter, “You think Stake, your shirt sponsor, will be happy with this rubbish, @EnyimbaFC?
“I am sure they won’t be taking kindly to the jokes and derision the brand they are associated with is currently at the very rude end of, when the #AFL should be a good PR window for them.”
Eljumick tweeted, “You see why (Nwankwo) Kanu is not fit for this job? What sort of rubbish is this? Please @alexottiofr what sort of embarrassment is this? Aba alone have a lot of printing companies. What’s this na???”
Raph added, “Let’s keep making a mockery of ourselves. Enyimba has a lot to learn from the new generation clubs like Sporting Lagos and Remo Stars. Living on past glory won’t take them far anymore.”
Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.