The shame of the Offa Township stadium

A poor Nigerian Stadium pitch
Nigerians, especially those who watch the Premier League were shell shocked on Saturday when they saw live pictures of the game between Kwara United and Heartland at the Offa Township Stadium.

The pitch was a complete mess, it was dusty, bumpy and brown rather than green and Supersport studio analysts, Nduka Ugbade and Charles Anazodo did not hide their disgust.

But the question Nigerians have asked since is, “How did the Offa Township stadium ever get approved for Nigeria Premier League games?”

“Have we gone to the dark ages of Nigerian football where pitches best suited for horse racing are allowed to host League games?”

The issue has been debated mostly on the web and in one of such groups that discuss the Nigeria Premier League, General Manager, Media of Warri Wolves, a Premier League club in Nigeria, Timi Ebikaboro insists that the stadium may have only deteriorated in the course of the League.

However, Naijafootball247.com spoke to an insider at the NPL who revealed that this year unlike previous seasons, the NPL rather than set up committees to inspect stadia gave the assignment to television houses who appointed people to inspect the stadia.

He said people from the NTA, LTV, Channels TV and Supersport were part of the group that inspected stadia and recommended same to the NPL for approval.

“We had five TV houses appoint people to do it because we felt the TV houses would best tell us the most TV friendly pitches and it was these people that inspected the stadia and gave them approval including the one at Offa,” our source said.

He however added that at the time the stadium was approved no club had started training on the pitch so it may be wear and tear including lack of maintenance on the pitches that led to its rapid decline.

One of the stadium inspectors, Toyin Ibitoye of Channels TV told naijafootball247.com that the stadium was indeed in good order when it was inspected at the start of the season.

“I can tell you the pitch was lush green just before the season started. After the inspection, we showed pictures of the pitch to the NPL and even repeated those pictures on Channels TV just on Tuesday so Nigerians will know we did not compromise in standards but we were shocked when we saw the same pitch on Saturday and it had gone so bad,” Ibitoye told naijafootball247.com.

He suggested that the problem with the pitch would have been one of wear and tear due to poor maintenance.

“By maintenance I simply mean that maybe they did not have constant water on the pitch and again the fact that a club was training on it daily and playing League games could have affected if it there was no grounds man really working hard to keep it in shape but I agree with the NPL to stop them from playing League matches on the pitch.”

On Monday, after the general public outcry on the state of the Offa Township Stadium pitch, the Nigeria Premier League, NPL gave both Kwara United and Bukola Babes three days to pick and alternate pitch to play their home games in the League or have one foisted on them.

It is expected that by the end of Wednesday, an alternative playing ground would be announced for the two clubs in question.
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