Diary of a mad journo- My derby experience

By Nduka Orjinmo

So I made my way to the Sharks stadium on Saturday with very high hopes of a very fiery contest between Sharks and Dolphins.

The derby has everything to be the fiercest in Nigeria, the least being that both clubs are owned by the Rivers state government which means that at different points in their history, they had soothed the political egos of whoever was the governor.

What else would be the reason for injecting several millions of naira into two football clubs that don’t fetch a dime in return?

Only philanthropy or politics can engender such a skewed economic ideology.

Anyway, both sides have gone on relegation, have both had Victor Ezeji on their payroll and have both been managed by Stanley Eguma.

But perhaps, that is where it ends.

Dolphins are the more illustrious of the cousins, boasting of a trophy cabinet that has league titles and FA cups.

They also have had some action with the big boys of Africa in the Champions League. Sharks too have not done so badly, perennial winners of the Rivers state FA cup- once eliminating my Sunday-Sunday football club on the way to victory. - They have also won the WAFU Cup.

Add the ethnic and territorial lines that divide both sides and you feel that you would be served a keenly contested match, free of referee bias-of course; both sides have an equal measure of ultras-.

But alas, what rubbish we were served on Saturday? Football fit only for puberty-age watching kids of junior secondary school.

I had made my way slowly to the stadium with my bag of homemade pop corn in hand and was expecting the sounds of feisty fans to assault my late coming until I remembered that it was a closed door session.

Surprised I saw the gate open and a few fans paying their way in.

I struggled to identify the Dolphins side but for their threadbare green shirts and once white shorts, I would have sworn it was not Dolphins.

When Kennedy Chinwo is deemed not so good to play, then you know there is problem.

With coach Stanley Eguma still ignorant that his suspension by the NPL is not binding until his appeal is lost, Zakare Baraje mounted the touchline this time inconspicuous in a trainers shirt, his blazing safari suit abandoned for good.

Also abandoned was the 4-3-3 formation employed by Eguma in his last match in charge against Gombe and carried into the last game against Akwa United.

Baraje jettisoned what must have been a confusing tactical structure and quickly recoiled to familiar territory of the 4-4-2.

He was not alone, Johm Ogbu was not ready for any tactical battle, and he stayed with the known.

I missed both first half goals from Sharks but was informed that Bright Ejike and pant sagging Rwanda-less Kola Anubi got the goals early in the half.

What I witnessed after I joined from 15 minutes broke my soul.

Save for the doctor who served both teams, there was nothing else to tell you that the game was a derby, with bragging rights and points at stake. Sharks passed the ball lamely back and forth with no intention of going forward, while Dolphins with Victor Babayaro in the middle-the only thing about him still in vogue clearly his dreadlocks-showing no intention of chasing the ball.

It was sufferable and I suffered it, emotionless and tasteless. My home made popcorn was my saving grace.

Dolphins Hassan Hussein forgot the terms of engagement when he scored with a cracking shot, only for the referee, a willing accomplice in the sham to award a penalty later on to Sharks for handball.

But who would blame him, with referee slapping ThankGod Amaefule on the field.

It was he who stepped up to make it 3-1.

You can follow Nduka on Twitter via @orjinmonduka
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  1. Good analysis with fun attached to this write up.
    My experience was not different.
    I always go the the Stadium with something Chewable, because of the way I rated the Derby I forgot to buy my favourite Chewable and Drinkable as I hurriedly ran into the Stadium.
    The Derby fell below my expectation and I wondered if points were at stake.
    Anyway it was a Derby turned Novelty match.
    The Bible reads ..."Let brotherly Love Continue" not let Football Clubs Love Continue.
    All thesame ...to God be the Glory...watch out for part two