Friday, 20 September 2019

Ayade the Game Changer : the Rovers FC Experience


20 September 2019 

Sports, especially the game of soccer is an intriguing event whose outcome in most cases cannot be easily predicted, usually it takes 90 minutes or more to produce a valid result in every single game played.


Unlike soccer, Sir Benedict Ayade, the Executive and digital governor of Cross River State and super fan of Rovers Football Club of Calabar had from the beginning of the game shown signs of a positive outcome in the game between Rovers FC and critics. He had shown critics that soccer can be both fun and enterprising. He showed serious interest in the game. 

In demonstrating his firm love and supports for the game of soccer, the governor had in 2016 ensured the liberation of Rovers from Unicem. Thus returning the club back to retain its former name as Rovers Football Club of Calabar as against Unicem Rovers. 

Rovers Football Club, established in Calabar in1976 has over the years proved its worth and continued to maintain its name among the comity of famous football club in Nigeria. 

As typical with the game of soccer, Rovers FC lost its form and began to slide down the table as one of Nigeria's most trusted teams, but all thanks to the emergence of the sport loving Ben Ayade who injected life back to the club, a lot of rebranding was initiated, new players recruited with a fresh set of management team headed by the experienced Mr Ejen Ebam. 

Since Ejen Ebam took over the management of Rovers FC under the supervision of the sterling Asu Okang, then Commissioner for Youths and Sports Development, a lot of achievements have been recorded by the team. These three years under review, clearly shows that the team had recorded giant stride in the following areas. 

1. The team has proudly produced players from the grass roots who are currently featuring in the nation's under 20 and under 23 teams. 

2. Rovers FC in the last Nigeria National League finished comfortably on the league table. 

3.The team broke a history record of finishing 3rd in the immediate past FA Cup competition also known as Aiteo Cup. Aiteo cup is said to be the oldest football tournament. 

All these and many more were made possible through the wonderful support the club enjoyed from the governor Ben Ayade's led sport friendly administration. This support had come in terms of but not limited to :
1. Provision of a brand new coaster bus to aide easy transportation of players and management to and fro matches and this is in line with his Excellency's reward system. 

2. Secondly, the club's subvention was increased from N3 Million to N5 Million monthly. 

The governor Ben Ayade's administration has indeed changed the game for Rovers FC, the almost dead and relegated team has regained its place in the league table sitting in a comfortable position from where it aims to soar higher to greater heights. 

Football world over is a sport that is know for uniting people of all works of life, race, religion and skin color as well  as social status. The Ben Ayade's industrialisation inspired government is blessed to have a team like Rovers FC that (if additional attention is given to it) can be a big boaster to the industrialisation agenda of the governor. 

If proper attention is given to sports in Cross River State, sport tourism is a great revenue mobilizer and I think it's high time the Cross River State Government begin to look towards that direction. 

Rovers Football Club and indeed all other sporting activities can be well funded by revenue generated from sports tourism. The government needs to be willing to add a little more investment to what she has already done and this will encourage both players, management and even supporters to work harder. 

If the state begin to organize regular sporting events that will attract participants outside the state and country, in no time, such events will attract foreign investors. And one of the easiest sports to attract such high level of participation and sponsorship is football. 

As an a concern citizen and a fan of Rovers FC, I had taken out time to ask question even while I sought to know what seems to be those challenges restricting the club from expressing its full potentials and the following discovery where made:

1. Although, the governor had approved an increment in the monthly subversion of the club but surprisingly the subversion is said to be coming late in most cases on to two month behind time, thus stress management to seek for credit facilities in order to fund matches especially where those matches are played outside of the state. The resultant effect of this is that first, it places the players under stress and fatigue due to late arrival to match venue. In most cases they find themselves arriving match venues few hours before kick off. How then will such players play with concentration and vigor? 

Secondly the management are subjected to frequent borrowing and as the Holy Book will put it "a borrower is a slave to the lender. Thus the management of the team are under tension and as such they may not perform maximumly in their roles as team management. 

2. Another serious challenge facing the club now is the issue of accommodation. I am reliably informed that the players have lost their temporarily accommodation space due to expired rent. 

If the above and many more which I believe the management and players are in a good position to enumerate, are provided, I am sure that the team will return to its days of glory where Rovers used to be Rovers. 

I also believe the team will produce more players who will be adorning the country's color in both national and international events. 


Ukorebi Esien writes from Calabar, Cross River State



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