By Sam Oditah
Policemen on Sunday averted a mob attack against the match officials in the Match Day 17 of the Nigerian Professional Football League between Abia Warriors and visiting Katsina United FC at the Umuahia Township Stadium.
The fans, had during the match, openly criticised some of the decisions of the Centre Referee, Benjamin Odey, from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the Assistant Referee 1, Idowu Adegboju, also from FCT.
They shouted and screamed at some of the calls by the referees, accusing them of biased officiating in favour of the visitors, especially when Odey awarded a penalty to the Katsina side at the 35th minute.
The visibly angry fans also protested against the failure by the referee to award a penalty to the home team, when a Katsina United defender allegedly handled the ball in the 18-yard box toward the dying minutes of the encounter.
It took the intervention of the police, the Chairman of Abia Warriors, Emeka Inyama, and combined efforts of some of his lieutenants, to restrain the irate fans from physically assaulting the match officials at the end of the match.
Both the police and the club management officials had a hectic time trying to calm frayed nerves and shielding the officials, who were holed up at the centre of the pitch, from being attacked.
While the policemen applied minimum force to control the situation, Inyama and his team moved from one spot to another restraining the raging fans from taking the law into their hands.
Some officials of the Umuahia-based club, including Coach Emmanuel Deutsch, however, blamed the players for failure to take their numerous scoring chances.
They admitted that although the officiating was brazenly biased against them, the palyers’ inability to utilise their opportunities compounded their woes.
Deutsch said, “I spend a lot of time coaching them the techniques of goal-scoring but am I to play the ball for them on the pitch?
“They failed to utilise their scoring chances otherwise we would have won the match,” Deutsch told NAN at the end of the encounter.
He advocated that clubs should stop compromising match officials, saying that players should be allowed to show their supremacy on the pitch.
He said, “Coaches and club managements in the country should stop compromising the referees.
“They (referees) should be allowed to freely do their job so that players would show their superiority.
“If this trend continues unchecked, the nation’s league would never improve,” the Cameroonian tactician said.
Coach Abdullahi Biffo of Katsina United claimed in a text message to NAN that the club’s cameraman was attacked and injured during the crisis at the pitch.
Abia Warriors forward, Sampson Obi, gave his side an early lead at the 10th minute, when he dribbled past Katsina defence to hammer home a powerful shot into the net.
The team however failed to take the yawning chances at the first half of the encounter until the 35th minute, when defender, Chinedu Efugh, handled the box within the penalty box.
The penalty kick was converted by Katsina United striker, Joshua Agboola, for a one-all draw, after a barren second half.