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« An Irish In Nigeria's Colours | Main | South Africa drop six players »

September 16, 2006

Ocean Boys Swim To Glory

Like the defunct Leventis United Football Club of Ibadan, Oyo State, relatively unknown Ocean Boys Football Club of Brass, Bayelsa State came from the blues to claim the 2006 Globacom Premier League title.

ADEYINKA ADEDIPE, who witnessed the team's crowning moments at the just concluded Super Four Play Off in Abuja, takes a look at the rising profile of the team.

FOR a team formed to help curb the restiveness among youths in the Niger Delta, the expectation would have been to play in the lower division, keep the youths away from vices by channelling their energies into worthy endeavours as against hostage-taking. It was in the thick of this unsavoury situation and with the mindset of remedying this embarrassing situation that someone felt football as tool would do the trick.

Driven by the need for this positive change, the chairman of Brass Local Government of Bayelsa State, Sylva Nathaniel Ngo, formed the Ocean Boys Football Club. Ngo did not feel that the team would be perennial campaigners in the lower division. To him, the club would one day trade tackles on the continental scene while its products would be exported to far flung parts of the world. He, however, did not envisage the dream coming to fruition within such a short period taking cognisance of the fact that the nucleus of the side was to be literally sourced from the streets in the locality. But the rapid progress of the team, which was in the amateur league some seasons ago is still puzzling to ardent football fans and enthusiasts, who thronged the Abuja National Stadium to witness their scintillating display of football skills.

After an impressive run in normal season of the Globacom Premier League, the team floored hopefuls like Enyimba of Aba, Dolphins of Port Harcourt, 3SC of Ibadan and Heartland of Owerri, to book a deserving place in the Super Four play-off. The players approached the play-off with great maturity, even as their technical depth was not questionable. In a jiffy, they saw off Nasarawa United, got a draw against Kwara United and went on to pip Wikki Tourists of Bauchi.

Considering the ease with which the team claimed the league title, a lot of posers were raised from numerous quarters, and many became curious about what the team funded by a local government had going for it.

Ngo told The Guardian that he knew from the onset that with time, dedication and hardwork, the team had the potentials to go all the way and win the league. "When we came into existence some years back, I knew that the team I was assembling would one day rule Nigerian football. My conviction was based on a revelation that I got that the team would fly to places and I guess winning the league means we would represent the country in the Confederation of African Football(CAF) Champions League, where we will end up playing top teams in Africa."

With this feat the team may have surpassed its own expectation considering the modest idea behind its formation. "I would say that we have potential beyond our expectation and that of others. When we gained promotion into the elite division we know we were going to do well but looking at the calibre of teams in our group, I knew the road was going to be rough."

In re-echoing the philosophy behind the formation of the club, Ngo said: "The team came into existence to arrest youth restiveness in the Niger Delta which was getting to an alarming rate. I thought that forming a football club will give the youths a rallying point and an avenue to channel their energy towards a positive course. And since the club was formed, it has grown from strength to strength and becoming the Nigerian champions is just a testimony of our resolve to take the club to a greater height."

Ngo's ability to carry the entire team along at all times, he believes, worked in favour of the team this season. Said he: "Running a football club is not a one-man show. I am always open to the players. We understand each other and equally have mutual respect for one another. I always share my problems with them, the ones related to the running of the club and personal ones. For this, they respect me a lot. I always tell them to concentrate on their career and assure them that what we are trying to do is to help them develop not just their career but their individual being.

"Before we became champions, we went through turbulent times, because for you to become a champion there are bound to be challenges and tribulations. But in all these, the greatest of problems that we had to confront was inadequate finance. Anyone who wants to succeed must definitely face persecution but at the end, the Lord will be there to see him through as long as he remains steadfast." While they persevered and waited for God's time, their story changed dramatically as the state government which had been keeping tab on its activities came to the aid of the club due largely to its brilliant performances in the league.

To ensure success, the state government, promised a N100,000 for each player if they win the trophy, a gesture that did not surprise the council boss. "I was not really surprised when the governor promised to reward the players with 100,000 each if they win the trophy. The government loves sports and our qualification for the super four against all the odds, I believe, prompted the government to make the promise. The amount is not a problem to the state government because at this level it is the responsibility of the government to finance the team, all we will do as the local government is to run the club which we have done successfully.

On the CAF Champions League which stares them in the face, he said: "The CAF champion league is a trophy that we can win, I have already had a dream in which I saw the team fly but I didn't know where. But now that we have won the league, we will definitely fly to some parts of Africa to showcase our skills. Right now, I am not thinking of bringing new players to the team because I believe in the ability of the ones that are currently in the team. They have the skills and the ability to propel the team forward.

On how he combines his role as council helmsman and head of the club's management team, he said: "it is very simple. I am first, a politician. I have been a preacher. As a preacher, you should know how to accommodate people because we are preaching to thousands of people, we know how to interact with people. And I can stay here till tomorrow talking to people. I have time for football, my family, God's work and the local government job. By the grace of God, He has been directing me on how to handle all my engagements well.

Speaking on having to play their home games away from home, he said such development would soon be consigned to the dustbin of history. "I am full of thanks to the state governor, Dr Goodluck Johnathan who has put measures in place to enable us play our home matches in the comfort of our home. In about a month from now, the stadium in Yenagoa will be in use, and the floodlight and everything will be in place. So we are sure of using that stadium soon.

"I've also heard that the government has graciously approved the building of three stadia in the three senatorial districts. I believe that the one for our senatorial district should be built in Brass.

He appealled to the club's teeming fans to "continue to pray for Ocean Boys because that was the only thing they can do. We have a number of pastors who are praying for the team always. We want to make a point that God can change the country.

He added that now that the team has climbed to this level, the players are aware of the shape their career can take in the near future and must be willing to work extra hard.

On his part, he said he may re-contest so as to remain the chairman of the club and travel with the team and come back to Nigeria with trophies. "This is what I told them some years back, and so shall it be. I may come back as chairman if the populace and God so demand.

Posted by Publisher at September 16, 2006 01:02 PM

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