My father nearly killed me for playing football – Amanze Uchegbulam
From Everest Ezihe, Owerri
Ironically, Mazi Amanze Uchegbulam, a former First Vice President of the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) now Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and currently the Chairman of Imo State Football Association, FA who for over twenty years made a name as an Ambassador of Football Administration in Nigeria and outside the country revealed how his late father who retired from Nigerian Army nearly killed him with his gun in 70s while playing for his secondary school, Ife Grammar School Ife in Ezinihitte Mbaise council area of Imo State.
Uchegbulam who hails from Umuokehi Eziala in Ezinihitte Mbaise LGA revealed this in Owerri, Imo State capital while interacting with Sports Journalists on his passion for football administration and his willingness to transform and repositioned the game of football in Nigeria if given the mandate as he aspires to be the President of NFF in their forth coming AGM/ Election.
The icon in football administration said he is a stickler to rules and as an apostle of transparency, inclusive leadership and discipline that he’s committed in ensuring that the national team is not dominated by foreign players that the composition should be 50-50 as a strategic means of advancing the game locally.
He lamented the deplorable state of football in the country even as he pledged his commitment to return Nigeria to the world stage.
Uchegbulam said, “In a football match, you wait for the referee to signal commencement of the game officially, now that the contest has been declared open, I hereby declare my interest to become the next NFF President, to restore the image of football administration in Nigeria.
“In response to the motion moved in May 2022 by the Imo Football Association during our congress that I should vie for the position, I’m here to say I have consulted widely and have the support of my family. I have decided to contest for the position as clamoured by all,” the Imo FA boss said.
According to him, he is 68-year-old and not 74 years as being bandied around by some people, saying since he was elected First Vice President of NFF, his age has not changed even as he called for accuracy.
He further said, “Nobody is happy with the current state of the League, it is almost moribund, and we need to get people who understand football administration to fix it. We need to restore transparency, image of the NFF, ensure prompt payment of referees and match Commissioners, it is time to bring the best and I guarantee you that in four years under my watch, you all will be proud of NFF.
“I assure you that if I handle football administration for four years, you will thank me because I’m known for transparency and work, it is time to get back the NFF of our pride.”
Uchegbulam further said that having served at different times in FIFA, CAF and NFF, he has the experience and knowledge required, adding that, “While I was the First Vice President, Nigeria won the U17 Cup 2007.
“While I was 1st Vice President, Nigeria qualified for 9 world cups U17 ,U20, U23, male and female,super Falcons and Super Eagles plus Beach soccer. One feat only achieved by Brazil in the whole world. Please go and verify. This was under Sani Lulu.
“While I was a member of Technical Committee under Chief Festus Onigbide as Chairman we qualified Nigeria and had a good showing at our first-ever World Cup appearance. We raised the 1994, 1996, 1998 teams which till date remains our best team. I will re-enact that magic and give you a Super Eagles we will all be proud of.
“I served in CAF for 12 years and handled 33 cases and none of the verdict has been faulted till date because I operate above board. I have worked with different chairmen and I know what works. I will reactivate the under 13, 15 teams where we discovered the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho.
“We need to domesticate our Statutes to end litigations in court. It is time we put the administration of football in the hands of technocrats. Under my watch, Nigeria will develop and use local coaches, enough of foreign coaches who are not on ground and don’t give good results.”
He promised to implement the integrity rules of the Federation to ensure accountability in the running of football in the country.
The Football Administrator said that he decided to declare at the FA office as a sign of respect for members of the FA who asked him to run for the President of the Federation.
The declaration which attracted ex-players of Imo origin had the South-East Vice Chairman of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Mrs Chigozie, Imo State SWAN Chairman, Everest Ezihe, and several others.