FOOTBALL: MFM FC child of circumstance – Godwin Enakhena
Godwin Enakhena is a Lagos-based journalist saddled with the added responsibility of managing the pet project of the Mountain Of Fire And Miracles Ministry Football Club and the entire sports department of the church. In this chat with our man, Debo Akinyemi, Enakhena shares his experience, stewarding a team in the challenging Nigerian professional football League.
Being a journalist could be a handful. But you are adding sports management to it. How do you cope with the grind. With all the dicey and intriguing peculiarities of the Nigerian League how does it feel to manage a church-owned club.
Sports administration is not a 24/7 job but more like a hobby for me. You’ve a Team Manager, Team Secretary and sometimes a Team Coordinator who runs the team on a day-to-day basis and gives you situation reports from time to time. You’re also on ground most times to see things for yourself. Journalism is also not a 24/7 job, but the most important thing is that there has to be a balance.
How does MFM view the club ownership. Soccer business? Or Youth empowerment or CSR
I resisted the temptation to have the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries Football Club jump into the fray to play in the NPFL for many years but couldn’t sustain it at some point when the players started agitating…and we were on the verge of losing them so I had to buy a slot in the amateur league in 2011.
It’s been challenging but we learnt very early that the secret to surviving in a tough terrain like the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is to have a good first team and a deep bench. Yes it’s tough but our strength in-depth in terms of keeping players and the coaching staff for a long time bails us out of tight situations most times. And not forgetting the role of prayers in all we do in life.
MFMFC is a child of circumstance. How and why?
We started the annual Dr. D K Olukoya Youth Football competition for all MFM churches across Africa as part of the General Overseer’s 70 Points Youth Repositioning Agenda in 2007. It was his vision that has continued to yield bountiful dividends in terms of youth emancipation. But by 2011, the youths had started complaining that they were tired of playing the DKO event and wanted to compete in bigger tournaments and we got into the league. Our quality was too much for other teams in the amateur division and we practically breezed through and we found ourselves in the NPFL…
So, the answer to your question is that we came into organized football to take talented youths off the streets. This was the agenda not business.
Even though we’ve not changed this philosophy, we have however embraced the business side of football because of the huge cost of running a football club.
Business side? How? Do you want to expatiate?
It means that we have embraced the buying and selling of players which wasn’t the case when we started.
Traveling to honour matches, hosting visiting teams, sign on fees, salaries, bonuses, medicals and other cost components add up to an intimidating budget. Please give us an idea what it costs your team to run through a season?
We have a huge advantage that no other organization enjoys in the NPFL. For instance, all we need do is tell our branches scattered all over Nigeria that the football team is coming to play a game in their states and that they’ve to provide feeding and accommodation for them. We’ve hospitals that take care of the medical needs of the players. Salaries and bonuses are paid by the church. Sign on fees have been scrapped by the NPFL. From all I’ve listed, you will agree with me that the cost of running a football club in the NPFL runs into millions of Naira.
Earlier, you hinted at the place of prayer in the scheme of things. But Nigerian football scene is ruled by twin phenomena of superstition and fetishism. How do you check on individual players to ensure that there is no juju contamination in the camp.
When you’re in Rome, you have to behave like the Romans. Every institution has its rules. We’ve very strong rules in camp with a camp commandant to enforce them. Fortunately, we’ve never had any issues with our players or coaches.
Beyond funding of the club, how does Dr. Olukoya motivate the club personally? I can’t imagine him coming to the stand to watch his boys. And this could be a huge fillip.
Dr. Olukoya’s passion for anything that involves the youth is second to none. First he encourages them to talk to him one-on-one when they’ve challenges. He makes sure they lack nothing and follows the team’s activities and rewards them all the time. He has not been to the stadium during league games. That will happen soon. However, he has never missed any of the finals of the annual Dr. D K Olukoya Youth Football competitions.
Please pardon me if I’m being ignorant. Was he once a footballer himself? It is rare to convince someone to bankroll a team except that person himself has once played the game.
He played street football just like most Nigerian kids while growing up. He’s just passionate about sports and uses this passion to invest in anything that will engage the youths.
Football knows no religion. What if a player professes other faith than Christianity. How do you handle such player, especially if he is damn good and the club wants him badly? This question may be childish but your response could make an interesting read.
Interestingly, we’ve had Moslems in our midst and one thing we don’t do is ask them to change their religion. However, like I said earlier, if you’re in Rome, you must behave like the Romans.
Agege stadium serves as your home ground. Clubs owning their own stadium is the standard in other climes. As the pace setter, does MFM plan to build one.
You will recall that Agege stadium was abandoned for many years until it was rebuilt from scratch and modernized by the Tinubu/Fashola governments. I stay in Agege and was blown away the first time I visited the place after a long while. And there and then, I decided that MFMFC will make Agege her home. This is one decision I took that looking back today, I feel fulfilled that I resisted attempts to have the team stay at the legacy pitch at the national stadium in Lagos.
Yes, we’ve plans to build an Olympic size stadium when the Mountain Top University which is owned by the church moves to its permanent site. This won’t be long.
How much has the team served as vehicle of evangelism
An indisputable fact is that MFM is known more across the world today because of the exploits of the church’s decision to invest in sports. This wasn’t made possible by the football club alone but the exploits of Odunayo Adekuoroye in wrestling and now the MFM Women Basketball Club have made this possible. You also need to be at the stadium when MFMFC plays anywhere in Nigeria and you will see first-hand the wonderful works of our evangelism team in all the states of the federation. So far, so good.
How realistic is it for MFM FC to lift the League shield. I know you would say very realistic. But what are the measures in place to guarantee this.
Roll back the years, I mean 2016 when MFMFC took the league by storm and was named the Leicester City of Nigerian football. The team led the table but almost got relegated due to inexperience and injuries. The team came back stronger in 2017 after fortifying the weak areas and narrowly lost the league title on the last day in Maiduguri. MFMFC represented Nigeria after coming second in the CAF Champions League that year, MFM came forth in the regular season. Right now, we are beefing up the team with more experienced players and doing all we can to keep our best legs for the new season with our eyes on winning the title in 2019/20 season, by His grace.