By Ikechukwu Iweajunwa
Owerri, Sept. 17, 2020 Chairman of Heartland Football Club Management Board, Charles Ezekwem, says the major problem setting the Owerri-based club back is political interest from some appointees of the Imo government.
Ezekwem said this during a meeting with some members of the state chapter of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) on Thursday in Owerri.
He however warned of dire consequences if the state government failed to register the club and pay outstanding seven months salaries of players, staff and coaches.
“This may stop the club from participating in the new football league season.
“It will be an embarrassment to the people of Imo if the only club owned by the state failed to feature in the country’s football league,’’ Ezekwem said.
Naija247news reports that the League Management Company (LMC) has set Friday as deadline for clubs’ registration for the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
Ezekwem said Heartland FC were yet to register their players as at Thursday.
NAN reports that the state’s Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Dan Ogu, had recently dissolved the club’s management board headed by Ezekwem.
However, Ezekwem said during the meeting with Imo SWAN members that the Commissioner lacked the power to dissolve the board.
While reacting to some allegations on misappropriation of funds by the board, Ezekwem said all the money released for the club under his watch were used judiciously.
He threatened to resign his position as board chairman if the state government sacked the club’s General Manager, Godson Onyemaobi.
“I know that am not the target in this crisis, but the GM. So, if he is sacked, I will resign because I know he is a performing GM,” he said.
Ezekwem said the state government officials should rather be focused on making sure that Heartland FC were registered and licensed.
“But it is unfortunate that they were busy looking for a way to sack the GM,’’ he said.
On the slashing of players’ salaries by the club management, Ezekwem said it was not a decision he unilaterally took. “It was in full agreement with all the players.
“When I was appointed as the board chairman, I reviewed the salary of both players and staff just to motivate everybody to perform.
“But when we saw that our N23 million subvention could not carry the club’s liabilities, we decided to cut the salaries of both players and management staff in agreement with everybody,’’ he said.
Ezekwem said the decision affected goalkeeper Ezenwa whose salary of N700,000 was slashed to N500,000.
He said the action was to enable them pay the salaries of other players and workers.
“The Management Board under my watch ran a deficit of N1.1 million every month, and on some occasions my personal money was used in running the club,’’ Ezekwem said.