The Vice Chairman/CEO of Lobi Stars FC of Makurdi, Dominic Iorfa in a recent briefing with sports journalists on the activities of the club held at the McCarthy Stadium, Makurdi, said there is no football news in Nigeria, where Lobi Stars FC of Makurdi is not mentioned and that he does not know what those clamouring for his sack are looking for. He also spoke on other issues. TERFA ALAGHGA covered the event for The Voicesports. Excerpts:
What is your target for Lobi Stars FC this League season?
Right from the beginning of this league season, my target was not only to remain in the Premier League but to also rank among the teams that would be jostling for the continental slot. We happened to have come second in our group of the abridged 2022/2023 NPFL.
On what stage did Lobi crash out of the Federations Cup FA CUP?
We crashed out at the Q- finals stage, when we were knocked out by the Warri Wolves FC.
How did it happen, when you know the politics of football in Nigeria?
As a matter of fact, we lost out because my boys did not play well. This is not about politics which if it were, I would have been awarded the match even before going to the pitch. To be candid, the Wolves FC boys played a better game that day and the goal which they scored against us was the most careless of goals you can think of and if it were not for the confidence and trust that I have in my players, I would have accused them of sell of natch for allowing such a careless goal. However, in football there are three things involved and that is to win, lose or draw.
But how did you view the loss?
Well, nobody wants to lose in any match but when it comes, you still have to give glory to God. I want to believe that if any one of you here is asked to choose between losing in the FA Cup and going on relegation, most of you would prefer Lobi’s loss in the FA Cup to going on relegation. I thank God that we still in the NPFL and that is what we all have been yearning for.
A lot had happened in Lobi during your first fourteen years in the club as Vice Chairman and now that you have returned. How have you been able to handle all of these?
I left the club about seven years ago and upon return I think the way I met it, I believe we have done our best by making sure that the team is in good shape and I do not think there would be any problem again because football is result oriented and if Lobi is doing well and a new government comes on board, I know that what they too would need is also a good result so I don’t think we have a problem with that. Although, you can not say because nothing is impossible. For now, I am the Vice Chairman of Lobi and all that I am supposed to do for the good of the Club, I am doing it accordingly.
The team is doing well. How do you mean?
We came second on the log in Group B of the 2022/23 NPFL and we lost at the Q – finals of the FA Cup. That is to say, everything is going on smoothly and the most important thing is the result which is so far not bad. You will recall how we met the club a year ago and where we are now for which even some of my colleagues are envious of the position. So there is no problem with me for now.
What is the magic behind this position in which Lobi is now, having met it at the verge of relegation?
The truth of the matter is, in Benue state when you are talking of someone who has passion for something is different from when you have someone who believes there is money there and he wants to go and get it. The former First Lady, Eunice Ortom was surprised when she learnt that I travel with the team by road unlike my predecessors, Mike Idoko and Aondofa Tama who were traveling with the team by air. I do it this way because this is what I love doing.
What are you saying in essence?
In essence, I am saying that I love football and from the age of eight when I started playing I have never done anything outside that and when after graduation from the Government Teachers College Utonkon, my father wanted me to go to the University on scholarship because of my football but I refused saying it was total football that I wanted to play. That is why in anything that you are doing and have committed the hand of God, he will help you. Not that I am the best but I love it and I always do it to the best of my ability.
Are you now saying you are a good manager of football?
Yes, because it is the same amount of money that they were giving Idoko and Tama that I also receive but it is the way I manage it judiciously that people always ask where I get the money from. Even when I borrow, I do it with the aim and hope of repaying happily because I utilize it in a manner in which those in government saddled with the responsibility of monitoring will also see how it was used and appreciate it because I want my players to be the way they are supposed to be.
How do you feel when people accuse you of sack and non-payment of staff salaries and players?
It pains me because I spend more than what I make from the club in a month. It might interest you to know that throughout the seven years that I was out of Lobi, my son, Dominic Iorfa Jr that plays for Sheffield Wednesday FC in England was giving me #3Million every month for my upkeep. I thank God for him and I congratulate him on his team regaining their Premiership position. So whatever they say is left for them but the fact still remains that my passion for the game took us to where we are and the same passion will take us to where we wish to be just like a veteran sports journalist, Jack Moses would say, “God knows his people”. That is why the same God is keeping Lobi and all of us together.
But are you owing the player’s salaries?
From what source did you find that? Do your investigations and find out.
Now that there is a change of government, what do you think?
Nothing. I worked for former Governor Samuel Ortom for one year and now Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia has come as Governor and I will work for him even if he wants me to design what he would be wearing as jersey, I would do it because he is the one I am answerable to and who would also be giving me money to play matches. I am not a politician, my politics is on the pitch.
How would you react to the match fixing allegations against you?
Match fixing is a criminal offence that if you smear on anyone and he takes it up against you it can land you into problems. Throughout my first time stay in Lobi and now, those who accuse me of it are people who do not like me even some of you journalists that are in this briefing because I know that not all of you like me and are even saying that now that a new government is on board, I will be sacked and for the seven years that I was out of Lobi, the club did not go beyond the round of 32 in the FA Cup and none of you criticised Idoko or Tama over it but rather, were happy with them for no reason.
In a nutshell, what are saying?
If I am doing match fixing and they are setting me free from it then you should be scared of me and at the same time respect me as a top man because if you have such a top man you don’t challenge or fight him. So as far as I am not caught, you should not ask me any question on that. For me, it is not a crime for me to go the extra mile in order to make the people of the state happy.
What do you think of those seeking your sack as VC of Lobi Stars FC of Makurdi?
Nothing at all. Every day and everywhere you go you hear from people that today Iorfa will be sacked, tomorrow he’ll be sacked, a day after tomorrow he’ll be sacked. What are they looking for? In Nigeria today, there is just no football news where you do not hear the name of Lobi Stars FC mentioned in it. Lobi played In the Top 6 in Lagos, was in the abridged 2022/2023 League runners, Lobi is one of the two best teams in the North Central, Lobi will also participate in the Naija Super 8 Tourney, Lobi played in the FA Cup up to the Q- finals, for every competition played even in the pre- season, Lobi participates, Lobi came up from the relegation zone to where it is today, Lobi played 9 matches in the abridged league outside Makurdi and won 8 matches to qualify for the Super 6. So what are we looking for.
Why did you camp the team in Ijebu Ode for the tourney in Lagos?
The reason was because of the Astro Turf which they need to acclimatise with as it is the type of pitch that they would be playing on in the competition.
How would you describe those who are also vying for the same position which you are now occupying as VC of Lobi Stars FC ?
Looking for a job is different from getting it. God has a special reason for bringing His Excellency, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia as Governor of Benue State and his coming is not to harm people who he believes are competent and can help him transform all sectors including sports and if there are people who can help him in that area of sports, I am one of them. The Governor is known for his spirituality as a priest and that was why the votes cast for him to become the number one man of the state were overwhelming such that no governor has ever got in the history of Benue state and for that alone, his coming is a blessing which the people have received from God, so he would also be praying for the state to grow and instead of allowing people who know what to do best to help him succeed, they are pushing him into sending them away. I know that he will not accept it because he did not come to witch hunt anybody but to be a solution to our problems. Well, I am not a politician and that is why any governor that comes on board, is my boss. Ortom was and now Alia is.
Could you be more explicit?
Very well then. It is your appearance, determination and ability that determine your capability and as well, your belief in what you can do. That is why for one to just wake up one day and say this man should come and replace this man is not the issue because God had a reason for bringing me to Lobi when they were occupying that position which I met the club. The man of God has come and there are also people that would help the man of God, and I am one.
But did you lobby for the Vice Chairmanship of Lobi?
I have never lobbied for any job because if I do and at the end of the day I am unable to do it then who will the embarrassment be on? On me of course.
Were you at the swearing in ceremony of the new governor, Rev Fr Alia?
I was in Ijebu Ode with the team but I watched it on the screen and the crowd was such that I’ve never seen or heard of during swearing in ceremonies of past governors in the state and I congratulated him too. That is to say, people’s expectations are very high from him and he too will expect very high from people working with him and for him to make Benue state a better place.
What would you say are the challenges that Lobi is facing?
Challenges are everywhere but even if there are in Lobi, they are not telling on the club.
Have you at anytime before now, had an encounter with His Excellency the Deputy Governor/ Chairman of Lobi Stars FC, Sam Ode?
Very well and that was at the airport on our way to Mozambique, for a continental match. We met at the airport and I asked him if he would want to accompany the team for the trip and he willingly obliged. Mad Lion was also with us in Mozambique and as God would have it when we were crushed 7-1, before we returned to Makurd there had already been crippling instigations that I should be sacked for poor performance of the team. The Deputy Governor, Mad Lion and others were those who testified that the loss was not my fault at all. That was how I was saved.
As an Ex-International, how well do you know the President of Liberia, George Opong Weah?
When I was playing for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, we travelled to Liberia for a match when Sergeant Samuel Doe was the president, to inaugurate the stadium. When people saw us, they thought we were brothers because everything about us looked the same but the difference was because he was more skillful, we even planned to travel to France together for professional football but just that I had my two little kids and I didn’t want to leave them and I also had promised to spend my playing career in England so I cancelled the trip. He was my good friend although, I lost his contact but I was happy that he later became Liberia’s president.
What is your assessment of Barr Paul Edeh as BSFA chairman?
He is a wonderful choice for that position. He is a round peg in a round hole and if people are criticising his emergence because of tribe, then it is unfortunate. This is a man who has come not for money but to develop football in the state. He is that man who is ready to sponsor the Governor Cup to any level and he has for the past three years, sponsored the Benue State League. Recently, when I travelled with the team, I had no dime because the money I was expecting was yet to come, somebody told him I was in dire strait and needed money for the welfare of players and before I could say Jack, I received an alert of #5 Million which he sent to me. I pray God to bless him.
What are you doing to ensure that journalists travel with the team for matches?
I am press friendly because it is the press that made me who I am today. My first goal for BCC Lions of Gboko against Abiola Babes of Abeokuta, Kick Off Magazine published me on the centre spread and that brought me to limelight and I was invited to play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, until I was dropped because they said I was a Ghanaian. So I am assuring you that next season, I will make provisions for four journalists to be travelling with team for away matches, at least four journalists per away match.