A Director in Mountain of Fire and Miracles, MFM, football club, Godwin Enakhena has assured that even as privately owned clubs don’t last long in the Nigeria Professional Football League, MFM will survive all the hurdles because the church is carrying out a ‘divine project’. The ace broadcaster also spoke to Trust Sports on the challenges being faced by the club and its staying power.
What are the challenges MFM are facing in the Nigeria Professional Football League?
For us at MFM, the challenges, first and foremost, was that of funding. We were not prepared for the cost implication but fortunately for us, things have taken shape because we have the spread that enables us to go to anywhere in Nigeria. Today MFM is the only club that can play the league without having to look for cash. So what am I saying is, if MFM goes to Abuja to play a match, the branch in Abuja will cater for everything. The pastor there would provide accommodation for us, take care of our feeding and other logistics. This is the main reason we are still in the league. If we were to look for money every week, to travel up and down, chances are that by now we would have been tired. Another challenge has to do with the hazard of travelling up and down, the long distances and sometimes you have to contend with bandits on the roads across Nigeria. It is not only in the north. It is happening everywhere in the country. So when you are travelling in a marked vehicle, you naturally feel that you are vulnerable. So you sometimes have to use unmarked vehicles to travel depending on where you are going to. This is a big challenge. You also have to pray against accidents that are happening every day. It happened to us about two or three times. These are some of the major challenges we face in the league. Unfortunately, there are no incentives at all. We are just playing. We spend millions of naira but at the end of the season, maybe you get a handshake saying thank you for playing.
How do you (MFM) cope with the alleged poor officiating in the NPFL?
Like I always say, referees are human beings and are bound to make mistakes. So if one of such mistakes does not favour you, another will favour you. There is no way you would go through the season without a favour you didn’t ask for. It might just come your way. If one says he has not benefited from poor officiating, then such a person is a liar. On our part, what we do to cope with poor officiating is that we make sure we have a good team at the beginning of the season. If your team is really good, officiating won’t go against you all the time. Have a good team first. You have a good team first and then work hard. The Bible says work very hard and then pray. You don’t pray and pray without working.
Privately owned clubs don’t last long in the NPFL but since 2015, MFM have carried on without any sign of tiredness. What is the secret?
To answer your question, let me tell you a short story. A church came to me and they said they wanted to study the template that MFM is using to succeed. I told them what to do and what not to do. And I reported to our General Overseer, Dr. DK Olukoya that a church came to me to understudy MFM template that is working and these are the things I told them, and the Go said, no no, there is one key thing you didn’t tell them. He said if the vision carrier is not emotionally attached to this journey, it will just be a sprint, it won’t be a marathon. It will end abruptly. The person must be a vision carrier and he or she must be prepared for the long term. Our GO is emotionally attached to the football club. The church is running a divine project and he is committed to it.
Is it true you have an annual football tournament where you scout for players?
Yes, it is an integral part of our existence. It is called Dr. DK Olukoya International Youth Football Competition. The last one we did was in October 2018 at our prayer ground in Lagos. That is where we got Dr. Tony Bulus, the coach that took over from Fidelis Ilechukwu. He was the winner of the competition. He won with MFM Abuja. When Fidelis was leaving after staying with us for 13 years, we had to bring in someone with a track record and he was a perfect man for the job. We started the competition in 2007. It is an international competition because all our churches across Africa, not only Nigeria usually take part in it. We have churches in Cameroon, Ghana, Togo, everywhere, they come for the competition at MFM prayer ground in Lagos. I hold the competition there and we do our selection of players.
You have lost some of your key players to other clubs, how are you coping without players like Stephen Odey, Sikiru Olatunbosun, Austin Opara and a host of others?
As you rightly mentioned, they started with me over a decade ago. There is a common saying that 20 friends cannot stay together for 20 years. So if we groom and expose them, we can’t keep them forever. However, anywhere Opara, Odey, Onuwa, Olatobosun and the rest of the players are playing, they will be referred to as former MFM players. If you keep a player for too long and refuse to allow him move on, you are wicked. The beauty of it is that in the absence of these players we are doing well. Take a look at the table, Enyimba are under us. Kano Pillars are under us. You saw what we did to Kano Pillars last week with a team of nobody. Rangers are under us. We are number 8 on the table. It is beyond having star players. What does this tell you?, that there is the hand of God in everything that we are doing.
Apart from the football club, MFM is also sponsoring a female basketball club. What informed the decision to go into women basketball?
Last year, the wife of our GO said to me you always do things for men, what about the women? I then told her, Mummy I will do something for the women. I spoke to the church and immediately, most of the pastors keyed in. They began to talk to their members about the project. They asked, do you have any lady who can play basketball?. MFM Women Basketball team is made up of players from majorly two churches, MFM Bayelsa and MFM Akure. The rest are Lagos, Enugu, Abuja and so on and so forth. In less than a year, we came second in the Zenith Bank Women Basketball League and went to Egypt to represent Nigeria in the African Clubs Championship. This is massive. It is by the special grace of God.