To many upcoming players, a top class performance at a major championship in the stature of Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON, should bring fame and fortune.
But for Nigeria’s midfielder, Sunday Mba, who shone like a milion stars during the recently concluded 2013 AFCON in South Africa, what he got was a raging battle between two Nigerian Professional Football League, NPLF clubs over his ownership.
Mba scored the winning goals against Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso in the quarter final and final matches of the AFCON that saw the Super Eagles of Nigeria winning the continental trophy for the first time since 14 years ago in Tunisia in 1994.
Since that historic feat by Mba in South Africa, his value has risen in multiple folds. According to his manager, Chike Onyeacho, about ten European clubs have made inquiries about the home-based player in an attempt to sign him for their clubs.
Though Mba is yet to make his decision known on which club he wants to sign for in Europe, the two previous clubs he once played for in the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, are already in a bitter fight over which team own the combative midfielder. The reason for the love-lost battle between Warri Wolves and Enugu Rangers over Mba is not far fetched.
Football players’ transfer agents have said that the potential transfer fee that will be acruable to the selling club if Mba eventually seals a deal with an European club will be nothing less than N150m, excluding performance-based earnings that will be added to the contract deal.
Both Rangers and Wolves claim they own the player, but after looking at the documents presented to it by the Warri-based club, the Interim Management Board of NPFL declared Wolves the bonafide owner of Mba few days ago.
But a new twist was added to the whole saga when Mba, who played for Wolves last season, came out to say that he had signed a contract with Rangers before the commencement of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
“I signed a contract with Rangers even before I left for South Africa for the 2013 AFCON and I am surprised Wolves are saying Rangers have no right of ownership over me,” Mba said.
The 24-year-old also revealed that Warri Wolves were aware he had completed a move and signed a contract with Rangers.
His words: “Wolves are aware of this and I am surprised they are saying I am still their player.”
In an attempt to find a solution to the controversy, the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, summoned both warring teams before a four-man Judicial Panel of Inquiry, headed by the federation’s Director of Competitions, Dr. Sanusi Mohammed.
At the first meeting with the panel, the Rangers’ team was led by Human Rights Lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Femi Falana, who was propped up by two other lawyers in arguing Rangers’ case for ownership of Mba. Wolves’ team was led by the Executive Chairman of the Delta State Sports Commission, Pinnnick Amaju.
A source who attended the panel meeting in Abuja informed that it was established during cross examination of both teams that Rangers actually cleared Mba to Wolves with a clause that should the player secure a foreign club, the Flying Antelopes would be entitled to 30 percent from the proceed of his sale. This was after agreeing a transfer fee of N3.5m, while Wolves paid N2m, the balance of N1.5m has remained outstanding.
After listening to the from the two sides, the NFF panel directed both clubs to resolve the controversy and report back to them latest yesterday for final arbitration.
As at the time of filing this report early today (Wednesday), both Rangers and Wolves are yet to reach an amicable settlement.
P.M.NEWS Sports gathered that a meeting scheduled to hold between both clubs on Monday could not hold as planned as Wolves’ lawyer shunned Rangers’ request to have the meeting in Enugu just as Mr. Amaju insisted that Rangers must apologise for the embarrassment caused the Delta State government over Mba’s controversy.
However, both teams, it was learnt, still have another opportunity to resolve the controversy as Wolves’ management has fixed a meeting for Asaba today.
Despite all the controversies, Rangers’ officials have said that they would go ahead and feature Mba against Vital’O of Burundi in the first leg, first round match of the CAF Champions League billed for this weekend at the 22,000-seat capacity Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura, Burundi.
Unless both teams reach a truce on the imbroglio very soon, Mba risked not playing league football this season. The Flying Antelopes were denied the services of Mba when they defeated two time former CAF champions league champions, Eyimba FC in Enugu last weekend.