By Milcah Tanimu
Tensions flared at the Ebonyi State governor, Francis Nwifuru’s cup final match on Sunday evening as players and supporters from the Ishielu Local Government Area team swarmed referee Sebastian Onwe, alleging poor officiating in the game.
According to reports, the referee found himself being chased throughout the stadium by an irate crowd, desperate to confront him over perceived officiating errors during the match. The situation escalated until Governor Nwifuru stepped in to rescue the beleaguered referee from the mob, despite the presence of security personnel attempting to shield him.
During the prize presentation ceremony, Governor Nwifuru condemned the attack, describing it as “shameful and embarrassing.” He urged players and supporters to refrain from unprofessional behavior and instead channel their grievances through appropriate channels.
The governor also announced measures to prevent similar incidents in the future, stating that match officials for upcoming competitions will be sourced from other states to ensure impartiality. He praised the state’s sports commissioner for organizing the competition and expressed his commitment to providing opportunities to empower and unite the youth.
Nwifuru unveiled plans to establish teams in the three districts, selecting the best players for the state’s main outfit. These players will undergo nurturing and preparation to excel at the highest levels of competition.
In recognition of the victorious teams’ efforts, the governor increased the prize money for the winners. The winning team was set to receive N1 million, but the government added N2 million, bringing the total to N3 million. Similarly, the runner-up’s prize was raised from N700,000 to N1.9 million, and the third-placed team’s prize increased from N500,000 to N1.5 million.
The State Commissioner for Youth Development and Sports, Richard Idike, expressed gratitude to the governor for attending the final and commended all participants. He announced that the management would review the incident involving the attack on the referee, as such actions are not representative of the state’s sports culture.
In the final match, Ebonyi LGA secured victory with a 2-1 win over Ishielu, while Ohaozara LGA claimed third place by defeating Izzi 1-0 in the third-place match.