Interview: Nigeria needs more good football pitches –Monimichelle

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Ebimiyeowei Egbe, is the CEO Monimichelle Sport Facility Construction Ltd,
In this exclusive interview with our correspondent Akam Aniefiok, in Yenagoa,
the Bayelsa state capital, he speaks on the need to invest on good football pitches, among others. Excerpts…
Building quality facility to enhance football activities in the country has
been your drive apart from the business part of it, what has been your
motivation?
It’s not an easy task at all but because I have in-depth knowledge in the
industry I have been paving my way through. In the course of the job
there’re also a lot of challenges, it’s not been easy at all.
You have to face different kind of people; you’ll come across guys who are
there to blackmail you just because they want to get an edge. There’re also
some who think their family members are close to FIFA or CAF so they use
that to run down other companies in the industry. For me I believe in what
I do so much, I don’t cut corners, I believe in bringing the best for
Nigeria and Africa. We have few blacks in the industry and that’s also
quiet challenging. You can visit any of the installation we have done and
see the difference from others, I don’t compromise quality. If I want to
give you a score board and flood light I give you the best and frankly I
give you what you pay for. If I give you my price and you can afford it, I
will surely give you the best quality.
You talked about blackmail; can we say that’s one of the reasons for the
delay on Bayelsa state stadium pitch project?
Bayelsa is a political state; you can call it a civil service state. They
don’t believe in guys who are in the private sector, perhaps what am doing
is quiet strange because am not a politician and not a civil servant but am
surviving. Any where you are as a successful person, people will try to run
you down, even the governor of the state with all that he’s doing the
people are still running him down. This pulling down syndrome is very
common in Nigeria. Our industry is based on credibility, if you’re not a
credible person you can’t get involve, if you don’t have passion for sports
there’s no point of venturing. You can’t just be a sales man and you expect
to make wave, no. My job is passion driven, am not just a sales man, this
is what I’ve been doing for years now so I have in depth knowledge of what
am selling. If a government or individual clients call me for a job and
request for gio-tech pitch and I give you a rubber pitch you’ll like it and
may not know but give it few months you’ll call me back and complain that
the job is rubbish and that won’t be good for my reputation. So I make sure
whatever project I do I always give the best because am a VIP label, and
again I don’t just give the job to others to do and I supervise, No. I join
in the work, carry shovel, wheel barrow and do the labour work, probably
that has been part of our success story.
You also mentioned few blacks in the industry, how have you been able to
break through successfully?
Not an easy tast I must confess, but remember at a point I was the only
Nigerian license FIFA agent that had a player in the English premier
league. I don’t believe in working under anybody, I make sure whatever I do
I give it my best. Most Nigerians look for white guys so they can cut
corners and maximize profit but what most clients don’t understand is that
our terrain is different from theirs in Europe, if they come here and do an
installation with a mind set of their terrain it usually fails because our
terrain is totally different. If you’re doing an installation here you need
to have an in depth knowledge of the topography of where you’re working so
that you don’t have problems. All the synthetic pitches in Nigeria except
my installations when it rains is always flooded and nobody can play soccer
on it. What we do is 90% natural which makes the ball behavior at anytime
the same.
Amaju Pinnick did mentioned that there are plans under way to ensure at
least each states in the country has at least two stadium to encourage
grassroot hunt, what’s your view?
That is the right step in a very promising direction, if we have to promote
the game we need to have good pitches for trainings. I believe in that
aspect I stand out in the country today, when you talk about my company
today I think I have made a mark. The whole country know my product and I
also feel it will be great if guys like us who believe in local content can
be given an opportunity to come into the project. He has travelled far and
wide and he knows that the rubber pitch is not acceptable, it is taken us
backward. I am very such Pinnick will want to give the best, he will send
for me because he knows we have the best product in Nigeria today. It’s
time we start believing in our won, we can do collaboration with the league
management for the best. What the white men can do I can do better because
am an African and I understand my terrain. Even if it’s a contract to do
practice pitch, I bet you nobody will complain when I deliver. Everybody is
going synthetic, look at what is happening to the highbury pitch today
because its 60% synthetic and 40% natural, the high traffic area will have
patches ones the natural composition is dead. The solution for Nigeria and
Africa is gio-turf, which is 95% natural, which is what I will advice NFF
to do.
Can that advice be useful in Bayelsa state too?
Sure, I believe in Nigeria and also as a Bayelsan in Bayelsa too. I believe
we can build our dream Bayelsa. We have a governor that is so passionate
about the development of the state, his passion is my drive and encourage.
I have given so much to the state, am currently building three free pitches
for the state each costing thirty million naira with disable seats. This is
the first time in the state we’ll have a sport facility that meets
international standard, two dressing rooms free amd my job is a five lane
track which is 2.5 million each and am doing one free. Here in Bayelsa we
are trying to see how we can elevate our stadium to 8,000 or 10,000
capacity so we can host international games. My contribution to this state
I don’t anyone has ever done that, by the grace of God, Abuja national
stadium will be awarded to us and we’ll make Nigeria proud, we’ll do the
best and work with NFF.
Looking at how much a government spends on facilities when contracts are
awarded, what’s your message to the youths as an ambassador?
You must first understand that Nigeria belongs to the masses and I belong
to the masses. At any given time any opportunity to work I get the youths
involve, a contract to me is more like an empowerment opportunity for
youths in that particular state. Not just ordinary youths but we also have
cultists that have been transformed as they work with me. We have few of
them at the site now as we speak, I take them anywhere I have jobs, lodge
them in the hotels and divert their attentions from those vices which
inimical to the society. Here in Yenagoa, with my job I have been able to
rehabilitate so many youths, likewise in so many like Aba stadium in Abia
state, Benue, Katsina and Imo. What we do is that you come looking for job,
we engage you and if you can work we keep you. My product is good quality,
from construction to installations and what have you, it’s just like a roll
Royce on synthetic grass. Everybody knows my cost, we are quite expensive
but trust me you’ll get the best, because no matter how beautiful your
stadium is, if the pitch and track is bad then its zero. Look at the Uyo
stadium today our boys are complaining, I told Nigerians before the South
African game on the situation of the pitch, now everyone has seen it that
the pitch is bad. The ball situation is different and you can’y get the
best of our players when they play on that pitch, controlling the ball is
an issue. We are going to surprise the world because of the surface where
they’ll play the world cup. The world cup pitches are already prepared 6
months before the event and nobody goes close to it until the date. It will
build their confident, Nigerians needs to invest in their pitches. The
plans are very good, and we should invest more on good playing surface.
Without the right infrastructure we can’t get the qualities we need.
Are you looking at shifting to politics in the coming years?
Honestly speaking am not interesting in politics, am a gentle man and
gentle men don’t get involved in politics. I decided to stay out of
politics, I tried it before and my fingers got burnt. I don’t know how to
make enemies, ones you’re a politician you’re bound to make enemies. Am not
interested in that, everyone in the state is my friend,  am the only guy at
my level in Bayelsa state that moves around without a police security guard
because everyone is my friend.

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