‘After the final whistle, it was hard to believe that we had just defeated one of Nigeria’s biggest teams and a club that was representing the country in the CAF champions League.’
Mountain of Fire Ministry (MFM) star Chukwuma Emmanuel says regarding his team’s win over title favourites Nasarawa United in Lafi in the league opener back in February.
‘I think that win on day one of the season was vital for us.’
MFM is privately run by the one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Nigeria with millions of members spread across the globe.
The club was founded in 2007 after Pastor Daniel Olukoya said he had a revelation from God to ‘reposition Nigerian youths for Christ.’
He then came up with football competitions that searched for grassroots talents. The club then won the Church World Cup in 2014 in India, beating the United Church of Colombia by a staggering 7-0 to take first place.
‘We cost absolutely nothing to assemble.’
‘What makes our team special is because unlike the big teams like Enyimba and Kano Pillars, we cost absolutely nothing to assemble, most of us were picked from various amateur clubs and have playing together in the last few years, that has given us the necessary understanding to function as a team’ Chukwuma continued.
It’s tough for rookie teams in the first-tier Nigerian National League: 20 of the last 24 teams to have gained promotion were relegated to back to the second-tier NNL within their first season.
On the eve of the season on a Abuja-based radio sports programme some seasoned sports reporters were asked to make their predictions for the season. Three out of the four named MFM as one of the teams that will be relegated at the end of the term citing inexperience as a reason for their demise. Those same people will surely be rethinking that after the last few games.
Many Nigerian football followers saw MFM’s week one victory in Lafia as a fluke but when they then beat the newly merged Rivers United in a packed Agege Stadium by 2-1 people began to take notice of the newly promoted side.
People became sure of the club’s resolve and determination to make a statement when they defeated one of the most outstanding teams from previous term (equivalent of Arsenal FC) Sunshine Stars of Akure 2-1 away from home next.
It was a result no one saw coming and it left an indelible mark on the minds of many regarding MFM’s agenda to upset the scheme of things in the top flight.
‘We couldn’t believe the buzz going about regarding our victory.’
‘After the victory in Akure, we came back to Lagos (home) and we couldn’t believe the buzz going about regarding our victory, that was really when people started calling us NPFL’s Leicester City which I still see as inspiring because we share the same ideals of upsetting status quo in our various divisions.’ Chukwuma added smilingly.
I still remember some of the headlines on some of Nigeria’s major newspapers at the time, hailing what the Lagos based team had achieved and why the team’s manager Fidelis Ikechukwu might be revolutionising the league as Claudio Ranieri is doing in the English Premier League.
Leicester City’s squad cost around 10 per cent of that of high spenders Manchester City, whilst MFM players cost absolutely nothing as they were scouted all around the country’s former capital city Lagos.
‘We are here to prove a point.’
‘Apart from Adekunle, Shola and Ifeanyi all of us were playing non-league football only three years ago which makes our journey so far very commendable, it’s not as if huge monies were paid for us to come here, we are here to prove a point, if you look at Enyimba, Nasarawa and Kano Pillars, they all have big players from Cameroon, Ghana and other countries while all of us are Lagos boys.’
MFM might not have the finances of a team like Ifeanyi Ubah or the reputations of some of their opponents on the pitch this season like but they are certainly doing better than most expected at this stage at only two points off top place.