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Fr. Obinna was at the African Cup of Nations, Ghana in 2008 as a live match commentator. He ran live commentary of the 2008 Nations Cup with Ghana TV

Sports Made Me “Mad” –Fr. Coach Obinna Dike

……My Dad and Barr. JBC Obikwelu were  my core inspiration in sports

The life and time of this icon cannot be described with just pen and paper. He is the first priest In Nigeria and probably in Africa with a licensed football coaching certificate, certificate in education, Communication, Sports Science and Psychology. Who is he? He is Rev. Fr. Obinna Dike. Fr. Obinna is a great and visionary priest everybody would like to meet. He is blessed with great ideas, intelligence, and wisdom and above all, he is very hard working. I hope my readers will enjoy this piece, especially my borrowing a leaf from his experiences.

At just 2 years, Obinna was already on the ball

May we know you?

My name is Rev. Fr. Coach Obinna Obiora Obiajulumoyi Dike. I am from Enu-Avomimi Village Enugwu- Ukwu in Njikoka LGA of Anambra State. I was born on 19th October, 1972 at Ekwulobia and my childhood experiences started there. I am the first son of my parents, Mr. and Mrs.  John Dike. Also, I am a priest of Awka Diocese ordained August 2001. I am currently the Director of Sports, Awka Diocese (DOSAD) and Deputy Director of Fides Communications where I work too. I happen to be also the President/Director of DOSAD Football Academy, Enugwu- Ukwu and DOSAD Academy for Female, Neni.

You are working in Fides and you are also the Director of Sports for the Catholic Diocese of Awka. How do you manage such responsibilities?

By vocation and profession, I am a priest. I am a media consultant and that’s why I work in Fides. On the other side, I am a professional Grade 1 football coach and that’s why I work as the Director of Sports. These all add to the vocation of Priesthood. Because of those faculties, the diocese has given me both areas to serve. With the modern trend in sports, Sports and Media go together. I am privileged to be in a core position of two great offices that work together to advance humanity. I remain eternally grateful to my Bishops, Most. Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, Jonas Benson Okoye, Peter Okpaleke, the Clergy, Religious and Laity of Awka Diocese.

What are your challenges so far?

In life, we have challenges. God created us in this world to help him redirect certain things according to his will. So, what people see as problem, we take as challenges. It is from those challenges. We make out our mission, vision and objectives. So, I have challenges and that is why I go out to work every day. This is why I set up my task to know the areas where I am successful.

As a footballer, Obinna participated in the seminary “ World Cup” called All Seminary Games at Jos  ‘96

Well, as a communicator, communication is so vast and it involves a whole lot of things. The basic thing about communication is relationship. Where I work as a communicator has to do with the church. Every stress is on that quality of relationship. A relationship to build and that runs around with the social responsibilities and obligations of the Press. We in Fides Communications aim to build; educating through informing and through entertaining. We represent the voice of the Church as well as the voice of the people. The challenges we have is that we have the secular media which are doing a great job especially in a country like Nigeria but we know where their ills lie, especially when they blow things out of proportion. For the church media, we try to see how we can be objective and also making news trendy. So, these are the basic challenges we have. Also, we strive to maintain the integrity of people, the Press and also the integrity of the church in trying to communicate the love of Christ. So, it is a serious task.

In the secular Press, they can do anything and get away with it but it will be difficult to do it in the church Press. We are looked upon from all sides because we are supposed to represent what is objective and at the same time what is entertaining. I thank God for the team of the people we are working with because we are making headway. We have not arrived fully there but we are trying to make that mark so that people will be appreciative of that.

On the side of sports, sports has been my life. Sports was born into me because my father was a great sports man. He played for Nigeria as a footballer and he was the captain of the Eastern Region in the 50s. He also played international matches and he was very popular. They call him John Dyke. My dad attended the famous St. Patrick’s College in Calabar where he started his sports exploits and then was able to represent Nigeria in the 50s. I was born with sports running in my blood and I took after my father especially in football. Because of my love for sports which started at a tender age, I had so many injuries and accidents but it still kept me going. In the seminary, I had to go into refereeing since I couldn’t play the way I wanted to play. I got into refereeing even though I wasn’t able to make it to getting a FIFA badge. I made my grade 1 in 2001 and I was invited for FIFA listing in 2005. My referring life was very important to me and was very successful.

Was it because of the Sports injuries you had that you decided to go into Refereeing?

No. I didn’t go into refereeing just because of the sports injuries. In the seminary, I wanted to become a priest and I attended the summit for seminary games, which was mainly referred to as “the world cup”. I was part of the team that represented St. Joseph’s Seminary, Ikot- Ekpene at the National Championship at Jos 1996. In the seminary, we weren’t opportuned to play like those who represented Nigeria in the National Team. We played a lot of people like Vincent Enyeama and his brother, Aniekan. They were our play mates at Ikot- Ekpene and other Ibom stars. I played with Oge Ileagu, a national player. He was my team mate at Enugwu ukwu.

Rev. Fr. Coach Obinna Dike, the first Rev. Fr in football coach in Nigeria on his graduation in Nov 2014 from the National Institute for Sports (NIS), Lagos

 Running a referee programme was in consonance with the Seminary training. In the history of Nigeria, the seminary referees made up the early referees. It is in the history of Nigeria; Nigeria Football Association then was founded by two Rev. Frs. (Dennis Slaterry and his colleague). My passion for football was nurtured in the seminary and explored further through the instrumentality of Barr Sir JBC Obikwelu who was there for me at all times. He encouraged me to continue with the refereeing even after many people pulled out from it. Refereeing exposed me to another side of sports.

Can you share some of your early football experiences with us?

My Primary school days were at Oji River in Enugu State. Where I lived, I had the likes of Teco Benson of Nollywood, Prince Odala Orji, Legal Luminary Umeadi and many others as peers and friends. We played together in one improvised field which we often call “Office’.  In the junior seminary, I wasn’t too good but I played in the Anambra Championship. It was in the senior seminary that I was selected to go actively into playing for the school team and then the refereeing training came up too.

Fr. Obinna Dike as a referee in the Nigerian League (1st left) at Samson Siasia Stadium, Yenogoa, Bayelsa State In 20

 While growing up, many of the children who played with us ran away whenever they saw their parents. My own was different because my dad was into sports. Everybody in Oji River knew my father and his football passion. Any time he saw us playing in the field, he parked his car and then joined us to play football. My dad would always tell my mum to create time for us so that we could use it to play football. My dad was the main source of inspiration to me. While others dodged their parents while playing football, my dad would always chase us out to the field to play. He taught us most times other techniques in football. Infact, my dad was an idol for some of us who were growing. It is a leverage and credit to me.

 In the seminary, I had that unusual love for sports and writing. I was updating the seminary community on the happenings in sports while others were sleeping. I listened to the radio to get all the current news in sports and pasted it on the notice board. I did all these things even before I joined refereeing. Because of these efforts, the National Body of Referees honoured me for that. Because of my input in sports, they took away from me Amateur Leagues and immediately I made my Grade 1, I was placed in pro league. When I first officiated as a referee, I could never have dreamt a better day. Then, anytime I received an alert or text message from JBC Obikwelu, I then knew that I have a National match.

With fellow coaches in training at the National Institute for Sports (NIS), Surulere, Lagos in 2014

 I had a lot of experiences in football in the North, South, East and West. I attended all the matches there, and they were all great to me. People knew me as being fair, objective and stubborn. When you are fair and objective, people will always come to shake you and say, “Thank You”. I am still being recognized even outside Nigeria for my credibility. When I went for my sports programmes in National Institute of Sports (NIS), the chief football coach in NIS recognized me and applauded me for my credibility in one of the matches I officiated a long time ago that he handled one of the teams.

Since I decided to be a priest, everything must be for Christ. I approached the Bishop in 2013 and requested to go for a special training in football coaching. It’s very rare because no Nigeria Priest has done that at the professional level. The Bishop permitted me and I went to the NIS in 2014 and made Grade 1 in football coaching

Rev. Fr. Obinna Dike receiving Oblata from his parent, Mr. & Mrs. John Dike on the occasion of his first Holy Mass, August 19, 2001 at Enugwu- Ukwu

When I came back, I had already completed my Masters in Sports Psychology and Sports Science. So, I wrote a memo to start the Directorate of Sports so that the Catholic Church will have its own sports alternative. We are not the first though because in Nigeria we have the Mountain of Fire, City of David, Redeemed and some others who have such sports apostolate running.  In the Vatican, we have that office running for years. I just wanted to start something for the local church here in the diocese that will impact, not only on the church, but a whole lot of people. So, the Bishop granted me that.

 In October, 2014, we started the office popularly called DOSAD Sports which I am the director. The aim is to place an alternative so that people can achieve their life aim which God has called them to through sports especially the youths.

We are not into condemning what others are doing but we are out to do the right thing the way it is supposed to be done in our own little way. This is why we are not disturbing anybody so that given a numbers of years, people will look at us and say ‘good’.

With colleagues (Coaches) on citizenship and leadership training at Sea School, Snake Island Apapa, Lagos in 2014. Taking instructions on how to surf the Atlantic Ocean at Takwa Bay.

What wing do you play in Football?

I am known particularly as an outside left attacker. Now it is called 11. I had a very powerful left and at a point I had to learn right. Later, I mastered my right and it became an advantage to me that I could play both legs. I was always an attacker, Later I came in to becoming a supporting striker (No 8). I wasn’t really comfortable with defense because of the accident I had; but I could play other wings and positions well. That period of my injuries, I was always advised by the doctors to stop playing football but I kept playing till my body could no longer carry me in 2007. Now, I am into coaching and that is the way God wants me especially in this DOSAD which is just my dream.

As a referee in the Nigeria League at E. J Esuene Stadium Calabar in 2005, the year Referee Fr Obinna was invited for FIFA listing screening

What are your fulfilling moments so far?

What fulfils me is that I get my job done. Having a wonderful result in my NIS Programme is also fulfilling to me. Also, I came out with an honour of being the first Rev. Fr. coach In Nigeria which is a fact left for somebody to contest. According to available records, this extends to the whole of West Africa and even Southern African, I am the First Rev. Fr. to bag that professional license in football. Although, all these facts are still under investigation.  I got to find out that we had a priest probably from Europe who is now late that combined being a football professional coach, sports psychologist, educationist and scientist. I am not bragging about that neither do I make a noise about it. I wanted to do the whole so that I can stand as an authority and a consultant so as to give the best to this apostolate.

When I came back, I was to start with my home state and diocese. I approached the state government through the Commissioner of Sports and up till now they have been very helpful. They wanted to offer me a job in the civil service. I tendered my application to them after discussing with them including the Head of Service. While they were still working on my employment, a friend called me and some others and advised me to be independent. I thought over it and spoke to my bishop and some other friends about it. If I am independent, I am going to suffer more, it’s going to be more tasking but though it will give me the latitude to do what I want to do. So I quietly pulled my application letter and told the commissioner that I was no longer interested doing the regular civil service job. I think that is one of the best decisions I have taken in life. We started DOSAD Sports with a whole range of departments to handle a lot of issues like recreation, training, nurturing and all that.

Enjoying his moment as a coach- in- training at Lagos in 2014

In our Academy in Enugwu- ukwu, we have over 58 talented players. We have those who have travelled out and they are doing well. That is part of my fulfillment. The football academy is growing and we are getting wonderful players who are going to take this nation by storm within a couple of years and discipline wise. We have a lot of initiatives like our sports center. For the first time, the diocese is converting a hall to a sports center. So, I am very fulfilled even though it is challenging. The challenging aspect of the thing is what makes it fulfilling. People call me a mad man because of this my project.  I can remember a priest saying “my madness has form” . For you to move certain things in this life, you have to be mad. I am mad about sports and that gives me the fulfillment.

Can you throw more light on what DOSAD details?

DOSAD is our sports alternative. It is an option we are creating that does not have any political or religious bias. DOSAD involves a lot of things not just football but Sports. Those who want to achieve fitness and wellness in life; we have a programe for that. In no distance time, we will go into sports equipment manufacturing using our local fabrics. We will also go into sports consultancy to see how we will engage our youths. When you talk about entertainment, Sports is primary there before music because sports is decent. In music, some people are put off by what you put on or your lyrics. But in the area of sports, people have that decency. When you talk about sports, we have games and it is not something you do individually, there is a body that regulates everything you do and that is why a whole of people go into it. There are rules and regulations. A lot of people go into sports at the official level because it is decent and organized. Sports is creative and you have the room to move to your taste.  So, DOSAD is one of those sports options created to maximize the gains of Sports.

Rev. Fr. Coach Obinna Obiora Dike in full National regalia as a Nigerian Coach

We want to start here in Anmabra State and in Nigeria because we have a lot of potentials we want to maximize. When you travel outside the country, the big stories about Nike, big clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid and others that started as recreation club didn’t just make their name within a day. They started when people began working by putting up ideas together and gradually things became better. This is why they are great and successful and they are impacting on millions of lives out there. Ifeanyi Ubah is doing same down here at our doorstep in Anambra. DOSAD is taking after them and we want to surpass them. We don’t want to make mistakes. The advantage we have is that we have studied their mistakes one after the other. So, what we are left to do now is to take a bold step no matter how long it takes us.

Given our peculiar nature in African especially when it comes to corruption, I had a lot of experiences as a referee. If I am given the opportunity, I could say a whole lot of things about sports corruption in Nigeria. Some of these corruption happened in front of me and since I am directly involved in sports, I fought some of them even when I didn’t have an arm. Now, I have an arm and I am independent and also a priest and I believe that DOSAD has given me the platform to express those ills. But as a priest, whatever you say, you must try to do them. DOSAD has given me not just the mouth to speak about the ills in sports but also the hand to correct those ills by creating an alternative.  This is why we have pulled a whole lot of people irrespective of the tribe and religion. We have a lot of people involved in DOSAD Projects. We keep researching in order to throw up the embers and expand the horizon. It is something that last for a life time and it will outlive me. Tomorrow I might not be there any longer but the dream still remains.

 Few days ago, I was coming from Mgbakwu, I saw a group of boys around U- 12 training with their coach. I parked my car and approached them to see what they were doing.  I was so pleased to see them training with passion and zealousness. The coach might not have gained the professional license, qualifications or even certificate in coaching but the joy in what I saw was the zeal in the coach. These are the type of zealous people we need in Nigeria.

Now that I am in the media, Fides has been very wonderful in complimenting my sports ideas because not only do I have the mouth but I have the eyes and the hand. Whatever I do, Fides publishes it to the whole world. I also give credit to the girl who handles the sports profiles page, my creation. I mean you Miss Uche Enem. People read you and appreciate it too.

The recent DOSAD initiative which is called “Anambra Independent Football League” is going to be of great benefit to Anambrarians. When you go out, you see people who make money from Sports. For example, in Sudan, they have their internal problems but they have subsidiary leagues though it is not the main league. In South African, they have 2nd division, 3rd division, 4th division. Even if you go to England, they have what you call conference. The people there can boast of having players who have played in the conference. These people gain from football.

One of the major things that brighten an economy is population. Everything in Nigeria has worked and it brings gain but Sports is derailing. Outside the premier league, every other league played nationwide is caricature. Caricature here means that for you to win a match, you must lose a player or the team boss especially in the lower league. In premier league, every attention is there and they have sanitized that and I give credit to the LMC. But in the nationwide league or amateur it is still hopeless. We have clubs in Anambra and they don’t want to buy the ticket for nationwide amateur leagues. I personally will not want to buy the ticket because it will be like I am sending the players to go and die. The locations they play those matches are horrible and the referees don’t have any option because most times the referees are being threatened.

Concerning the Anambra Independent Football Leagues, I drew out a proposal for football. In the proposal, 10 teams who play business football with all other disciplinary aspects come together and run an independent league like EPL or La Liga. We have written to the Anambra FA about it and will strongly believe it will help connect to our people. We know our people will come to watch us. We may be abused because of our initiative at first but I know our people will begin to appreciate it later. I sent out an invitation to about 13 teams and eventually we have 18 teams coming now. I told them that I want to meet people who could help sponsor us to make the league a success. We are planning the inaugural kick off on the 17th of March, 2017.

During the course of the meeting, I saw the enthusiasm in them and they suggested that we should form it into a committee or council. So, now we have a Council of Independent Football Promoters. If things work out well, it may be at the base of Ifeanyi Ubah Stadium or Rojenny Stadium or any of the homes. We don’t have the money but we have some other things over and above the money. We have our commitment, we have our zeal and we know we will get the sponsor no matter how little. We want to run a league in Anambra that will be better than the those we see out there. We have our common account and we have to show transparency and I thank God that everything is working very well. Very soon it will be heard everywhere in the media because that is the project on ground now. This is our little way of trying to change the face of football in Anambra State.

Atlantic treat. Swimming the Atlantic Ocean in Nov. 2014 in Lagos

As a referee, what has been the most difficult decision you have taken?

Well, I may say that I am privileged. Because of my attitude towards refereeing, I always love to be at the center and I majored as a center referee. Because I love refereeing so much, the idea of seconds became very important because four things are very crucial:  You see, you evaluate, you judge and you apply by decision making. Going through these four steps within few seconds makes it more thrilling. The more you keep doing it, the more it becomes reflex action. When I started earlier, I didn’t usually have the freight people do have rather it was more like an excitement for me. At Onikan Stadium, I was always threatened with snakes and sometimes they tell me “It is today the Pope will know that we have killed a Rev. Fr.” At the end of the day, those people who say this, will come to appreciate me for a job well done after the match.

I can’t really remember any episode in my refereeing that disheartened me. I can remember when I officiated match at Rivers between Sharks and Eagles Cement. It was really tough because at half time, shark needed that match. The names of the officiating referees in every match were always being published before the match and whenever some teams knew I was coming, especially if they were home matches, they weren’t pleased about it. It was credit to me because they know that I will not shift ground. There was a time in Abuja my name was published without the “Rev. Fr”. I wrote back to them that I wasn’t going to honour the match till the “Rev. Fr.”   was added. About 90- 95 percent of the matches I officiated did well to me and to the teams. The home teams that were not playing well started playing well because they had it in mind that with this priest coming, they weren’t going to be any form of cheap penalty and that made me friends to almost all the club chairmen. Calabar, Baylesa, Ocean Boys, Onikan Stadium, the then governor of Oyo State, Ibadan, called me and said “Fr, anytime you come to officiate match here, our boys play better’. Well, I also have disappointing moments. It happened only once but at our national meeting I raised it up. The national meeting was basically for our fitness test. One of the persons who was in charge of match, called me and told me this, “Fr, the home thing needs this match”. When I discussed more with him, it was clear that he wanted me to shift ground in favour of the home team. I felt very disappointed to hear it and when I asked my other colleagues then, they told me that such usually happen to them too.

Whatever is happening to the Nigeria League today is that the referees who take bribes will be caught one day when they collect bribe. People know when you officiate well and people know when you make a human mistake. But when there is bad will or when you want to circumvent, people will know and mark you as a cheat. We know those referees and the people who appoint them know them. This bad image follows them for the rest of their lives. We have seen some surprising results in the LMC and we hope things gets better.

How will you advise the government?

I have an advice for the government. Firstly, they should do what they are supposed to do. At the federal level, we have so many committees on sports that are hopeless. Some of these people who are in  committees know nothing about sports. They are into the committee to see what they can just get and to travel outside the country. Some of the committees do not have technocrats. Although, some officers try to train and retrain their workers, there are so many irrelevant committees and the budget services them. The National Institute of Sports in Lagos needs attention. The federal government is not giving it the attention it deserves. The NIS is the only place that train and produced people with licensed certificates. Sometimes, in the NIS, they bicker about looking for equipment and all sorts.

Coming down to Anambra, let the government give to sports what it deserves. I thank God for the present Commissioner for Sports, Uju Nworgu. She is doing very well in the sense that she is someone you could talk to and she tries to do her best. Also, It looks like sports budget in many states are not proactive like planning ahead. Most times, money is only disbursed just when there are competitions.

Taking a breather in tour of Snake Island in 2014

There was one Minister who gave me a private interview in Lagos, I told him I wanted to ask him some personal questions and he accepted. He said that his appointment as the minister may not be a long term appointment and that’s why it is difficult to plan sports for a long or even short term. He told me that he could be appointed today and be removed the next hour by the president. He told me that his planning as a Minster is one day plan because he could be removed at anytime. We are supposed to emulate South Africa. What they did to their sports is tremendous. They noticed their flop and they sat up in 2015 and decided to have a 10 years plan for their sports and the federal government of South African is following that.

In Anambra, sports budget is very important. I am making an appeal to the government so that each of the 21 LGA has a place or one good football field and track where people can run, play tennis and do other sports. This will help especially those who want to train their athletes. Most primary and secondary schools do not know what is Tartan tracks and even how to wear spike to run. I am not saying they should build the best of facilities but they could do something simple and less expensive. Also, many schools do not have some of these facilities and do not participate in field events. For example, there is no place in Anambra State that has a field for high jump field except in Rojenny stadium and Neros Nanka. Many students in schools lack this orientation. The government needs to provide those facilities. It doesn’t cost much to put that place on ground for every local government in Anambra. Also, the people who are involved should try and maintain these facilities provided by the government.

Training of coaches is another important thing the government should consider. There are so many places to train coaches. If they don’t have money to take them for one year programme, we have other courses that could be done easily. They can get a group of NIS team and coaches to come down here to organize clinics and practicals. Also, some sports offices at the local government are not serviced.

Also, every Anambrarian is supposed to be involved. In some develop countries, the government didn’t do everything. Let our people also invest. They can invest by creating foundations. In 2015, DOSAD, went round all the communities and got names of people who have sponsored sports in one way or the other presently and in the past and presented awards to them for their contributions to sports. Some of them were surprised because of that singular honour. Foundations are created by the little things you do to help promote and impact on the lives of people. It may not be a big money but the little money contributed means a lot. Presently, what I do is meeting people who could sponsor something that could be held in their names or in their father’s name. I am taking main market gradually and I have really met a lot of people who see my vision and have vouched to do their best.

We all are the government. Let the government be left with providing the facilities, let people invest and get the value and respect. Once they start, others will see the value and also invest. If you are looking for someone like Ifeanyi Uba to invest in sports heavily, reaping his hard work may not come now but will come later. My value orientation programme is basically for people to see the need to invest their little money in what many people will really appreciate and not something very futile. Gradually we will organize it.  It could come in form of training of athletes who are talented and attaching them to some of our business men for sponsorship. We are blessed in Anambra. I am into sports advocacy where I meet people and explain to them to key into my vision. This will also help government in their project.

2004 National fitness test for Referees at Abuja

How do you see Nigeria’s sports and Anambra’s sports in the next five years?

I am very positive. I believe that my own project in the next five years will turn out something very wonderful. I know that at the background, a lot of people are working doing similar things or even better things than what I am doing. In the last three matches played by the Eagles, people were impressed. People were also impressed because we have young blood coming into the team. In Europe, a good number of our players are doing well.  In the USA, most of the basketball team both male and female have at least a Nigerian there. We have what it takes. So in the next five years, I see something positive about this country. Also, in the Nigeria League, we have not just the government but so many individuals who are coming up like Ifeanyi Ubah, the team owned by the CEO of Bet Nija, we have Giwa FC, Remos Stars, Mountain of Miracles FC. We don’t want to specialize in football alone, we have so many young talented athletes in secondary schools that could be trained and kept in safe hands so that they won’t be abused by coaches and administrators. By this, we will go a long way.

Where do you think Nigeria players’ loyalty lies?

I cannot speak for them. From what I have observed, players want to wear the national colour not just for business. It is always pride to wear the national colour. Those that are picked at U- 17 are not interested in the money. I have been in their camp with Amuneke and Siasia. These people are interested more in wearing the colour of Nigeria and they want people to sing the national anthem on their head first. I think that their loyalty lies in that project called Nigeria. If there is no money in Nigeria, Nigeria players will still go and play for the Country and even use their own money. Stephen Keshi was doing it when there was no money and when the NFF were not organized.

But it is a different thing when you know that money was released for the competition and someone goes behind to take that money and spend, yet it is written that the money has reached you. These players will definitely feel bad and it will also discourage them because it happens every time to them. I think their loyalty lies in Nigeria but they are sad because of the poor administrative set up in the country. Also, many of them when they are exposed to risk don’t have the safely and security the nation is supposed to give them. Many of these players leave their clubs to play for their country and get injuries. It is believed that whoever enjoys your assets shares in your liabilities except the clubs says otherwise.  As a player, I know that their loyalty lie with the country and not their individual pocket but some administrative mess up have thrown up the ugly side of money.

What’s your favourite Colour?

I love white and red

What’s your favourite meal?

Naturally, I love bush meat with red oil

What are your hobbies?
Sports, travelling and observing nature.

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