Dr. Cyprian Chubuike Amuzie is currently a board member of Anambra FA. He is a Sports Consultant and a retired Director of Sports/ Acting Permanent Secretary. Born on September 26th I952 and hails from Abatete in Idemili North LGA, Amuzie has been one of the best football administrators you could think of in Anambra state and in South East. With his vast knowledge in Sports administration, he shares some of them with our Sports Reporter, Uche Enem. Amuzie is currently a Match Commissioner, a NFF/CAF Instructor and Board member Anambra State Football Association.
Chief. C. C Amuzie (Left) with the Fides reporter Uche Enem
As an experienced hand in Anambra Sports, can you share some of your sports experiences in the old and new Anambra?
Before I went into the university, I was actively involved in sports. I was organizing sports and I was a member of Athletic Training Association. I went to University of Nigeria, Nsukka to study Physical and Health Education. I graduated in 1979. On graduation, I worked in the Sports Council. When I was through with my Youth Corps in 1980,I was posted to Girls Secondary school, Abatete. I was the Games Master of the school. It became very hectic for me not because I was the games masters but because I also worked at the Sports Council and I was always given work either to officiate an athletic competition, football or other sports. I formed a female Hand Ball team that went to Denmark for 1981 competition. With the help of the Coach Basil Eze who took them to Denmark, they won the competition.
That same year, I returned to the sports council and I was posted to the Athletic department where I was assisting Joe Onyali who was the secretary of the Athletic Association. Later, he was sent to Lagos when Nigeria had a major competition. I was then posted to the Ezeagu Local Government as an organizing secretary where I stayed for about a year. After some time, I was posted to Nsukka LGA where I was the Assisting Zonal Coordinator. When I was with Joe Ogbata, it was as if he wasn't comfortable with me maybe because I was higher than him in education so It didn't take long and I was posted to Igboeze (Enugu Ezike). I stayed there for some time and worked very hard at Igboeze. I rejuvenated sports in that area to the extent that we were the Local government champions during the school sports competitions. Bernard Ugwua, Mr Eluka (the Permanent secretary then) and many other Nsukka indigenes were really proud of my efforts. I worked with people like Late James Mama and Ifesinachi. Many people really supported me.
Since Mr. Ogbata wasn't happy with me, I was now posted to Nnewi in 1986 as the Sports officer for Nnewi. In Nnewi, I called a meeting of stakeholders in sports and they gave me all the cooperation I needed to support me in the office. One Ofordeme popularly called Alhaji from Ichi was really very happy I came down to Nnewi. In school sports, we were the talk of the state. After some time, I started football league in Nnewi in 1987. With that league, Saturdays and Sundays were really good for sports. We made use of Nnewi High school as our pitch and I thank God that the principal was very cooperative. We developed the place and we had many clubs then like Flamingoes, Green Bombers, Altar Boys, Ichi Express, Rainbow football club and many others.
At a point, Gabros called and invited me to his office and commended me. We spoke at length and that was when he told me of his dream of forming Gabros football club. From Nnewi, I was posted to Enugu as the State Football Secretary (Old Anambra). It was world cup qualifying match and a lot of matches were played. That time, the late Justice Ikpeazu was the Chairman of NFF. He had confidence and trusted me to organize such competition. To his delight, we were able to organize the competition to the extent we even made money because they owe a lot of money when they go for competition within the country. A tribunal was formed which I was part of and they found out that the then chairman of the sports council (name withheld) and some others were all asked to refund the money they couldn't account for. Then minister for Aviation, Mr. Chike, Colonel Omokpai, Late Colonel Mba, POC Achebe and some others were in the committee and I was just a small secretary in their midst. By age and experience, some of my bosses felt that I couldn't organize such competition as a level nine officer.
In 1989, we hosted Nigeria vs Gabon competition in Enugu for Olympic qualifying match. That was when I discovered Samual Okwaraji. I saw him playing at the Enugu campus. I enquired from him if he wanted to play for Nigeria and he accepted. That year was the first time he played for Nigeria. When we had a world cup qualifying match against Angola at Lagos National Stadium, he collapsed and died of heart failure. Some said he might be into drugs but that was just offsling .
In 2000, we were merged and brought into the Ministry. The Ministry of Youth and Sports was created under Gov. Mbanuju tenure. All the staff of the then sports council now became the staff of the new Ministry of Youths and Sports. I was one of the first people that were drafted into the Ministry of Youth and Sports with the Late Numa Uzor. I worked with him before the other staff joined us. Since then, I have been involved in different sports programmes. I was assisting Numa Uzor as Chief Sports Officer in the then Ministry of Information Youth and Sports. My sports life was so outstanding. I can remember when Numa Uzor asked me to draft a proposal which he took to Gongola where they held the National Council of Sports meeting.
The fact that people retire, they get their pension and gratuity, I think It is better to be in the Sports Council where you can recruit, retire or dismiss staff but in the Ministry, you have to go through the rigours of civil service bureaucracy before you are employed. In the ministry, you are not asked to recruit, you cannot recruit. But in the sports council, you could see a very good athlete and you can bring them in. The only thing we ask is for increase in subvention. With the new ministry, it wasn't possible and that seemed to have affected sports. In the Ministry set up, we were no longer autonomous as we were. Sports council had a lot of advantage over the ministry. The sports council could hire and fire but in the ministry, it is done by the civil service commission.
The then NFF board was so happy about the way we arranged the match. In 1990, I hosted NFF Annual General Meeting in Enugu. In 1991, I formed U- 18 Man Uwa Adebajo Football competition and we won it that year after 15 years. That same year was the creation of state, so we brought it back. The then Director of Sports, Dr. Simon Umedum who later became a Professor at UNIZIK in Physical Health Education Department took us to Power Mike Stadium in Onitsha for one night and arranged for us to meet the then Deputy Governor, Joseph Abulu, a police office. Since the competition was played during the creation of the Anambra state, the trophy stayed in Enugu for 6 month and after it elapsed, it stayed in Anambra. So, the trophy belonged to the two states. In 1991, we won another trophy, the U- 12 competition. These were some of the achievements during my tenure and sports experiences I had.
In 1995, Jasper (Jude Ezechukwu) of Onitsha wrote that they needed an expert to help them run a football club. I went there on secondment and then when I got there I started work till 2002. I was able to bring Jasper from division two to division one and we won the league in 1997. We went at the CAF level, we lost at the quarter final in Angola. In 1998, I wanted to go back but he pleaded that I stayed back. So I stayed. In 2000, I was involved with the movement from Sports Council to Ministry.
Because of my credibility, I was given more assignments more often. I was the Zonal coordinator in Nnewi and also I was managing the team of Jasper. It wasn't really easy because I was shuttling from Onitsha and Nnewi every time. It was too tasking. Jasper gave me a flat and also a car to share with the coach. In 2000, we went to Italy for a competition. It is a competition that is organized every year in which some players are selected. In the competition we finished at the second place. Some of our players were selected. Some went to AC Milan, some deviated and didn't come back with us.
In 2003- 2007, I started to work as Deputy Director of sports till I became the Director of Sports in 2007. In September 2012, the Commissioner of Sports was relieved of the duty, Mrs. Chinwe Anowai. She left and there was a vacuum and the then permanent secretary also retired. So, that was the period I acted as commissioner for sports and permanent Sec at the same time. But my position as the Permanent Secretary for 6 months wasn't confirmed but I was just doing the job. I retired as Director of Sports/ acting perm sec in 2013.
I also worked in TRACAS after I came back from Enugu. The MD then requested an experienced Footballer. It metamorphosed from ASESA Warriors to TRACAS. Gibson Nwosu was the chairman then of ASESA. After the creation of states, the then GM of TRACAS, Engr. Ralph Udigwe was so interested in sports so he formed TRACAS Warrior Football Club and I was the first team manager in 1992. I stayed for just two years and they started their normal intrigue and politics as usual and I left.
What has been your challenging moment in sports so far?
I have mentioned some early in this interview but my biggest challenge that time was the competition we hosted between Nigeria and Algeria in 1988. I was the secretary for the competition.
How did your sports life begin?
In my primary school days, my games master in St. Mary's Practicing school, Edizna- Abaka in Akwa Ibom, Mr. Victor Iyoho had interest in me. In that school, when you are in primary five, you will go to boarding school and most times he took me to play tennis with him and I took so much interest in sports. I was in the school athletic and football team. In my secondary school, I attended Holy Trinity College in Nwaniba- Uyo till the war broke. Fr. Keugh was the principal and he wanted me to go for goalkeeping. I played defense but whenever they had serious competition I was pushed to represent the school in tennis. I was also good for 200m and 100m. One of Rev. Fr. Cunnhan wanted to take me to Ireland when the war broke out. Nwaniba was very close to the river and they were the first to pull out. I also went to Holy Family school between 1968- 1969 for my class five but when the war became too much and we came back to Abatete where I completed my school in Notre Dame High school, Abatete between 1970- 1971.
What made my football administration great is because I joined the Nigeria referees association in 1975 in my first year at the university. I have attended so many courses especially the one in Kaduna in 2001 and that really enlarged my knowledge in football administration.
When I graduated from the university, I was recruited in the police but my father wasn't comfortable with it because he lost his brother in the police force so I pulled out. Most of my colleagues are presently IGPs.
When I was the director, we organized a lot of sports programme. For the first time, I was able to convince people and we were able to form the School Sports Implementation Committee which comprised head masters and headmistresses to represent ASUBEB, PPSSC, APCORPS and privates school owners. At that time, Anambra state was at the least in position ranking. Later, Anambra started coming up. For example, when we went to Kano in 2010, we came to 4th position and in 2013 at Cross River, we took the 3rd position. In 2013 though I wasn't with them again when they went to Otukpo and took 2nd position. Though, they were not properly taken care of because it was like a tradition that whenever they go for competition, Peter Obi gave them money and scholarship to many people who participated in the competition.
How were you able to manage your family responsibilities and Sports life?
I go to work just like any other person. Before I got married to my wife in 1983, she knew me well and the nature of my job and was able to understand me too. There were some sports events that took me outside home for one month. She is a good woman, she understands me well and at a point she got used to it.
Do you have any of your children that took interest in sports?
My son took interest in sports. He is the only son though he plays football and he is presently working in UNIZIK.
What can you say are your fulfilling moments?
When I was the Secretary of Anambra state Football Association. It was very challenging but very fulfilling. As young as I was, I was able to take a lot of responsibilities with so much courage to the surprise of many people. People expected my downfall but I was able to succeed. In 1988, I was in Nnewi organizing Challenge Cup where they announced that Anambra Football Association had been dissolved and some names were mentioned. I got shocked and I told Umedum, the then Director of Sports that I wouldn't want to come into the office so that I will be messed up. I didn't want to rubbish at my youthful age. People wanted criminals to be in the FA but some people were against it. Some loved the way I carried my functions and my activeness in sports and loved me to always stay. I stayed as the secretary from 1988- 1992. Also, whenever ever I remember some of the people I trained doing great, I feel proud and fulfilled. I trained some People lke Utondu, Patrick Okoye and Chris Okoye and the Ezinwa's brothers. I was in the Athletic department like Beatrice Utondu, Chinwe Okechikwelu from Umudioka are some of the people I trained. The people were part of the people who enjoined Abiola's scholarship
In your university days, what sports did you engage in?
There was a lot of politics in sports during my university days. The team that made up football and athletes in my university days must be from some specific schools like Government College Umuahia, Government College Afikpo, Government College, Owerri. If you are good and you are not from these schools, you won't be taken into the team. Well, I was in the team for Hand ball and swimming and I represented them for various competitions.
How do you see Anambra Sports and Nigeria Sports in the next few years?
I want to leak to the government a secret and give them a memo. If they buy into my idea and memo, sports will bounce back to what it was before. One former Commissioner (name withheld) killed a lot of things in sports and a lot of interests too among the administrators, athletes and footballers. Athletes usually receive 500 naira for feeding per day and he brought it down to 150 naira per day. Even after they expressed their grieviances towards it, he didn't care to do anything for them. Any sports man should be taken care of because they represent not just the state but the country too. Some of these acts usually discourage athletes and even discourage the parents from releasing their children to participate in sports activities. During my time as a administrator, it dint take up to one week and the athletes were paid and received by the Governor too. It was through me that we bought the ACB Club position from Nicolas Ukadike because he wanted the Igbos to possess the ACB Club since ACB was a bank from Zik. The club was given to us for 100,000 naira.
The only way sports can be improved in Anambra state is by engineering school sports which is the grass root mobilization. Also, to have a games village in Anambra state and sports programme for training coaches and administrators. This will easily help to identify young talented athletes and players. The governor also needs to have strong interest in sports because it will really help.
Anambra state should make use of retired and experienced administrators who will help them put sports in the proper perspective. As for the federal level, if they can concentrate in developing grass root sports, it will be good. The idea of selecting already made athletes from USA is not good. Athletes that were sent abroad during Abiola's time were discovered from their youthful age.
C. C. Amuzie as a Match Commissioner at Kaduna Township Stadium on 13th January, 2010 during the match between Kaduna United Vs Niger Tornados. By his left hand side is Bebeto Tony
What has been the most difficult decision you have made as an administrator?
I can't really remember any. In 1988, we had challenge cup involving Rangers and Fegge united. The first match was in Enugu and it was played draw. And they were to go to Onitsha for their away match in Onitsha. So, Rangers were afraid that if they go to Onitsha, they would lose to Fegge United and that time I was in Port Harcourt with U- 13 team for competition. I pleaded with their team manager and they agreed to play in Enugu and the played draw again. They rescheduled again and Rangers won at the third time.