By Chukwuemeka Opara
The scenario of uncertainty painted in Things Fall Apart, the evergreen novel of late literary icon, Chinua Achebe continues to endear years after it was written and after he died. The reality portrayed by such scenario is that when things fall apart, the centre can no longer hold.
Chelsea Football Club of England currently finds itself in such precarious situation. The “Blues” as it is fondly called by soccer fans across the globe are almost in a state of extinction, not because of on-field reasons but the oligarcious inclinations of its ‘centre’ and Russian billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich.
The British government in its response to the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, clamped oligarchs and other influential personalities of Russian descent with wide ranged economic sanctions. These personalities have proven ties with the country’s President, Vladimir Putin. Abramovich was hit with assets freeze and with Chelsea FC being his major investment in the ‘Queen’s territory, this centre seems not to be holding again.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), sought the views of football fans especially Chelsea fans in Ebonyi on the precarious situation of the club, the way out and if its adoring fans can still echo: ” Chelsea for life…..”
Jideofor Okwuosa, a financial expert and Chelsea fan, noted that world football is yet to come to terms with the real implications of the sanction on Abramovich.
“The sale of the club which could had ameliorated the situation is currently put on hold. This means that the club’s rate by the Forbes magazine as the 7th most valuable club in world football, currently lives on a cliff hanger.’’
Okwuosa said that even if the British government yields to pressure and grant the club a special licence to operate, things would still be far from normal.
“The club’s economic activities such as signing sponsorship deals, sale of tickets, sale and signing of new players have been stalled.
“The club would contend with huge wage bills, most of its players especially the notable stars would be afraid of signing new contracts while no player will make the club his destination point.
“ Its academy system will be affected and we might just be seeing the extinction of one of the iconic clubs in the world.’’
He noted that the solution lay with oligarchs such as Abramovich to roundly denounce the Ukrainian invasion and severe all links with Putin’s led Kremlin government.
“This would serve as a moral suasion for the lifting of the sanctions. The oligarchs have been accused of having economic ties with the Kremlin which boosts its financial ranks. “They should support all actions being taken by world leaders to end the invasion and ultimate destruction of Ukraine.’’
`They should make commitments on the reconstruction of Ukraine, this might come at great costs from the Kremlin, but such remain the only elixir for entities such as Chelsea to survive,’’ he said.
Stephen Nwafor, an economist and soccer buff, noted that even if a special operational licence is given to the club, it will be difficult to sell it at this stage.
“Abramovich has lent the club £1.5 billion over the course of the ownership. He was prepared to write-off the debt but its assets are currently frozen.
“The club will be under such debts and no potential owner will likely fancy acquiring a club with such debt.
“Having acquired the club for £140m in 2003, the club had made huge financial break-through to become one of the world’s most successful clubs in both on field and off-field inclinations.
He supported Okwuosa’s assertion that a total lifting of the sanction on Abramovich, would restore the club’s viability and not any form of remedial measure.
“Chelsea is an elitist club which boasts of an avalanche of the world’s best footballers. Any measure that would affect the players’ wages, endorsement deals, transfer policies among others, would spell doom for it.
“The club brims with success: five premier league titles, five Football Association (FA) cups, two champions league honours, an Europa league crown, a world club cup crown among others.
“Efforts should be made to make the British government rescind the sanctions. Abramovich among other oligarchs, can use their influence to stop the war in Ukraine.
“Putin needs isolation to backpedal on his onslaught on Ukraine. When the oligarchs and other major financiers of the Kremlin sideline him, he will lose financial among other forms of steam” he said.
“Chelsea in contrast, does not need such isolation currently. It needs the solidarity of all to stay afloat for the sake of world football,” Nwafor said.
Peter Nnadozie, Chairman of Chelsea Fans Club in Ebonyi, said that it would be unheard of that the club would go into extinction. He faulted the British government’s sanction on Abramovich, noting that British nationals transact their businesses in other countries of the world unhindered.
“Such harsh sanction has direly affected our darling club. We are on the verge of losing our best players who are world stars, not signing new ones and even bidding bye to our cherished club if nothing urgent and drastic is done.
“I call on Chelsea fans especially those of British nationality to rise against this unjust decision because the club has contributed tremendously to the British economy through sports, entertainment, tourism among other sectors.
“The club provided job, entertainment to British citizens while several of them have made tremendous investment in it,” he said.
Nnadozie popularly known as Maja, said that Chelsea fans in the state and across the country would fervently pray that the club overcomes its present travails and that peace returns to Ukraine.
“We will float and sink with the club. The club has made several Nigerian football fans proud and is easily the most followed football team in the state and the country. “We urge the players, technical crew and management to be steadfast and not be distracted in its domestic and continental quests.
“We will continue watching its matches, offering support and good wishes . We urge our players to jettison the idea of quitting the club but give Abramovich ample time to sort issues with the British authorities.
“ It will be most ideal and eternally memorable to win the FA cup and retain the champions league under these tasking circumstances.
Mrs Gladys Iloh, a teacher and Manchester United FC of England supporter, said that though the situation was not pleasing, it was favourable to othér teams in the premier league, especially the ‘big teams.’
Iloh mocked that the development would ‘silence’ the ‘noisy’ Chelsea supporters, who ‘feel’ that their club is the highest in the world.
She said that it was time the road was cleared for the other teams to shine.
“My views on the whole issue might not be pleasing to many people, especially Chelsea fans, but it is part of life’s uncertainties. “When teams such as Manchester United, Arsenal among others were experiencing slumps, Chelsea fans were thrilled and celebrated with relish.
“It is currently their turn and football should not end just because Chelsea is experiencing upheavals. The club should find ways of wriggling from the quagmire and should not blame anyone for such predicament,” she said.
She however condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and called for immediate end to hostilities.
“The sanctions on individuals such as Abramovich might hurt his business interest, but humanity should not be sacrificed on the altar of capitalism.
“The evolving developments would make bourgeois who have links or support dictatorships in various ways to have a rethink and channel such support to humane areas.
“It is expected that Chelsea would come out from the present predicament, but the sanction on its owner was a right step to cut the chain of support to men like Putin” she said. (NANFeatures)