Come Sunday, 21 February, 2016, Mountain Of Fire and Miracles Ministries, MFM Football Club will file out against Nasarawa United to begin their campaign in the Nigeria Premier League this season, eyeonthenews.com reports.
MFM FC secured promotion to Nigeria’s elite league for the first time when they garnered 28 points to finish tops in the Nigeria National League, NNL Group B-2 in an eight team format last season. The feat made MFM FC the first football club owned by a religious body to play in the country’s Premier League.
The team, sponsored sorely by Dr. Daniel Kolawole Olukoya, the General Overseer of Mountain Of Fire and Miracles Ministries Worldwide, will now be rubbing shoulders with big teams such as Enyimba International, Warri Wolves, Nasarawa United, Wikki Tourists, Heartland, Sunshine Stars, Rangers International and the others.
Interestingly, what transformed into MFM FC today originated from a vision seen by Dr. Olukoya about a decade ago, when he came up with the D.K Olukoya Football Competition, a programme put together to hunt for youths that are gifted in Athletics, Football, Basketball and other competitive sports.
Godwin Enakhena, the Chairman of MFM FC while speaking to eyeonthenews.com, offers some insights into the complete history and making of the club; “The journey of MFM FC started in 2006 when Dr. Daniel Kolawole Olukoya, the GO of Mountain Of Fire and Miracles Ministries Worldwide, received a vision from God to reposition the Nigeria youths for Christ, including those in the diaspora.
.Enakhena, Chairman of MFM FC.
“So, the GO came up with a 70-point agenda, one of which was sports. That was how we began the Dr. DK Olukoya Youth Football Competition. The maiden edition of the tournament, which was just a Lagos State affair, was held in 2007 at the University of Lagos in Akoka”.
Due to agitation from other MFM Churches across Nigeria to be part of the initiative, Enakhena and his crew members extended the tournament to other branches across the country the following year. The Annual Youth Football Competition had in attendance over 1000 footballers drawn from 24 MFM Regions across Nigeria from then on.
“In 2009, MFM Churches across Africa also signaled their interest to be part of the tournament because it was making waves, as the youths were then engaged in doing positive things. So, we had MFM Churches across Africa; from Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana and the rest featuring in a continental tournament at the Prayer City along Lagos-Ibadan Express Way”, the MFM boss told eyeonthenews.com.
Continuing, Enakhena said: “Along the line, we were playing every football competition in Lagos such as the BOSCA Cup, Tinubu Cup and Lagos State FA Cup. We won all the competitions we featured in including Tinubu Cup and BOSCA Cup.
“We also featured in and won the Church Football competition in Nigeria, an initiative of Ambassadors For Christ, an NGO based in the US. We defeated a team from Rhythm in the first edition. We also emerged champions of the second edition of the Church Football tournament in Nigeria in 2010.
“In 2011, the youths in the team started agitating they wanted to play in the Nigeria League. The agitation actually started in 2009, but I kept reminding them of the main focus of the agenda of our GO. I bluntly turned down their agitation and vowed not to play in the league due to the shenanigans going on in the league.
“I stood my ground and kept asking myself and the youths about the credibility of the church; do we want to be stained? But the youths prevailed and we started by competing in the Amateur 2 which was restricted to Lagos and Western part of Nigeria”.
After spending just a season in the Amateur Two, MFM FC gained promotion to Amateur 1 and were getting set to play in that league in 2012-2013 season when a new challenge came knocking at their door.
“Precisely in 2013, Alhaji Toyin Gafar, popularly known as Bolowotan called to inform me that he wanted to give up his Nigeria National League, NNL club and invited me to take over the team on behalf of MFM. Initially, I said we were not ready for that, but he said he had a vision, that God told him to give the club to MFM instead of disbanding it.
“Gafar also said he was driven by the desire to ensure that Lagos State has a club in the NPL. So, after holding a meeting with me on that fateful Sunday in our Church, I courageously accepted the responsibility.
“Immediately after I took over, I discovered that Gafar’s club had a match to play against Akwa Starlets in about 48 hours in Akwa Ibom, and that meant we needed about N700,000 (seven hundred thousand naira) to prosecute that game. I raised the money on behalf of the Church because there was no way the Church could do that within the short time frame”.
The real journey of MFM FC began from that time as they travelled to Uyo, where their first match against Akwa Starlets ended in a lone goal defeat. The away loss did not deter them; MFM FC, minnows from the amateur league survived the season and remained in the NNL.
“Having learnt youthful lessons, we went into a new NNL season in 2014 and gave our opponents a good fight. The Dream then was that we wanted MFM to be the first religious club to play in the Nigeria Premier League, the club was working towards achieving that when some funny things started happening.
“Despite losing about four of our players; Wilfred Ndidi, Jide Idowu, Itowho David and Okon Samuel with our Chief Coach Nduka Ugbade to the national U-17 team (Golden Eaglets), MFM was sure of gaining promotion to the Premier League as we were leading the table before the abracadabra in the NNL ruined our promotion chances.
“A lot of unprintable things happened to our team, it was very painful and I said I was pulling out because we saw our dream coming true before it was truncated.
“However, we had a consolation that same year, when we received an invitation through Segun Oguns that the Pope John Paul II Foundation, organisers of the Church World Cup in Goa, India, selected MFM FC to represent Nigeria. MFM FC went to India and emerged champions of the first edition in December 2014, which was a successful year for me and the team”.
.MFM FC after winning the 2014 Church World Cup in Goa, India.
In 2015, Enakhena and his team decided to pursue their ambition in a different way as they embarked on their ride to the top at the beginning of the season. Having lost Coach Ugbade to the national team, the management put its faith in Assistant Coach Fidelis ‘Camara’ Ilechukwu.
After holding an open trial to kick-start their preparation at the Prayer City training pitch, MFM FC went into the league and put up an extraordinary performance that saw them complete a magnificent season to secure promotion to the Premier League.
Before their promotion, MFM FC endured some scary moments; when their best goalkeeper Joshua Enahoro left the club for Enyimba International of Aba with about four league games to complete the season, while their best striker John Okoye also left at such a crucial stage, but rising star Steven Odeh and other youngsters rose to the occasion.
It must also be noted that MFM FC broke a 22-year jinx by becoming the first Lagos-based club to gain promotion to the Premier League after big teams such as Julius Berger, Nitel FC, Nigerdock FC and Stationery Stores went under.
“Honestly, our ride to the Premier League didn’t come easy. Apart from on the field hassles we had to cope with, many uncomplimentary things were said about our club probably because some people didn’t want us to gain promotion.
“Some people said MFM FC doesn’t know how to oil the palm of referees; that we can’t get to the Premier League by prayers and playing good football alone.
“They said we would be a bad representation of Lagos State even if we gain promotion. It got to a point that we didn’t know who to trust but we kept praying and marching on until we made it.
“We owe all these to Dr. Olukoya who has been the sole financier of the team. So, that is our story. It’s been a wonderful journey and we give God the glory”.
Enakhena said he was inspired to buy into Dr. Olukoya’s vision by putting his energy and expertise to head MFM FC at no cost, dismissing insinuations that the GO pays him N5m monthly to run the club.
“I don’t earn a dime as Chairman of MFM FC, that’s my own contribution to the youth empowerment initiative of the church and I’m happy doing it.
“Truth be said, sports is just one of what the church is doing for the youths, there are 69 other things that the church has to deal with including the university arm of the church, which is a multi-million naira project.
“However, my wish is for the church not to put a penny into the running of the club henceforth. I’m confident that MFM FC is a brand; that we will get people who will partner with us. As an apostle of taking football off the government, we also want to set an example that the private sector can play a big role in this project”.
Enakhena concluded that; “The club’s assignment gives me an opportunity to prove myself, that we journalists are not lay about, that we can equally be good administrators.
“It’s a dream come true to see MFM FC in the NPFL today and I will put in my best to ensure the team ranks among the best in the Premier League, ‘so help me God’, Amen”.