The recent appointment of Judges in the Imo State Judicial Council led by His Excellency Gov. Hope Uzodinma saw the official appointment of one of Nigeria’s football referees EMPEROR NNABUIHE IWUALA to the position of a Customary Court Judge. JOSEPH ODOEKWU of SPORTS INTELLIGENCE MAGAZINE looks at this Legal Practitioner Cum football enthusiast.
The Journey To Becoming A Football Referee
Emperor Nnabuihe Iwuala is one man who after he was counseled made the decision to become a football referee. He may not on his own deemed it fit to become a referee, he remains eternally grateful to a fellow student back then in school in person of Kingsley Ibe who studied Mass Communication at the Imo State University where Emperor was also a Law Student. Obviously, no one would want to counsel someone without seeing potentials in the person, and Kingsley must have seen some certain qualities in Emperor before advising him to become a referee. In 1999, Emperor Iwuala eventually became a referee and his journey towards understanding the principles of being a Judge started.
How Far Has Emperor Gone As A Football Referee
Joining the referee gave him an opportunity to be involved in match officiating. He has officiated several football matches. He got to Grade 1 (Meaning he could actually officiate in a FIFA World Cup even though he did not) as a referee and that alone could have shown the level of commitment he made in the profession. He is currently the Vice Chairman of Owerri North Society of Nigeria Football Referees Association, and also the auditor of Imo State Council of Nigerian Football Referees Association.
The Worst Football Match Ever Officiated
The issue of attacks on referee by fans is not new in Nigeria Football. Emperor Iwuala also got his own share of the attack as a referee. During a community football match which took place in Emekuku, Owerri of Imo State in 2005, some fans of a losing side attempted to lynch him. He was saved by friends who rescued him from the mob action. For Emperor, it was the worst football match he has ever officiated and thanked God for saving his life during the attack.
Is Emperor A Judge on The Field And Judge in the Court Room
Perhaps, Emperor would have maintained both status upon appointment as a Judge in both the Court and on the field of play. But he retired as a referee in 2017 and has since then become a match commissioner. Emperor noted that officiating on the field as a Judge and being a Judge in the Court is not in any way conflicting, as both disciplines require fair play in their discharge. For Emperor, the field of play is like the legal profession too, they are both noble professions.
What would Emperor do to improve football officiating if given the chance?
First, Emperor Iwuala believes that every referee has to be committed, fearless, work towards self-development and improve further by knowing basic things in officiating. This he explained when he said “I was fearless and known for doing justice on the field of play. I was appointed to volatile matches because of my integrity and popularity. Even as the then Chief Press Secretary to the Imo Dep Gov I was officiating matches. I was never driven by the indemnity got from match appointments. I was a good referee both in the center and on the line. I have good understanding of laws of the game and intrigues to handle matches successfully.
Furthermore, Emperor Iwuala stated that Provision of security, good indemnity and encouraging merit in appointment of match officials is also key and will be considered strongly by him if he is in the position to influence decisions that will improve the standard of football officiating in the country..
On Why Nigerian Referees Are Not Invited For Major International Tournaments
Emperor Iwuala feels that the recent invitation extended to some Nigerian referees to officiate in CAF qualifiers is a good development for Nigeria. He however noted that because there are many countries involved with FIFA activities, so much could also be influenced by the level of politics in extending invitations to some countries for FIFA major tournaments.
Did Emperor Iwuala ever play professional football?
Emperor Iwuala is more of an amateur footballer than a professional footballer, and this took him to the prime of his success in the game in officiating. He played for many amateur clubs in Enugu, PH and Owerri. He was also among the only squad of IMSU Law team that lifted the VC Cup in 1999. Furthermore, he captained Abuja Campus of the Nigerian Law School to lift the Nigeria Law SCHOOL DG Cup in 2004. He captained his village team Giants FC of Umulu Ife from 1995 to 2007. He currently plays for Imo All Stars with the likes of Kanu Nwankwo, Ben Iroha, Mike Obi, Henry Nwosu, Mobi Oparaku, Silvester Oparanozie, Nicolas Ukadike, Ndubuisi Opara at Dan Anyiam Stadium every Saturday morning.
Reactions on Government Policy For Sports Development in Imo State
Despite being a referee and a legal practitioner, Emperor has also made out time to criticize government policy on Sports development. On August 27, 2019, he faulted Governor Ihedioha’s plan to build 27 stadiums in Imo State. The criticism which was published by The Guardian and titled: Lawyer faults Ihedioha’s plan to build 27 stadiums in Imo State advised the Governor to channel funds towards the upgrade and revamp of the Dan Anyiam Stadium located in Owerri, rather than building new ones which may end up being abandoned due to the poor maintenance culture which is an issue to be given ample attention in the state.
What Else About Emperor Iwuala
No doubt, Emperor Iwuala is a man with many arms. He is a Journalist and holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism. He has also served by virtue of his being a media person served as the Chief Press Secretary to Deputy Governor Ada Okwuonu between 2007 and 2011. He was also a former Senior Special Assistant Media to Abia State Governor from 2017 to 2019. He holds a Masters Degree in Law from Imo State University and currently running his Ph.D in Law in same institution.
Aside life as a legal practitioner and accredited football referee, Emperor holds religion and traditional practices in high esteem. He is a traditional Chief in his Community in Umulu Village Ife Ezinihitte Mbaise of Imo State. He is also a Knight of St. Christopher of the Anglican Church. In addition. Emperor is also an Organist in the church where he swiftly uses his fingers to play the Church organ.