A career-threatening injury has taken a toll on the life of prominent Nigerian female footballer, Amaechi Daniella Ojini. The hurt was diagnosed as an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury which has rendered the knee of the ex-player of former Nigerian women’s football league champions, Rivers Angels, a Port Harcourt, Rivers State-based team, not fit to play football in the past few years.
Ojini, who started her career at Tin City Jos in 2008, was a promising player in her football career taking her to the likes of Adamawa Queens, Pelican Stars and Confluence Queens. She won the Nigerian Women’s Football League (NWFL) with Rivers Angels in April 2021. She joined the club in 2016.
Ojini, who played as a forward and midfielder, however, had a pathetic story to tell after she got injured in the line of duty with her former club, Rivers Angels. She was used and abandoned when she needed the club most. Ojini was left to fend for herself after sustaining an injury on the field of play.
“I am from Imo State, but I was born and brought up in Jos, Plateau State. I am a footballer and former player of Rivers Angels Football Club of Port Harcourt. I joined Rivers Angels in 2016, then in 2020 before the league started, I signed three years contract with the club for the 2020/2021 season,” Ojini tells Timescape Magazine.
According to the player, after playing two league games for the Rivers Angels, the league went on a break, but the team played a novelty match with an All-Star Team in Omuma, a local government in Rivers State in November 2021. This was where the unfortunate injury hit her.
“After the match, my left knee started swelling and paining me seriously. When we got back to Port Harcourt after the next training session, I told the coach, Edwin Okon, that my knee was paining me and that I need to treat it, he said it was okay. I was later introduced to a native doctor who usually comes to the camp every day to treat me while I paid his transport fare apart from the fee, he charged me for the treatment,” the footballer laments.
Ojini stated that the coaches and team manager, Mrs. Matilda Otuene-Oyiloha, were all aware of the injury and treatment, but they didn’t help her with a single dime to pay for the treatment.
“Even the drugs the man prescribed for me, I bought all of them with my personal money without any help from the club.
“Then I started recovering little by little. We later went for the Super Six Tournament in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State in April 2021. I played a match in that tournament, and we won the league.
“After we came back to Port Harcourt, I was dropped from the team despite having an existing contract with Rivers Angels. The club refused to give me my clearance even when it’s stated in the contract form that any player who is dropped, the management will pay such player off and give her a free clearance, but in my case, this clause was denied me, only for the club to ask me to leave the team. The club sacked me even when the management knew that I sustained the injury while playing for them,” Ojini wipes a tear as she recounts her painful experience.
“I employed the services of a lawyer to help me fight for my rights and for the club to pay me off since I have an existing contract with the club, all to no avail. Surprisingly, Mrs. Matilda Otuene-Oyiloha had to tell the lawyer that I didn’t play 10 per cent of the league matches for the club, whereby there were many players that have been in that team for more than five years but had not played up to 10 matches for the club.
“I later went to Bayelsa Queens to try my luck, but someone informed them that I was nursing a knee injury. They couldn’t give me any contract. The same thing also happened when I went to Nasarawa Amazon, they couldn’t sign me because of that same injury I sustained while playing for Rivers Angels Football Club.
“I was introduced to do an X-ray and MRI test after visiting an orthopaedic surgeon where it was discovered that I was suffering from an ACL injury (Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury) and a surgery of N3.5 million was needed to put me back on the field,” Ojini says.
When Timescape Magazine got in touch with the General Manager of Rivers Angels to hear their own side of the story, Mrs. Matilda Otuene-Oyiloha denied all the claims made by the player.
According to her what Ojini has been telling the media are lies, adding that the Rivers Angels have top-notch welfare packages for the players even if any player is injured from attending national duties.
“We cannot just abandon our players not to talk of Daniella Ojini who was very close to me during her stay with us. We had a good off-pitch relationship; she was just like a sister to me. So, I find it hard that she could be blackmailing the club like that. There was no official letter from her that she was injured and needed help, even on a personal level, I would have done something.
“Recently, we received a letter written by a lawyer through the management of the Nigerian Women’s Football League Board, telling us that Daniella had an injury, and she needs money,” Matilda says.
She notes that football is about hiring and firing, adding that if Ojini was relieved from the club due to the plan by the management to beef up the team because of the dwindling performance in the league, there was nothing bad in that.
“At that point, she did not inform us about her injury when we gave her clearance to Bayelsa Queens. It was in July a law firm wrote to us through the league board and we have made our reply. Our position is that she had left the team before telling us that she had an injury. She finished the season with us. She played a match in the Super Six tournament. Can a player with an injury play that kind of match? She finished the season before she was dropped. We understood that she played for a couple of months at Bayelsa before she was dropped.
“She has not come forward officially to tell us that she was injured while playing with us apart from the lawyer. If she needs money, she should be free to come to us for assistance. She should not be using the media to rubbish the good image of the club,” Matilda rather warns.
It was, however, a different story when Timescape Magazine reached out to some former players of Rivers Angels to throw lights on Ojini’s predicament.
The players, who preferred to talk anonymously for fear of being targeted, revealed that the case of Ojini is one of serial maltreatment being meted out on players by the management of Rivers Angels.
Timescape Magazine notes that about all the players contacted have one story or the other to tell concerning bad treatment they received from Rivers Angels.
“I think because of the behaviour of some of the officials at Rivers Angels, players across the country have been thinking twice before going to Port Harcourt. It will be very difficult for Rivers Angels to get good players these days. We all have the same old stories about the club,” says one of the former players.
Speaking on her next line of action, Ojini says she is appealing to well-meaning Nigerians to help her out as she has an N3.5 million surgery to do on her knee.
“I have exhausted all my money going for native treatment to see if I will be healed so that I can return to the field again all to no avail because I cannot afford the N3.5 million for the surgery.
I am begging the Nigeria Women Football League (NWFL) Board, the Nigeria Football Federation, and lovers of football to come to my aid so that I can do this surgery,” she cries out.