By Toby Prince
The church places great emphasis on prayers, wonders and miracles.
On 31 August 2015, Mountain of Fire Ministry FC, a football club owned by the church, achieved a rare feat by gaining promotion to the Nigeria Professional Football League.
By this, the club broke a 22-year jinx by becoming the first Lagos-based side to play in the elite division.
It also fulfilled the dream of its soccer loving founder, Dr. Olukoya, to see his club ply their trade alongside the big boys.
He told Daily Sun in December 2014: “We found out that with a bible in one hand and football on the other, the youths will be attracted and that will provide us the opportunity to preach the gospel to them and deliver them from the stranglehold of Satan. I’m very happy that we are making steady progress in this direction.”
Founded in 2007, MFM FC acquired a slot to play in the professional ranks in unusual circumstances.
Toyin Gafar, a Muslim and owner of Bolowotan FC, offered his club’s slot in the Nigeria National Division One League to MFM — then playing in the Amateur Division One League — for free in 2013.
Interestingly, Gafar snubbed a N16m-offer from a state for the club, preferring to hand it over to a church.
“Football is not about religion. I could have given it to a Muslim body but what if my dream dies? I only told them (MFM) that if they treat the boys well, they will gain promotion in three years,” Gafar said.
“I feel delighted with their promotion; I’ve always been with the team and will always be ready to assist them. Some of the players are from Bolowotan and seeing them progress makes me happy.”
Chairman of MFM FC, Godwin Enakhena, said, “Gafar called me one Sunday morning and told me he wanted to give his club to MFM and I told him we should meet on Monday since I was in church. He insisted on seeing me that day and he came to meet in the church.
“I took him to my pastor and he narrated how he was in a trance and that God told him to give his team to MFM because the church will be able to take care of the club. He said he rejected an offer from a state because he wanted to follow his mind.”
Two years later, the club, against all odds, sealed a spot in the NPFL, becoming the first club owned by a church to compete at that level in Nigerian football.
A team built around the philosophy of its founder, it banks on prayers and hard work as potent weapons in surmounting their opponents.
The MFM FC team go into matches with close to an hour prayer session on the pitch before kickoff with so much intensity and rhythmic vibrations.
Fondly called The Prayer Warriors, “Fire! fire! fire!” is a shout synonymous with the team before games with much sweating and energy exerted.
Enakhena said like the church’s name implies, the club are storming the NPFL with fire.
“We play football with fire. Prayers without work is meaningless, so we work very hard and pray very hard,” he said.
Fidelis Ilechukwu, a member of the coaching crew, added, “MFM’s success is due to prayers. After football, every other thing here is about prayers.”
It is also worthy of note that the club produced four players who were part of the triumphant Golden Eaglets team that conquered the world at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Abu Dhabi, UAE in 2013.
They were Wilfred Ndidi, Jide Idowu, Itowho David and Okon Samuel alongside MFM FC Coach, Nduka Ugbade who assisted Manu Garba and Emmanuel Amuneke during the competition. The present Flying Eagles team has two of her players, aside coach Nduka Ugbade, in goalkeeper Joshua Enaholo and midfielder Ifeanyi Ifeanyi.
Another major milestone for the club came in 2014, when they became the best football playing church in the world after trashing United Church of Colombia 7-0 in the final of the maiden edition of The Church World Cup in Goa, India.
Will the fire earn the team a major upset in the top flight by going all out to clinch the title or could teams provide an antidote and possibly subdue the inferno with superior prayer, tactics and method? No doubt, the answers will unfold next season.