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Priests Brotherhood Sports and Recreation Club – Achieving Healthy Lifestyle

Tuesday evenings are special at St Anthony Catholic Church Enugwu-ukwu and environs. As from half hour of three in the afternoon, there is a traffic build up. You can see them – young and old, tall and short, fat and thin, huge and pint, all alighting from their cars and lacing their boot and wears, heading to the football field and volleyball court. Among them are lawyers, lecturers, coaches, administrators, musicians, engineers, architects, name them. They are however bonded by two significant binding factors-Catholic Priesthood and Sports. They are the Priests Brotherhood Sports and Recreation Club of Awka Diocese. Welcome to their world!
VISION:
The vision of the Brotherhood Club is for Priests to achieve wellness and maintain healthy lifestyle through sports and recreation. This is to put them in better shape so as to serve the people of God better. That is the reason why at least once a week, the priests who are members of the brotherhood club (numbering over 60), go out to engage in sporting activities like Football, Tennis, Volleyball, Table Tennis, Swingiest and the like.
Much more than sports, the priests also engage in heart to heart discussions about their pastoral challenges and progress. The brotherhood meetings are also platform for conflict resolution, brainstorming, counseling and emotional let out.
It is very remarkable to observe that one of the greatest benefits of the brotherhood club is mentoring. In a group which has priests of variegated age, the younger ones learn from the experiences of the more elderly ones.

VENUES:
Every Tuesday evening, St Anthony’s Catholic Church Enugwu-ukwu plays host to the largest group of priests who play football, volleyball, Table Tennis and Card games. On Mondays, priests who play Tennis congregate at White Castle Hotel Neni and Tennis centre at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church Nanka for their own weekly sports and recreation doses.
Another venue that entertains priests of the brotherhood is Oko sports club. Some priests still engage themselves at the Tennis court of the bishop’s house at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Awka. It is worthy of mention that the catholic bishop of Awka Diocese , Most Rev. Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor plays his own Tennis at the spiritual year Tennis court Okpuno. His Auxiliary, Most Rev. Fr. Jonas Benson Okoye plays table Tennis at Tennis centre Nanka.

UNUSUAL SACRIFICES:
Mention must be made of those whose special sacrifices propel the brotherhood to excellence. One of such is Very Rev. Fr. Damian Ogwatta whose uncommon vision and passion for sports gave the platform upon which DOSAD sports is thriving. In a clime where the regular preoccupation is erecting church buildings, rectories, grottos, chapels and halls, Fr. Ogwatta took the brave decision to start a sports complex at St Anthony’s parish Enugwu-ukwu.
If there was any priest who was widely misunderstood when he pulled down a dilapidated school structure to start a sports complex, he is Fr. Ogwatta. But backed by Bishop Ezeokafor, Fr Ogwatta engaged himself in what would not only lay the foundation for sports apostolate Awka diocese, but what also earned him a lot of priests disciples who have started putting the playing spaces in their parishes into proper shape.
Today at St. Anthony’s Enugwu-ukwu, a standard sports pavilion is being put to use as one of the sports centres of Awka diocese. Add to it that a beautiful new storey building now houses the school that was pulled down.
For the priests’ brotherhood, Fr. Ogwatta hosts them to quality refreshment every Tuesday after the games, courtesy of his large heart and the good people of St. Anthony’s Enugwu-ukwu. In addition, he convinced the parish council to host DOSAD football Academy till a permanent place is secured. At 50 +, Fr. Damian Ogwatta still plays active football and is the captain of the Priests Brotherhood Football Club. He hails from Ekwulobia in Aguata L. G.A. Anambra State.
Rev Fr Dr Emmanuel Umezinwa is a music guru, a Senior lecturer at NnamdiAzikiwe University Awka and over half a century in age. However, all these do not bear as he enters the field of play. A celebrated defensive midfielder in his more active playing days, Fr Omega as he is fondly called is the chief mentor of Priests Brotherhood Club.
Fr Omega represents the spirit of the brotherhood which is ‘togetherness in ministry’. He is the chief conflict manager, counselor, inspirer and match winner. He makes the uncommon sacrifices of bridging age gap and waving off any other engagement on brotherhood demand days for the solidarity of the club. He hails from Akpo in Aguata.
As the Chancellor of Awka Diocese, Rev Fr Dr Francis Chidume is a very busy priest. However as the senior person of the brotherhood and a celebrated referee and sports organizer, Fr Enyi as he is known is regular at the Tuesday get-together. Good to mention that he is the chief consultant to priests’ sports and an ally to DOSAD. Enyi hails from Abagana in Njikoka L. G. A. of Anambra state.
If Fr Omega is the spirit of the brotherhood and Fr Ogwatta the enabler, the energizer is Rev Fr Christian UmeojiIlinaka popularly called Macota for his sports prowess. He cannot do without the brotherhood. Fr Cota, is a grade one football referee and co-sports programme anchor at lumen radio with Fr Ogwatta. He is one of the few priests who have successfully sustained the new brotherhood from foundation members. Despite his busy schedules at St Joseph the workers Chaplaincy Awka, Fr Cota is always there for brotherhood members, both in times of joy and that of sorrow. He is the “MTN’ of the brotherhood-‘Everywhere you go’. Fr Cota hails from Uga in Aguata LGA of Anambra state.
Another uncommon brotherhood member is Rev Fr Francis Michael Enyosiobi popularly called “Jesu Nwannaa” after his hit music album. Known as Baresi in the field, Fr Francis is the goal tender of the football team of the club. He has used scarce resources to host the brotherhood in his place of work at St John’s Vocational and Technical Institute Neni. Fr Jesu Nwannaa is a patnering with DOSAD to host he female football Academy at Neni on permanent basis.
Rev Fr Julian Anaetoo has singled himself out by availing the sports complex of Holy Child School Isuofia (where he is the manager) to the brotherhood and has entertained them too. His buses have been offered freely when needed.
Rev Fr Dr Jude Onebunne(manager St Mary’s High school Ifitedunu) deserves mention for hosting the brotherhood a number of times. Likewise, Rev Fr Francis Okoye (manager, St Michael’s School Nimo) and Rev Fr Theodore Ekwem (manager Bubendoff School Adazi-Nunkwu)for coming to the aid of the brotherhood when needed.
Rev Fr Evaristus Ezekwonna (alias morning star), is an example of commitment to the club. He braves the difficult terrains of his work place Umuomaku to attend brotherhood activities. Like other members of the brotherhood, Frs Luke Okoye, Jude Nwankwor and Alphonsus Iloekwe, the four have refused to bow to life threatening bone issues to maintain the solidarity of the group.
Rev Fr Barrister Chinedu Udoka Obieli is the team manager of the group. His practice as a lawyer has not dampened his morale in the group. Same goes to his assistant Fr Walter Okafor, who despite some bone challenges, props up the brotherhood. Fr Walter is also the super fan club member of the group.
A bevy of young priests enliven the brotherhood-Frs Alphonsus Obiekezie, Zoba Obinwata, Francis Obinwanne, Benjamin Ilobinso, Obinna Ezennaka, Peter Ibeazor, PeterPaul Anyiam, Kevin Ezemmaduka, Alphonsus Iloekwe, Kevin Ezeokeke(District secretary/PRO), Emma Okoye, Sylvester Okeke, Martin Ekee and Celestine Anaekwe. Others include Frs Charles Maduekwe, Malachi Ezeoyiwara, Aloysius Amamchukwu, Emmanuel Akposionu, Joseph Obianuo, Ugoo Ngana, Emma Igweokpala, Charles Ibekwe, Josephat Onyechefuna, Michael Anigbogu, Paschal Udo, Celestine Anaekwe,etc.
More elderly priests like Frs Ignatius Ezeakacha, Patrick Okeke, Martin Okafor, Obinna Dike(DOSAD Director), Nick Okekeocha, Remigius Okafor, Augustine Onyebuchi and others, have all made uncommon sacrifices and a host of others whose sacrifices would be chronicled subsequently.

EARLY BEGINNINGS:
Sports have been integral to priests’ formation. It is on record that an Irish Priest, Rev Fr Denis Slattery and colleague founded the Nigeria Football Association in 1945. The history of Nigeria Football referees is incomplete without the input of referees in the Seminaries.
In Awka diocese, right from inception, priests like Msgr Ezenduka (Late), Frs Obikwelu, Attansey, Enemuo and others had all actively engaged in sports as priests and travelled the length and breath of eastern region to play Tennis and Football.
Later years would see priests like Fr Paul Dimude, Polycap Nnajiofor, Linus Ibekwe, Alphonsus Ezeoke, Mighty, Ignatus Ezeakacha, Emma Okpala, Michael Jude Nwajiobi, Anthony Udogu, Pete Val Uzoezie, Sebastine Anokwulu, Hilary Ben Ezenwa, Herbert Ezeji, Paul Chukwukebe and others sustain the tempo.

COMPETITION:
The brotherhood football team has engaged a lot of sides and even clubs in competitive friendly matches. From town youth teams to seminary teams, they have always left a blazer. At the moment, the brotherhood team is preparing for an invitational football match at Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
At the continental level, the brotherhood football, volleyball and tennis teams will be on a tour of Benin Republic. Togo and Ghana where they will engage the priests team of those countries during the dry season.

FINAL WORD:
Engage in sports and recreation to ensure a more balanced and fulfilled life.
DOSAD – Brotherhood!
DOSAD – Brotherhood!!
Brotherhood – DOSAD!!!

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By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba
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