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The miraculous rise of Mountain Top FC

LAGOS (AFP) – One of Nigeria’s biggest evangelical churches was on to a winner when it set up a football club – backed by millions of dollars and the power of prayer.

Just over a decade later, Mountain Top FC or MFM FC are now in the Nigerian Professional Football League and among the best sides in the country.

At the Agege Stadium in Lagos, the ritual is the same before every match: players in their all-purple strip gather round a pastor in the dressing room to be blessed.

Then, trance-like on their knees and with hands turned upwards to the sky, they give themselves up to God to ensure victory.

“It’s a faith-based team, we don’t seek power from anywhere apart from prayers,’’ coach Geoffrey Aghogi told AFP – and he made no secret of their ambitions.

“We want this team to be the Real Madrid of Nigeria, the Chelsea of (Africa)!”

MFM FC has had a meteoric rise since it was set up in 2007 by the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM).

The church’s founder, football fan Daniel Kolawole Olukoya, scoured the streets of poor areas in Lagos, Nigeria’s teeming megacity of 20 million people, on the hunt for talent.

Driving him on was a vision from God to guide young people away from what he said were “the vices of this world”.

“I hate it when the youths get involved in crime and drugs… just because they have too much time to waste,” he explained.

The team rose quickly through the leagues and in 2014 won the Church World Cup in India, the same year they joined the top flight.

Last season, they finished second in Nigeria and qualified for the African Champions League.