On Saturday, December 15th presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Bola Tinubu met at the private wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Abuja. Tinubu was heading to Ibrahim Babangida […]
Imo Governor-elect Rt. Hon Emeka Ihedioha has set the capital city of Owerri agog as ex-Super Eagles stars led by Nwankwo Kanu took on ex-Heartland FC stars who also featured for the national team at separate times in an exhibition game which is part of the activities heralding the inauguration of the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Among the stars present are Etim Esin, Uche Okechukwu, Henry Nwosu who is an Imolite like Kanu to name a few. The game held at the Dan Anyiam Stadium with a large crowd present to grace the occasion. According to organisers, it is another proof of Ihedioha’s deep love for sports which certainly will witness a face lift and rapid transformation in the state in the next four years.
Part of this anticipated transformation of sports was observed last Sunday when Ihedioha literally rescued relegation threatened Heartland FC from an imminent drop.
That Heartland beat El-Kanemi Warriors 2-0 at the Okigwe Township Stadium to escape relegation from the NPFL is no longer news but the big news is the role Governor-elect played in the team’s last minute survival.
With little attention or motivation from the outgoing Rochas Okorocha administration, Heartland had frolicked with the drop for most part of the season.
Going into the last game of the season, the team was in the relegation zone and only a victory over El-Kanemi would guarantee escape.
Ihedioha had always nursed plans of returning Heartland to their once domineering status in Nigeria and on the continent but was wary of inheriting an NNL club from the current administration.
Well aware of Heartland’s dire situation last Sunday, Ihedioha mobilised Imo PDP chairman Bar. Charles Ezekwem, Ikemba of Okigwe and former Heartland Chairman and Imo FA Chairman, Fan Ndubuoke to Okigwe to ginger the team against El-Kanemi.
It was obvious the team had been poorly motivated all through the season but needed a late minute push to pull through against an El-Kanemi team that had been well-motivated by the Borno State government to avoid the drop.
A poor run which saw El-Kanemi lose their last two home matches meant the club had suddenly found themselves battling the drop.
From being a top challenger for one of Group B playoff tickets, El-Kanemi were at risk of being relegated if they lost to Heartland. Meanwhile a draw would guarantee their survival.
So Heartland were condemned to win to survive while the visitors would pull through with a draw.
Considering the fact that, like El-Kanemi, Heartland had lost two home matches this season, the last being a 2-4 loss against Abia Warriors in their penultimate home match, the visitors fancied their chances.
Ihedioha had wanted to attend the game but was engaged with the interdenominational church service holding at Grasshoppers International Stadium at the same time, as part of the activities lined up for his inauguration, so he delegated Ezekwem and Ndubuoke.
Ezekwem is an indigene of Okigwe and enjoys a huge fan base in the town while Ndubuoke is one of the most successful Heartland chairmen having won the Federation Cup back-to-back in 2011 and 2012.
Their pep talk to the team at halftime and a financial incentive fired up the boys to beat El-Kanemi.
While at an event in Owerri, Ihedioha kept monitoring result of the game in the company of his deputy Gerald Irona and former Imo State governor Ikedi Ohakim.
A goal in each half by Chukwudi Nwodu and Uche Oguchi ensured Heartland will campaign in the topflight next season.
Meanwhile, El-Kanemi have been relegated to the NNL.