Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Akwa United: A mid season review BY AMOS ETUK

Akwa United: A mid season review BY AMOS ETUK
When the 2016/2017 Nigeria Professional Football League season kicked off in January 2017, it was certainly previewed as a season which will feature lots of excitement among the twenty teams in Nigeria’s elite league with the pace of the marathon race determined from the very first game.

Mid way into the season after 19 weeks of beautiful football and exciting permutations, it is certain that all the teams have had a taste of each other as the league table takes shape with an entirely new set of front runners away from the last season best top three team who are currently languishing in the bottom half of the table so far.

Despite the challenges and rigours of teams travelling across the length and breadth of the country to honour fixtures, the Nigerian Football League is growing in leaps and bounds attracting more home support from fans who have shown more passion and support for their teams.

The ability for teams to pick away wins (which has not been frequent), away draws and convincing home victories also adds more value that the league is getting stronger in content with regards to quality technical output by managers and exciting skills by the players.
The season has also witnessed some down moments where officiating and hooliganism in some venues have become recurring concerns to give advantage to teams to undeservedly win especially in home fixtures.

Nevertheless, the Nigerian league remains in my humble opinion among Africa’s best five leagues and the League Management Committee must be commended for the milestones achieved so far but with more assurances that the future will be better.

For Akwa United Football Club, ‘’the Promise Keepers’’ as they are fondly called by fans and sports analysts, the 2016/2017 football season has clearly re-defined the team among Nigeria’s elite teams and a team on the pedestal of history waiting to be achieved as the race not just to pick a continental ticket, but win the title has become realistic.

After last season’s performance which ended on the 14th position on the final league table, the management of the team led by veteran sports journalist and erudite administrator Elder Paul Bassey began the march to overhaul the administrative and technical content of the team with a long term vision to ensure that Akwa United becomes a national identity in football strides in Nigeria.

The renaissance in various facets the management of Elder Paul Bassey has injected into the team has continued to yield dividends. The  current season has seen the team have a better administrative structure, a stronger discipline among the players, a sustained welfare for the players and technical crew, a strong support from the Akwa Ibom State Government, a new crop of players who have shown the determination to be among the best in the country and beyond, a revamped club house for the team  with better facilities for effective administrative duties, a new coach, Abdul Maikaba who left a continental side for the Promise Keepers and today has changed the philosophy of the football techniques of the team to a title contending side.

One of the most significant features that ushered the season for Akwa United was the unveiling of the new set of jersey colours of the team from Blue to Orange and White which greatly identifies the colours of Akwa Ibom State.

The new colours is a also a rebirth of the  spirit of the believe in the current team as they key into the vision of the Dakkada philosophy of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration and so far, the  sterling strides of glory achieved have become part of the history the team is glowing in the season.

The Thanksgiving Service held for the team at The Apostolic Church, Ibiakpan Assembly, Ikot Ekpene Local Government Area a week before the commencement of the season laid the foundation of the success story of this great team.

The words of faith have propelled and inspired this team to give their best and despite the slow start to the season which in the third week left the team at the bottom of the table, Akwa United has started the great climb to becoming next generation team of champions in the country.

At the end of the first half of the season, Akwa United have played 19matches, won eight, drawn five and lost six games. They have scored 22goals, conceded 17 with a goals difference of +5. The team also currently lies on the fifth position on the league table with great opportunities to be among the first three within their next three fixtures and give the great shot for the final part of the season to win the league. They have garnered 29 points so far.

The quality of content Abdul Maikaba has brought to the team has made the team become a new focus for national team handlers with the exciting display at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium which has become a fortress for this great side.

The team parades an array of talents who have worked in unity to excel from the goalkeeping department , defence, midfield and attack as the build up becomes exciting with each move by the players a philosophy of Abdul Maikaba which has seen his side become a high goal scoring side with the likes of Alhassan Ibrahim scoring ten goals so far in the season and being the second highest goal scorer of the season in the league, Ubong Friday with four goals, Musa Newman, two goals, Moses Ebiye,two goals, Christian Pyagbara with two goals, Godspower Igudia, one goal and Cyril Olisema with one goal.

The team is also consolidating on the successes so far gained and after the weeklong break given to the players to rest, there are clear indications that the scramble for players to join this well motivated side is beginning to swell as Uyo becomes the new destination for players to have an opportunity to join Akwa United.
Akwa United: A mid season review BY AMOS ETUK

Already, some players have been laid off including Harrison Ibikun, Femi Kayode, Semiu Ladi and Shittu Lawal and the team has since resumed training on a daily basis as they look ahead to the beginning of the second stanza of the league. It has also been an opportunity for the management and technical crew to have a re-appraisal of the team’s performance in the first half of the season and offer new ideas towards the competitive status of the second stanza.

The Akwa Ibom State Government under the dynamic and sports loving leadership of Mr Udom Emmanuel must be commended for his commitment once again in succeeding to make the state a new destination for sports tourism in Nigeria. His support to the team remains tremendous and expectations are very high from the State Executive Council that at the end of this season, Akwa United will return to the continent once again.

It is also expected, that as the season progresses, our amiable Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel will lead his cabinet members to cheer this title contenders to victory in one of the home matches as he continues to propel his team to becoming title winning history makers.

The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Hon.(Sir) Monday Uko is a success driven administrator who has kept faith with the strides of Akwa United despite the challenges and setbacks in some fixtures.

His belief has always remained positive towards the success of the team and has clearly supported and the management to excel. Monday Uko works the talk and his efforts have yielded successes so far and must be encouraged to sustain the tempo. He has sustained a well respected and cordial synergy with the club management to achieve great results.

For the management of Akwa United Football Club led by Elder Paul Bassey the result oriented Chief Executive Officer and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Sports, his commitment to ensure that he lifts the status of this team remains commendable. He has invigorated a professional content from the administrative to technical side of the team in making  his side have a positive belief that winning is possible in every game.

His well motivated policies have seen the players respond positively as he walks along the path of history in the current season. For the first time in the history of the club, that a fifth place is rest assured at the end of the first stanza.

For the fans of Akwa United, most of them would have clearly by now forgotten the scathing criticisms berthed at the club at the start of the season especially when they languished at the bottom of the table, they criticised, offered opinions but the management kept faith with the team and today, the fans are happier with the results. 

It is not yet over in any aspect as they must sustain the tempo to support this team in the second round which will surely see more drama and intrigues as more factors will play out towards the race to the finishing line. The support must be total.

For the players and technical crew led by Abdul Maikaba, your season has just entered chapter two and expectations are so high that winning will be vital in making the final home game a mere formality in winning the trophy. Your philosophy to excel remains commendable.

To the media, my constituency, you guys have been the pivot of the success story of Akwa United as you have followed the team through every stage all season long and believe in their strengths. The race is still on in a more gruelling second stanza and we must keep the support soaring while I commend the good works of the Media Officer of the team, Mfon Patrick for the sustained mileage he has given to the team.
Akwa United: A mid season review BY AMOS ETUK

On a general note, the League Management Company will need to ensure that every team is given a level playing field as the desperation to win at all cost thickens amongst the clubs. They must ensure that ugly incidents of hooliganism will not rear its ugly head, poor officiating will be minimised and adequate security provided at match venue to protect visiting teams.

As the second round gets off this weekend on Sunday, May 7, 2017, Akwa United will be in Lagos to honour a fixture against MFM at the Agege Stadium. MFM are the current league leaders and have not lost at home this season but there is a believe with the current form of Akwa United that the team can get a positive result in Lagos and consolidate on the success story. We await the history that beckons. 

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