By Fisayo Dairo
After what was a spirit-lifting midweek league victory over Heartland FC of Owerri, the momentary sigh of relief that oozed out of the Nest of Champions for both players and management staff of Akwa United.
The painful exit of the team from the CAF Confederation Cup four days earlier was an anticlimax to what had been the meteoric rise of the Promise Keepers in the past four months. The domestic successes in the Federation Cup, NPFL Super 4 and the Charity Cup were totally eclipsed by the loss to Congolese Club Vita Mokanda on that Saturday evening in Uyo.
The aftershock of that night’s capitulation was felt by fans and several stakeholders of the club. The loss was marked by sleepless nights including feared death threats for some players, shake-up in the management and a colossal heartbreak for the fans. Even the colourful cheerleaders failed to turn up at the Nest for the midweek game, their first ever absence.
Things got worse for Bassey Akpan, a former junior international who won the Golden Glove at the Trinidad & Tobago 2011 and one of the team’s most experienced players. He was drenched in painful emotion on Tuesday when when news reached him that his immediate younger sister, Esther, had died after a brief illness. Still, took courage and stayed with the team to defeat visiting Heartland. He knew they needed the victory and the points that Wednesday evening to bring the spirit of the club and their fans back alive.
“By this time yesterday, I didn’t believe I would be available because of the death of my immediate younger sister but I thank God for his strength.” a truly emotional Bassey said at the post-match briefing.
“The coaches and a few experienced mates have been the ones trying to encourage the lads since the loss to Vita. So when myself and Aniekan Ekpe (a former NPA of Warri star) were called on to lead the team, we just had to do it exemplarily. I’m glad it went well.”
Akpan, a former Abia Warriors safe hands reiterated Akwa’s resolve to put the continental woe behind them and chart a new course that will see them return to the continent as soon as possible.
“We (Akwa United) have resolved to focus squarely on our league games now and get good results that will take us back to the continent. We have to win our home games and also get good results away. With the experienced guys around, I’m sure the young ones will also flow with the team and come out good.” Akpan concluded.
Having dusted Heartland in the midweek, Akwa now goes to Kano Pillars on Sunday before prosecuting their rescheduled fixtures in the next two midweeks.