It was Sunday, 11th February, 2018 at the Prestigious 30,000 capacity GodswillAkpabio Stadium, Uyo, Akwa United FC of Uyo took on visiting Hawks FC of Banjul in the first leg of the preliminary round of qualification for the CAF Confederations Cup.
The atmosphere was dazed and full of glitz, as the 2017 Aiteo Cup winners were clear favourites against the Gambians, who won a similar competition in their clime.
With a clean bill of health, but for Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, who recently returned for from the CHAN tournament as well Ajibola Otegbeye and Musa Newman, who both are recovering from injury, Coach Abdu Maikaba boasted of a strong side to gamble with.
Aside from handing season’s surprise package, Aniekeme Asuquo and five others a continental debut, Maikaba drafted in CHAN surprise package Gabriel Okechukwu, days after savouring an extraordinary cold Moroccan climate.
Like a raging sea, the tide turned towards the opposite direction as the visitors took the lead inside twelve minutes, and further kept thousands of fans at the stadium at bay, with a second, ten minutes before the break.
Hopes were raised, prayers offered and tension felt as the teams emerged from the dugout for the second half, with a renewed drive to turn the tide, but that was beyond the veil, as the promise keepers could only manage to reduce the deficit, courtesy of Victor Mbaoma’s seventy second minute effort.
Tough as it looks, the Uyo based side must work their socks out in Banjul to progress to the next phase of the competition, but first Maikaba and his lads would fancy a win in Lagos against a difficult opposition in MFM on Friday at the soccer temple, Agege, to consolidate their place on top of the NPFL log.
While the former and latter will be battling in Lagos, title holders, Plateau United, will seek to pile the pressure on the Uyo side, when they visit the UJ Esuene Stadium for a date with seven time champions, Enyimba FC in another rescheduled fixture. The distance between Uyo and Jos is believed to be 765km, but the gap between them just a point.
Maikaba and his wards are well aware of the relevance of a perfect result in Lagos, as a win for Kennedy Boboye’s Plateau in Calabar may see the Jos side leapfrog the promise keepers to the top.
One wonders if the former Wikki Tourists gaffer will prioritize the rescheduled matchday 8 fixture ahead of the return leg of the CAF confederations cup qualifiers in Banjul, but a quick check reveals the gaffer is paying equal attention to both competitions. This he confirmed, Tuesday.
Away from the game itself, one key factor that could work for the promise keepers, is the official kick start of the deal signed with Dana Air a couple of days ago, to airlift the team to games within the country. This is a clear demonstration of passion and better welfare for the players and technical crew members of the team, to ensure they stay in the right frame of mind for games. What better motivation would one ask for?
Getting a result in Lagos is key, but Maikaba and his players believe that returning victorious from the trip to Banjul will redefine the fact that the team has put behind the Hawks nightmare.
Promise Etim, writes from Uyo