Football is globally described as a medium for uniting people, irrespective of tribe, ethnic, cultural, religious and political affiliation.
Thirty years down the line, Akwa Ibom as of today is regarded as the fastest developing state in the country, by virtue of its massive infrastructural and human capital development.
According to an online survey by thoughteconomics.com, football and societal development are positively correlated, owing to the fact that the former engages huge number of people from the personnel directly involved as well as the fans.
In 1996, the administration of Late Navy Captain Joseph Adeusi, thought it wise to procure a team in a bid to give football fans in the state leverage to see the best of the game. This was seen by many as the turning point in terms of club football in the state.
The club registered initially as Ibom Stars FC, and later renamed Akwa United FC in 2004, defeated Lobi Stars of Makurdi at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos in 2015, to clinch its first major trophy after 19 years of existence.
Determined to build on the achievements of the previous administrations, Governor Udom Emmanuel settled for the services of Elder Paul Bassey, an astute sports administrator and FIFA/CAF instructor, to pilot the affairs of the team, to meet the aspirations of Akwa Ibom people, despite pressure from stakeholders in the sector to stick with the old order.
The 2015 Federation Cup Triumph in earned the team a continental ticket. Despite losing to Vita Club of Congo in the first round, the club showed some character and equally gained reasonable continental football experience, a feat that would help the team in its future aspirations.
The 2016/2017 season saw the advent of Abdu Maikaba as coach and influx of incredible talents, but the team could only manage a fourth place finish at the expanse of seven time champions, Enyimba FC of Aba on the final day.
Interestingly, the team has witnessed unprecedented transformation in terms of administration and on the field of play. This is quite dissimilar to what has been obtainable in the past two decades.
The investments of the Udom Emmanuel led administration in Sports can be linked to the words of the scripture in Psalms 1:3, which states: ‘And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper’. One of such tree is Akwa United FC, which have enjoyed massive support of Government and has tremendously begun yielding fruits.
The passion of the Governor towards sports development in recent times has delved beyond Akwa United FC to other state’s owned teams as well as other sports.
Aside from investing in football, the Udom Emmanuel administration has demonstrated absolute commitment to holistic development of sports in the state and beyond, with the building of sports center across the ten federal constituencies of the state and the hosting of the first ever sports festival for Youths in the state, of which numerous talents were discovered.
Similarly, the role the Government and people of Akwa Ibom state played in driving the Super Eagles’ qualification to the 2018 World Cup in Russia cannot be overemphasized.
A fourth place finish in the just concluded season is pointer to the fact that the team has massively developed in terms of management and quality of play. This certainly can’t be compared with the struggles of the team for the past couple of seasons, which led to the team basically referred to as perennial underdogs.
Winning the 2017 Aiteo Cup is the icing on the cake for a team that has been hugely motivated and primed to play the best model of football in the country. Akwa United edged Niger Tornadoes 3-2 on penalties at the Agege Township Stadium on Sunday to emerge champions.
The future is bright and sure for Akwa United FC after winning a second cup trophy in three years and further securing a ticket to represent the country in the CAF Confederations cup next season.
With Governor Emmanuel on the saddle, the leadership of the team under Elder Paul Bassey is assured of the best form of support any team can get in the globe, to achieve results in the area of financing, provision of facilities and creating of enabling environment for smooth running of the club.