|Akwa United Football Club of Uyo
|The Promise Keepers
|Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria
When sports loving Military Administrator, the late Navy Captain Joseph Adeusi arrived Akwa Ibom State he decided to establish a football club and the task fell on CAF General Co-ordinator Paul Bassey who was mandated to source and establish a state football club. This was in 1996.
In less than three months, Paul Bassey hit gold when he stumbled on the information that Nitel was in the process of doing away with its Enugu based club, Nitel Vasco Da Gama.
Paul Bassey moved to Lagos and in top discussions with Nitel management represented by son of the soil Ini Edoho (Amama) Akwa Ibom presented the best bid, a deal was struck and the club was bought, registered and renamed Ibom Stars Football Club.
The team began her professional campaign in the1996/1997 Pro League season ( the second tier football league). Barrister Assam Assam was the Pioneer Chairman of the Club while Coach Bernard Ogbe was the first Technical Adviser. The team played its home matches at the Uyo Township Stadium using Red colour jersey with White Jersey for her away games
Local Dominance and Rivalry
There were two clubs in Akwa Ibom state that played in the Pro league, State government owned Ibom Stars FC and Multi National Company owned Mobile Pegasus FC of Eket. The rivalry between the two teams both in the Pro league and in the Challenge Cup was so fierce that heavy security presence was usually required any time the two teams met either in Uyo or Eket.
Ibom Stars was a dominant force in the state. They won the state Challenge Cup seven times in ten years between 1996 and 2006.
Promotion, Change of name and Jersey colour
After paying her dues in the Pro League ( Lower Division) for almost ten years, Ibom Stars gained promotion to the Nigeria Premier League in 2007/2008 season.
The story of that promotion was surrounded by controversy following the team’s 13-0 thrashing of neighbours Calabar Rovers at Oron Township Stadium on the last day of the season in the Pro league to edge Bussdor FC and qualify to the top flight.
The management of the Club led by Mr. Chris Ekong applied for a change of name which was duly granted by the League body. Ibom Stars was gone and Akwa United FC was born, nicknamed THE PROMISE KEEPERS.
In their first season in the NPL, the team competed as Akwa United FC and played its home matches at Uyo Township Stadium. They adopted Blue jersey for its home matches and White Jersey for its away matches.
The team attracted many big names from other clubs around the country. The then Chairman Mr. Chris Ekong signed Coach Charles Bassey (MON) to take charge of the team and he was assisted by Coach Emmanuel King. What followed was arrival of some household names including former national U17 players AmbroseVanzekin, Kingsley Udo, King Osanga. Others were Innocent Ozurumba, OttanwaOttanwa, Abdul Haruna, Stanley Amadi amongst others. The newly recruited players teamed up with some indigenous stars to build what was one of the best squad in the country that year.
First Premier League win
Akwa United played her first premier league match against El-kanemi Warriors of Maiduguri at the Oron Township Stadium and won 1-0. Midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo entered into the club’s history book as the scorer of Akwa United’s first goal in the Premier league. Their 0-1 victory over Nasarawa United in Lafia was the team’s first away win in the Premier league.
Crowd trouble and rivalry with Enyimba
Akwa United’s first season in the Premier League was not without friction. A big distraction set in when Akwa United was hit with a heavy fine and banished from Uyo Township Stadium for three years after crowd trouble disrupted a league match against Enyimba International.
Problem started when a female referee Felicia Okugbe awarded an injury time penalty to Enyimba with Akwa United leading 2-1. The home fans were furious and invaded the pitch.
In a stadium that was still under construction, missiles were littered everywhere and hell was let loose as the match was brought to an abrupt end. One person was believed dead while many others sustained various degrees of injuries.
The aftermath of the problem had a psychological effect on the team’s performance. Akwa United struggled throughout the season but succeeded to stay afloat.
In what was a turbulent first season for the club, they recorded vital wins at home and picked some important points on the road as well. The team finished their first season in 14th position with 48 points after recording 14 victories, six draws and 18 defeats.
2008/2009 Season- One season, three Coaches and relegation
The Promise Keepers second season in the Premier League was not as smooth as the first.
Coach ImeUko was appointed by the Club’s management to take charge of the team and he was assisted by Coach Godwin Morgan. The team faced many challenges in the 2008/2009 season as some of her top players left the team for greener pastures. What followed was poor form and results. The team was struggling in the relegation zone for most of the season.
In a bid to salvage the situation, Coach Godwin Uwah was contracted to save the team from the drop. Coach Uwah battled tooth and nail to get results but to no avail. He later resigned his appointment.
The management in a desperate attempt to avoid being relegated appointed Coach Patrick Udoh to take charge of the team till the end of the season. Despite a late charge which saw them pick up some interesting results and also produced the league highest goal scorer of the season, (Orok Akarandut 17 goals) the team was dramatically relegated on the last day. They were dramatically relegated on the last day of the season on goals differential following Kaduna United’s 9-0 defeat to Zamfara United. Akwa United garnered 48 points from 38 matches including 14 wins, 6 draws and 18 defeats to finish in 17th position.
Return to Premier League
When Akwa United returned to the lower division in the 2009/2010 season, the management team led by ObongIsongIsang promised that the team would return to the Premier League and kept its words. Akwa United made a return to the Big Time- the Premier League in 2011/2012 season (two years after their relegation from the premier league) and put up an improved performances throughout the season to finish on 50 points from 38 games comprising 15 victories, 5draws and 16 losses finishing in 12th, (the club’s highest position ever on the log) under coach Solomon Ogbeide.
Last day survival
The management brought in two indigenous Coaches, Patrick Udo was the Technical Adviser while Emmanuel King was the Chief Coach both handled the team in 2012/2013 season. They started the campaign on a brighter note and topped the log for five weeks. But a dip in form saw them drop drastically in mid season though they managed to retain their top flight status when they ended the season one place above the relegation zone with 51 points. Their 14 wins, 9 draws and 15 defeats dropped the Promise Keepers to 16th position.
In 2013/2014 season, one of Nigeria’s most experienced and widely traveled Coaches Justin Tenger was given the nod to take charge of the team. But after a bright start at the beginning of that season, the team’s fortune dwindled yet again. They survived the drop on the last day finishing in 16th place for the second straight season.
New Home Ground
The usual trend continued in 2014/2015 season with the arrival of a new Coach in Zackary Baraje. The team played few matches at the Old Uyo Township Stadium before the League Management Company LMC declared the Stadium as not befitting of hosting Premier League matches.
Akwa United then moved to the magnificent 30,000 capacity GodswillAkpabio International Stadium which was built by former Governor Godswill Akpabio.
Although the story of escaping relegation on the last day was the same ( Akwa United defeated Lobi Stars of Makurdi 1-0 with Abdulazeef Awakan scoring the only goal of the match to help the team stay up). Their 13 wins, 8 draws and 17 defeats pushed them to 15th position, two places above the drop zone.
Federation Cup Glory and Continental Debut
The 2014/2015 season was to be a standout season for the club for many reasons.
The team made history by winning the Federations Cup in November 2015 beating Lobi Stars of Makurdi 2-1 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos to lift their first major trophy and qualified to play in the CAF Confederation Cup. (Then Captain Nnamso Edo and AbdulafeezAwakan were the scorers).
Belgian Coach Maurice Cooreman was then appointed the new manger of the team and he took charge of the team in their first ever outing at the continental level where they were knocked out in the first round by Congolese side Vita Club Mokanda in Uyo. After winning the first leg 1-0 in Congo (UbongEkpai was the scorer) they lost at home by the same margin and were knocked out 4-3 on penalty shootout.
There was however a big improvement in the team’s performance in the league as they finished in 14th position.
The team’s 14th place finish without the sweat of relegation worries was well celebrated and it was attributed to the effort of a seasoned journalist turned football administrator Elder Paul Bassey who was appointed Chairman of the Club in mid season of 2015/2016 by the State Governor Mr. Udom Emmanuel.
A New Dawn
In his first full season in charge of Akwa United as Chairman, Elder Paul Bassey (ordained eleven years ago in the Apostolic Church) restructured the team and brought in a touch of professionalism into the administration of the club which has since manifested positively.
Part of the transformation process was the change in the club’s Jersey colour from Blue and White to Orange and White which represents the Akwa Ibom State official colours.
Elder Paul Bassey’s led management contracted one of Nigeria’s most experienced and intelligent Coaches Abdu Maikaba to take charge of the team.
Coach Maikaba recruited young determined and talented players such as Alhassan Ibrahim, Moses Ebiye, Aremu Afeez, IfeanyiIfeanyi, Musa Newman, Christian Pyagbara and Emmanuel Iwu and blended them with some star players like Ubong Friday, Otobong Effiong, Godspower Igudia, Ariwachukwu Emmanuel, Cyril Olisema, Chigozie Chilekwu, Ubong Idio, Amaechi Orji etc that were retained from the previous season.
And despite a slow start to the season which saw the team manage just six points from a possible 18, they picked up and adjusted to the playing pattern of Coach Maikaba.
The result of the blend was evident in Akwa United’s performances and achievements in the 2016/2017 NPFL season in which they were seriously contending for the title, but only to miss out in the last four rounds of matches and also missed the chance to pick one of the three continental tickets available through the league format by just a point.
Akwa United finished the 2016/2017 NPFL season in fourth placed (their highest ever finish in the top flight). They recorded 17 victories, 9 draws and 12 defeats with 60 points from 38 matches and also lifted the FA Cup (AITEO Cup) for the second time in 3 years.
2016/2017 season was the 20th Anniversary of Akwa United since it was founded as Ibom Stars in 1996/1997 season. The team has played in Nigeria’s Premier League for eight years in its 20 years of existence as a professional football club.The end of the 2016/2017 season marked the club’s six consecutive seasons in the premier league.
NAMES OF NOTABLE PLAYERS OF AKWA UNITED F.C.
AKWA UNITED COACHES FROM 1997 TILL DATE
1997/1998 – Benard Ogbe
1998/1999 – Henry Nwosu
1999/2000 – Henry Nwosu
2000/2001 – Anietie Ukpa
2001/2002 – Anietie Ukpa
2002/2003 – Henry Nwosu
2003/2004 – Henry Nwosu
2004/2005 – Emmanuel King
2005/2006 – Charles Bassey
2007/2008 – Charles Bassey
2008/2009 – Emmanuel Dush
2008/2009 – Ime Ukoh
2008/2009 – Godwin Uwah
2008/2009 – Patrick Udo
2009/2010 – Benard Ogbe
2010/2011 – Solomon Ogbeide
2011/2012 – Solomon Ogbeide
2012/2013 – Patrick Udoh
2013/2014 – Justin Tenger
2014/2015 – Zackary Baraje
2015/2016 – Maurice Cooreman
2016/2017 – Abdu Maikaba
2017/2018 – Abdu Maikaba