While their fierce rivals Enugu Rangers were making history by winning the Nigeria Professional Football League (for the first time in 32 years ) in 2016, Heartland Football Club made the wrong type of history.
The club were relegated from Nigeria’s elite division for the first time in their history, same year as Rangers’ success. This had never happened before… not in the days of Spartans, nor in that of Iwuanyawu Nationale.
But they rebounded gracefully and ensured that a return to the top flight where they claim ‘they belong’ was instant. Their class shone all through the thick desert of the second division and by the end of the season, they had outclassed their competitors and stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Trying to learn from their past mistakes, the club went on a very short break after the conclusion of the ridiculously lengthy NNL season and have since regrouped in Owerri for PRE-NPFL Season training. Our Chief Football Writer, Fisayo Dairo was at the Dan Anyiam Stadium on Friday and brings gists from inside the camp for us.
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Coach Madu preparing burial rites
Friday’s training was handled by Heartland’s assistant coaches due to the fact that team’s head coach, Ramson Madu is busy with the final arrangements for the burial of his elder brother, former Green Eagles star, Christian Madu. The late Madu who had a great playing career in Ghana and also at Enugu Rangers will be laid to rest by on November 29 at his home in Mbano in Imo State.
Ramson was present at the ‘Scientific Boys’ training on Friday but took no active part in proceedings. He spoke with me and also urged us (journalists) to help give late Christian a befitting burial.
Senior players resting, as usual
As highlighted in our “Inside the Camp” gist of Rivers United http://aclsports.com/6529-2/ , a common phenomenon to NPFL clubs is senior players taking their time to rest properly before reporting for pre-season training. Of all the twenty teams to participate in next season’s NPFL, Heartland had the shortest break as they were ordered to resume for the new season less than a week after ending their season on October 14.
On Friday, we discovered that experienced goalkeeper Ebele Obi and midfielder Julius Ubido are yet to report to camp while the reliable Macmarcel Obioha and Onyebuchi Onyechefula were sighted at the training ground but not part of it.
Ike ThankGod says Hello
One of tens of spectators at the stadium to watch Heartland train on Friday was former Heartland star Ike ThankGod. Despite trying to remain anonymous on entering the stadium with my face cap, ThankGod was the first person to notice my presence and in his humble manner came to ask what I came to do in their domain.
Well, the former Warri Wolves and Abia Warriors defender has no interest in joining Heartland (as of now) he says, but he is a free agent and hopes to join a top division side before the DTMS window closes late November.