Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) giants Akwa United rounded off what a colourful opening of the new Eket Stadium in Eket, Akwa-Ibom state with an intense 2-1 win over visiting Katsina United.
Shortly after seeing his spot kick saved by Katsina United goalkeeper Hamisu Saidu early in the second half, Akwa United captain Ubong Friday atoned and gave his side the lead when he headed home James Ajako’s free kick at the far post. He thus became the first goalscorer at the new Eket Stadium.
The euphoria that greeted Friday’s goal had hardly died down when the visitors equalised two minutes later at the other end. Aliyu Musa provided the all-important finishing touch to an opportunistic attempt at goal by Bashir Sadauki’s Katsina United.
With the game played in an abridged manner under floodlights, Akwa United did find the winner towards the end of regulation time when new signing Ifeanyi Ogba scored a brilliant individual goal. The former Lobi Star went through his markers before finding the bottom right from 20 yards.
It crowned a befitting win for Akwa United head coach Ayodeji Ayeni who begins his first full season in charge of the Promise Keepers and a worthy present for the state on their 35th anniversary.
FT: Akwa United 2-1 Katsina United— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) September 30, 2022
Three goals in the abridged second half to make for an exciting opening of the Eket Stadium in Akwa Ibom state.
Ubong Friday and Ifeanyi Ogba scoring either side of Aliyu Musa's effort. pic.twitter.com/t3Gv5o9ouD
A COLOURFUL DAY
The newly constructed 18,000 all-seater Stadium was almost filled to its capacity by sons and daughters of Akwa-Ibom State who had gathered to celebrate another giant leap by the state in terms of sporting infrastructure, just eight years after the glamorous Nest of Champions in Uyo was commissioned.
Clad in different attires of beautiful colours ranging from the state’s official orange colour to green, lemon and purple colours in the beautified terraces, it was indeed an epoch making event which will linger for so long in the memories of the citizens of the Land of Promise.
Those in attendance used the opportunity to exhibit the diverse culture of Akwa-Ibom state while musicians including Africa’s foremost gospel artiste Mercy Chinwo performed much to the excitement of the fans.
The state governor Dr Udom Emmanuel played host to some key men in the country. The Special Guest of Honour at the occasion was the governor of Niger State Abubakar Sani Bello while Oyo State governor Seyi Makinde who has a history with the city of Eket was also in attendance as well as the former governor of Katsina state Ibrahim Shema.
The choice of Katsina United as Akwa’s opponents on the day was informed by the fact that both states were the only two states created on the same day – September 23, 1987 by Nigeria’s former Head of States Ibrahim Babangida.
WHAT THEY SAID
Such colourful events are never without key words on the marble from eminent dignitaries and the main men took their turns to speak before the governor of Niger State Sani Bello performed the commissioning while Governor Udom Emmanuel took the ceremonial kick-off.
These are some of the things they said:
“I thank His Excellency Governor Udom Emmanuel for giving me this commission to provide this state-of-the-art facility and giving us the resources to accomplish it. That is the hallmark of his administration.”
– Sir Monday Okon (Monty), Akwa Ibom Commissioner for Sports.
“Today is a happy day for me as a son of Eket Local Government. Permit me to be selfish today because in this tenure, Akwa-Ibom has become a destination for Sports development. We appreciate our Governor and we will live to celebrate for these great things you have done in our state.”
– Senior Special Assistant on Sports to the Governor and Akwa United Chairman, Etubom Paul Bassey
“Congratulations on the 35th anniversary of the creation of this state. I worked here before from 1995 to 1999, I worked full time here and I can say that Akwa-Ibom state has changed drastically from then. One thing that struck me with this arrangement is that, while our people in this country are focusing on what divides us, you (the Governor) has decided to focus on what unites us. Whenever Nigeria’s sportsmen and women represent us, at that point, Nigerians forget religion and tribe.
“For Akwa-Ibom to focus on the activities that unite us, I’ll say 35 gbosas to the government and I hope we will see a good game between Akwa United and Katsina United. I will support Akwa in the first half and Katsina in the second half.
– Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde.
“I noticed that any time our teams go outside of the state to play football matches, they struggle on the synthetic pitches, so I called the Commissioner and asked him what can be done to install the best type of synthetic pitch here, the result is this.
“I want to thank everyone that made this project successful. From the Commissioner to the contractors and the locals that supported it. In this facility, we will discover our own Messi, our own Ronaldo, our own Michael Jordan and so on. We will will ensure we see out all our projects in this city before the end of the year.
“Once again, I thank everyone that made this project a reality.”
– Governor Udom Emmanuel
Both clubs were presented with trophies as a memorabilia for playing the first game on the new pitch.