Heartland FC as Nigeria’s logo

Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has abandoned the state’s darling club, Heartland Football Club. Governor Hope has left the labouring team desolate and hopeless. Concerned Nigerians and disheartened sports-loving citizens are indeed not smiling at the plight of the darling football club of Imo State. It is the same sentiment when you listen to football stakeholders from across the country. The Nigerian football fraternity are united in their tears for Heartland FC and the hopelessness from Hope Uzodinma. That is the summary of  Nigeria.

On Match Day 9 of the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL), Mountain of Fire and Miracles Church (MFM) FC hosted Heartland at the Agege Stadium, called Soccer Temple in Lagos. Heartland defeated MFM 2 – 1 to record their first victory of the season.

But a the day after the encounter, the League Management Company (LMC) descended on Heartland FC. Their offence? The team had played in what appeared like a borrowed jersey, because neither the shirts nor shorts bore the club’s name or logo. Names of players were written with, perhaps, a borrowed pen on the jersey and the team’s handlers also forgot to write numbers on the jersey. It was untidy and shameful. It was the height of everything shoddy. It is our story.

The LMC said “Heartland has been charged for breaching the NPFL Framework and Rules in the Match day 9 game at MFM FC. Heartland breached the NPFL Framework and Rules after shirts and shorts worn by its players didn’t display numbers, surnames, club name and logo. A fixed penalty of N100,000 is imposed on Heartland as well as a fine of N1 million for the breach. Heartland has 48 hours to appeal the sanction.”

For a team that had been running from behind its peers on the league table; for a club that has not been able to pay its players and staff members their salaries; for a team whose players had to raise their voice for their legitimate earnings; for a club which recorded its first away win of the season, that Lagos blip was a pyrrhic victory. “A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Winning a Pyrrhic victory takes a heavy toll that negates any true sense of achievement or damages long-term progress,” that is how a dictionary defines Pyrrhic victory.

When Professor Wole Soyinka said during the week that Nigeria currently had no driver, my mind wandered to Spartans, Iwuanyanwu Nationale and now Heartland. Professor Soyinka, in simpler terms said that Nigeria is rudderless. The plight of Heartland, by the description of Soyinka, is the plight of our dear country today. Like Spartans of old, the team started with a lot of promise and was in the forefront in the soccer league. The ‘Nigerian syndrome’ caught up with Spartans and Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu stepped in and the club became known as Iwuanyanwu Nationale. That era turned out to be the most glorious for the club until the state government took over its reins again, and rechristened it Heartland. Heartland FC was not doing so badly until the administration of Governor Hope Uzodinma. Nigeria was not this sadly divided and rudderless until the administration of…

I was emotionally attached to the Spartans in my days as a secondary school student in Umuahia of the old Imo State. One of the few things that have remained indelible in my mind as a boy was the coup of 31 December, 1983 and, secondly, the take-over of Spartans of Owerri by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu’s Hardel & Enic Limited. As a young boy, it didn’t make sense to me how there could be a coup to disrupt what Chief Sam Mbakwe was doing as the governor of Imo State. So was the renaming of Spartans of Owerri to Iwuanyanwu Nationale.

Mbakwe, the first civilian governor of Imo State, had made Umuahia such a beautiful, well-groomed town and had, two months earlier, been sworn-in for a second term. Chief Mbakwe had earned the sobriquet “The Weeping Governor” from how he had tearfully sought the support of the Federal Government (of another political party) to support his developmental efforts of his young state.

However, the coming with General Buhari of War Against Indiscipline (WAI), and his trial along with nearly all the other governors of that era, and their long jail terms, cleared my illusion that General Muhammadu Buhari was joking. Of course, other governors like Professor Ambrose Ali (Bendel); Chief Solomon Lar (Plateau); Chief Bisi Onabanjo (Ogun); Aper Aku (Benue) were jailed for 99 years and so on. It looked outrageous. It was outrageous. It is still outrageous.

The Nobel Laureate, after weighing the Nigerian situation under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, said “I don’t want to talk about Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. I think it is best for my sanity just to avoid that overall question. I can take bits and pieces of Nigeria’s present predicament but I think for one’s sense of balance, one must forget the existence of the Buhari administration.” The transformation is like planting hope, watering it and then watching hope wither as it is with the current case of Heartland Football Club.

Work-related issues have brought me to very many occasions where people lament the current state of hopelessness in Heartland Football Club. There are contentions by the concerned football lovers that the legendary Dan Anyiam would be writhing in pain from what the club has become since the advent of the current administration in the state. Is this not our story?

I also shifted my

Time and Tide waited for Odili. He acted accordingly and restored the outfit to a thriving newspaper. Let us hope that Hope will restore hope in Heartland and give the heartless club the courage the rise to its name.

Nigeria once played a game in which the officials forgot Nigerian team’s jersey. The height of the Nigerian goal king, Rashidi Yekini gave the flaw away. His shorts were not properly cut, thereby giving his jersey one awkward look which attracted Nigerians’ curiosity to the rag.

Team Manager of Nasarawa United was also sanctioned for wearing a foreign club’s jersey during his club’s game with

Heartland Football Club founded as Spartans F.C., later known as Iwuanyanwu Nationale from 1985 to 2006 is a Nigerian football club based in Owerri. The team play their home games at Dan Anyiam Stadium. Their local rivals are Enyimba FC and Enugu Rangers. Wikipedia

 

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