In 2009, I accompanied a friend to Aba, of course, to buy goods as that is what the city is most known for. But something else was on my mind – a Nigerian League fixture between Enyimba FC and Shooting Stars. We knew Shooting were already in town and I wanted to watch the People’s Elephant play, so I tried to convince my friend that we should stay back.
Understandably, he declined. We couldn’t move with the goods to the stadium and back to Port Harcourt; so we agreed to go to the Stadium only on a sight-seeing drive.
Hours before the match, there was already an impressive number of people outside. We managed to go in but did not stay long enough to say much about that day, but the memories still stay.
Twelve years later, on 19th December 2021, the 2021-22 season was to begin for Enyimba with the Abia derby. It would be Finidi George’s first league fixture in charge of the team, and coming up against another brilliant coach in Imama Amapakabo, there was no way I was going to miss out on it.
So just like twelve years earlier, I arrived at the stadium hours before kickoff, but this time stayed to see out the match and all post-match formalities that followed.
Here are some notes that I took away from my latest trip to Enyimba Stadium:
Enyimba are the People’s Elephant, Literally
The team remains the People’s Elephant. Despite the inadequate publicity and uncertainty of the league’s commencement, there was still an impressive turnout of fans to cheer the team. This spoke volumes of the level of support that the club enjoys.
The backing of the Big Two
Hours to kickoff, even before the team’s arrival, the club chairman Felix Anyasi Agwu was already at the stadium; and was later joined by the Abia State commissioner of sports, Pascal Ojigwe. The presence of the two iconic figures was indicative of their passion and would have gone a long way to bring an added weight and backing to the team.
The true spirit of the Elephant on display
The team spirit and cohesion will count so much for the team in subsequent games. A true football fan would long to watch Enyimba “ball-on-the-ground”, fluidity and transitional play as they did again.
A fine bow for the gaffer
Coach George Finidi had another fine moment in the dugout. First league game, two goals, a hard-fought win and maximum points to relish.
The calmness of the twelfth man
The calmness of the fans during the game was commendable. Even after Abia Warriors got their equaliser and were looking to match Enyimba blow for blow, the fans kept their calm, seeming to have an assurance that the winner would eventually come, and yes it did.
The standout performers?
Sometimes it is unfair to single out a player after a spirited collective effort. We can’t help but give a mention to some. Goalkeeper Ojo Olorunleke kept the scoreline unchanged each time
Abia Warriors came so close to scoring. Nabil Yarou’s commanding performance and leadership at the rear gave the midfielders enough confidence to surge forward. Orok was everywhere he had to be. Did almost everything that was required of him. His scintillating and skillful drives troubled the four corners of Abia Warriors. Ozor moved ferociously around the pitch. His sacrifices and extra effort on my count foiled three dangerous attacks. Awazie is a delight to watch. His playing style could be any coach’s desire.