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It promises to be tense, unpredictable and exciting as two derbies take place in the East in the Nigerian Professional Football League as the league enters its 26th week.

It promises to be tense, unpredictable and exciting as two derbies take place in the East in the Nigerian Professional Football League as the league enters its 26th week.

On Friday night, Enugu Rangers who have being flying in the league, will take on unpredictable Abia Warriors of Umuahia in the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium Enugu. The match which both teams needed seriously will as usual witness a mammoth crowd of Enugu spectators who are enjoying night football reminiscence of European football. The Flying Antelopes have been playing the games of their lives and are determined to break the recent mediocrity status of the team which have seen them not qualified for continental football in two decades. The old Rangers spirit have been re-ignited as the players are motivated to earn a continental ticket at the end of the current season. The Enugu Rangers, the oldest team in the East is currently placed 2nd on the log with 40 points, two points behind league leaders Wikki Tourists of Bauchi who play away from home. Permutations are that if Wikki Tourists loose at away and Rangers defeat Abia Warriors, the flying antelopes will return to the top where they were before the NFF deducted their three points against Giwa FC. But beating Abia Warriors will not be easy as the Umuahia side parades talented young players who want to make a name in the football scene. The Kennedy Boboye side however are suffering from injuries to key players and departure of some players to seek for greener pastures.
In the other Oriental derby, two foes Heartland FC of Owerri and Enyimba International of Aba will slug it out on Saturday by 4:00pm at the Dan Anyiam Stadium Owerri. This cracker which ended 1-1 apiece when the two teams met in the first stanza at the Umuahia Township Stadium will ignite old rivalries as both players go for each other's jugular. Enyimba parades many former Heartland FC players like Ikechukwu Ibenegbu alias Mosquito, Thankgod Ike, the defense maestro, among others. They equally parade a sound technical bench with former Warri Wolves gaffer in charge. The game is a must win for the Naze Millionaires as anything short of the maximum three points will spell doom for the team.
The Alphonsus Dike tutored side are currently occupying the 18th position in the 19 league format and any slip will see them playing in the lower rung of Nigerian League which will be a shame for the once glamorous team, the apostle of scientific football and a team which has produced the bulk of the National team in the previous years. It will be a calamity and a story not to be told in international football that a team which has produced the likes of Kanu Nwankwo, Mobi Okparaku, Edema Benson, Stanley Okorocha, Innoncent Oparanozie alias Bahama, among other stars. It will be a dent to the Rescue administration of Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his deputy Prince Eze Madumere. It will be a sad day for soccer fans in Owerri if the team dearest in the heart of people were relegated to a lower division for their first time since the creation of the state in 1976. Heartland FC must not go down. I appeal to the Executive Governor of Imo State and his amiable deputy to make sure that the team were not relegated at the end of the season. I appeal to well meaning Imolites, former stars, and former administrators such as Prince Lemmy Akakem, Uche Ejimofor, Chief Dr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Chief Ignatius Okeahialam, Fan Ndubuoke, etc to come and seek ways of salvaging the team.
The match against Enyimba this Saturday at the Dan Anyiam Stadium is very crucial to the survival of the team. The governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha, his Deputy Prince Eze Madumere and all the important dignitaries in the state must come and encourage the players as they battle the Aba Elephants. It is a do or die affair. I also appeal to soccer fans and Heartland Supporters Club to troop out in their numbers to support and cheer the team to victory. This is my clarion call. All hands must be on deck. It is time to bury the hatchet and forge ahead for the overall good of the team. Imo State have only one team in the professional cadre and everything must be done to keep it afloat.
This administration must equally take a look at the facilities at the Dan Anyiam Stadium and update them. Akwa Ibom has built a befitting edifice while the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium has witnessed a facelift that is now attracting spectators and sponsors with the state of the art flood light that enables Rangers to play their home matches in the night which has made the stadium filled up to capacity on every match and the team is the better for it. The Imo Governor must show seriousness to sports as it is the only thing that gives the people joy.

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