As Ibom Angels Battle Rivers Angels For Women’s #AiteoCup Title
By Umoh-Obong Kingsley
“When the youths are exposed to the best sporting facilities at an early age, we give the wings to soar and the sky can only be the limit.” –Gov Udom Emmanuel
Akwa Ibom State has become Nigeria’s home of sports. The warmth, the hospitality, the facilities and the ecstasy of the people of the state have made several groups and individuals unable to resist the urge to come to Uyo for their sports meets.
Recently, at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium (Nest of Champions) in Uyo, the Super Eagles, Nigeria’s senior male national team, beat the Chipolopolo of Zambia to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia. Barely a week after, Akwa United Football Club, powered by the state Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, won the 2017 Aiteo Cup for the second time in three years, after trashing the Niger Tornadoes 3-2 via penalty shootouts. The first of such feat by any administration since the creation of the state 30 years ago.
For record purpose, the team had never won any trophy at the National scene before the arrival of Governor Udom Emmanuel in 2015, as it had always escaped relegation by the whiskers on the last day of matches at the elite division. Currently, the players and officials are the most promptly paid in Nigeria. It is also worthy of note that six Akwa United players are currently active in the National Football Team, the highest number of footballers from a single football club in Nigeria.
While still in high spirits for Akwa United FC, another sports milestone was recorded and history made, when Akwa Ibom female football team, the Ibom Angels, despite losing 2-1 to Abia Angels in Umuahia, sailed through to the AITEO Cup final with a 3-2 aggregate win, having won the first leg by 2-0 in Uyo.
It is also a moment of ecstasy for Akwa Ibom sports lovers as it is the only state with two different teams at the same time in the finals of a football competition. Ibom Angels have reached their first ever Women’s Federation Cup final and will face defending champions Rivers Angels at the Rwang Pam Stadium, Jos, on Wednesday.
Akwa Ibom State government is tackling the growing challenge of unemployment among youths and the urgent need for wealth creation in many ways. One of the ways the state government is confronting this hydra-headed issue is by investing in sports facilities across the state. It has embarked on building and equipping schools sporting centres in the 10 federal constituencies of the state, one of which has been completed and put to use in Itu federal constituency, and the one in Eket federal constituency is already on course in Onna Local Government Area. In addition to this, the governor has also embarked on the reconstruction of the 10,000 capacity Eket sports stadium. Earlier this year, he hosted the first ever school sports festival in the state.
As former American Baseball player and Coach, Tommy Lasorda, rightly said, “There are three types of people – those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened,” Governor Udom Emmanuel, having invested generously in sports infrastructure and human capital development, is one of those who make things happen, as he sees sports development as a valuable gift to the youths.