The moment Imo State was created in 1976, the first military administrator, Commodore Ndubuisi Kanu, a man of creativity and ingenuity, appointed the great sports manager, Rufus Eronini, the chairman of Imo State Sports Council. Kanu looked into his crystalballs and made the veteran sports administrator, Chief Jerry Enyeazu, the founder of Rangers FC, the director of sports. In line with Kanu’s avowed commitment for professionalism and merit, he employed two experienced coaches – Ray Ohaeri and Charles Okonkwo, to recruit players to form the state team.
By mid 1976, about 120 players had been recruited. After screening, about 90 of that number were camped at Nsulu Games Village, now in Abia State. At the end of the day, the state’s team was formed and initially named Trojans. The Trojans were handled by Dan Anyiam, Isaac Nnado, Ray Ohaeri, Elkannah Onyeali and Paulinus Nzerem. That was how the team that struck soccer gold in Kaduna ’77 National Sports Festival and defended it in Oluyole “79 was created. It was the master touch of Kanu that produced that excellent feat and thus laid the solid foundation of sports development in Imo State.
Let it be pointed out here that after Kaduna “77, the Trojans were grouped into two teams in Aba and Owerri. The Aba team was named Enyimba and the Owerri lads called Spartans. For the record, the Aba Enyimba was captained by Uche Ejimofor and the Owerri Spartans led by Emmanuel Okonkwo. The Spartans handled by Nzerem and Ohaeri had players like Goody Ebomuche, Peter Erege, Jeremiah Nwaiwu, Goddy Agbrakwe, Kelvin Owana and Eugene Ohuabunwa.
Others were Emiliano Momokobo, George Okoro, Jude Dimegwu, Leo Nkwocha, Sidney Ugorji, Amadi Nwokocha, Harrison Mecha and Kelechi Emeteole. On the other hand, the Enyimba team handled by Nnado had players like Ejimofor, Tony Ukachu, Dominic Abua, Ikechukwu Madukairo, Imo Imo, Santos Mba, Evans Ikwuegbu, and Charles Kagha. Others were Umelo Ahamefula, Alphonsius Dike, Peter Uchegbu and Nicholas Ukadike. Therefore, Kanu was the brain behind the formation of Spartans and Enyimba though the idea was initiated by Enyeazu.
Sports was not the only concern of Kanu. As a man of honour, he continued with the Owerri master plan development created by the last military administrator of East Central State, Col John Atomkpera. He built the imposing Aladimma Housing Estate which he magically completed in two months. How? He got 200 contractors to build two houses each and in two months 400 housing units were completed! It was Kanu who employed Fingerhuth and Partners LTD Zurich, to set up an Owerri city map for growth and development. And from Comrade Emmauel Orji, we now know that Fingerhuth submitted a master plan that recommended for Five Star Hotel, a Technical College, a Teaching Hospital, a College of Technology, a zoo and a stadium.
An administrator with a vision, Kanu established OCDA, he built the Multi Purpose Hall, new roads were built in Owerri, the Orlu and Okigwe secretariat complexes were built. In fact, Imo was the fastest growing state in Nigeria – thanks to Kanu the Builder.
After his exploits in Imo, he was transferred to Lagos where he also proved his mettle. Therefore as he died, he was in the land of the spirit and beheld the Premier League action between MFM and Heartland decided at Agege Stadium. One thing was sure. Kanu knew that things are currently too bad for Heartland and their management led by Chukwudi Ifeanyi. He knew the potentialities of the general manager.
He knew that if given support and opportunity, the current GM could re- enack the glorious feats that made Spartans and Iwuanyanwu Nationale great in those days. Therefore, Kanu invoked the soccer gods in Lagos to be on the side of Heartland. That way, the team’s strategy worked miracles and Heartland, for the first time this season, got a win on the road. The good news is that the GM, unlike the Kaduna show of shame, was in Lagos.
Again, not many knew that Coach Joseph Bassey Erico popularly known as Joe Erico, hailed from Cross River State but spent all his life in Lagos. Erico was Heartland coach in 1989. At the time he came, Heartland then known as Iwuanyanwu Nationale lifted the Premier league and Federation Cup titles and also played in the final of the CAF Champions League but lost gallantly to Setif of Algeria. However, in 1989, Erico could only win the league trophy. He lost to BCC Lions of Gboko in the Federation Cup final and was stopped by Inter Club of Congo in the quarter final of CAF Champions League. It was penalty shoot out and Sylvester Oparanozie missed his and as a result, Erico and Nationale were stopped.
And so, last Sunday, Erico who enjoyed all he wanted as Heartland coach knew that the odds were against the GM, thus he was by his side. He provided a metaphysical support and Heartland won thereby giving kudos to Chukwudi Ifeanyi, the GM.
The lesson is that if the GM is given maximum support in all fronts to wit: allow him to take financial responsibilities and administrative concerns, Heartland will fly again!!! The super result in Lagos against MFM proved just that.