The meteoric rise of Akwa United from a struggling Nigeria Professional Football League side to a beehive for foreign clubs is difficult not to notice over the last three years.
Winning two FA Cups, attracting foreign players, and playing an entertaining class of football while competing at the top (hovering at the League’s summit) brought a Dana Airline sponsorship deal as an icing on the cake in February, 2018.
It was clear the club’s success couldn’t be ignored by one of Nigeria’s foremost Airlines which had operations going on from Uyo as well.
On that sunny afternoon when the deal was first struck, the Airline’s Media Communication Manager, said, “Dana Air and Akwa United are two teams that do things well when it comes to service delivery and OTP, everybody knows Dana Air and it is undisputed and Akwa Ibom has been very instrumental in Dana Air’s development.
This was the location that when we came in, we were welcomed with open hands.”
At that time the Promise Keepers topped the league and went on to finish the season second place behind Lobi Stars and likely would have toppled the Makurdi based side if the season didn’t end abruptly.
Prior to the commencement of the 2019 abridged season, both parties saw it beneficial prolonging the deal for another season.
For Akwa United, their travel worries were reduced. For Dana Air, their banners went around the country and even beyond coupled with their commitment to contribute to the development of football in Nigeria.
While Akwa United faithfuls and NPFL lovers wondered who will replace the country’s U23 National side Assistant gaffer Abdul Maikaba – the Coach who had built a tiki taka pattern at the Uyo based side, the management held everyone at suspense until January 24.
The only clue about Maikaba’s replacement lied in three words, a “young, vibrant” and “undistracted” coach charged to guide the club to her first Domestic League Trophy.
While Journalists picked speculations that a Foreigner had arrived Uyo for the job, Akwa’s media department acted a script heightening the suspense.
But at exactly 8:00am, while Journalists chattered and raised heads for the coach’s arrival at his unveiling, 32 year-old Brazilian, Rafael Everton walked into the Press Conference room of the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium.
Chairman of the Club made it clear his duty was to guide the club to their first Domestic League trophy.
But the boat will rock.
Akwa United opened the season losing to El Kanemi warriors for the first time at the Nest of Champions. Sadly, Everton’s side would go ahead to pick only two points from their next three matches involving a 2-0 loss to Nassarawa United.
But a riot act read out by Club Chairman, Paul Bassey will occasion a turnaround in results as the Promise Keepers switched to a 3-4-3 formation from an earlier 2-6-1 formation to beat Go Round FC 3-0 at the Nest of Champions.
While there were still fears about the club falling again in their next fixture scheduled away from home, Dana Air seemingly reposed confidence in the new gaffer.
“The change in management of the team might have affected them. The coach needs to understand how we play our football here. I don’t know his experience but we can’t actually judge by these results. We need to wait until the end of the season. For now, it does not affect the partnership at all,” Kingsley Ezenwa, Media Communication Manager of the Airline said to busybuddiesng.com.
Before the three-nil bashing of Go Round FC, fans of the Akwa Ibom side had already called for the sack of the foreigner at the helms of affair but the management wouldn’t bow.
Everton’s men didn’t let the confidence of the management to waste as they sweated out to beat Yobe Desert Stars by a lone goal scored by Mfon Udoh, former Enyimba captain and goal poaching talisman. Though they suffered persecution from fanatic home fans of the Damaturu-based side as they hulled in missiles to the pitch of play while attacking their vehicle.
Akwa United is yet to lose a match since February involving six victories and two draws and now top Group B of the League with a goal difference of 8 as Ifeanyi Ubah FC are second with 22 points and a goal difference of 3.
Akwa United are back to where they were when Dana Air first signed the illustrious deal with the club – top of the summit and Dana Air does not believe the club’s performance will affect the partnership deal having signed a new deal this season.
“It’s about the commitment and not the performance of the team. Poor performance won’t make us review the partnership. The team actually did well last year and they were very close to clinching the top prize,” Ezenwa affirmed.