That Heartland beat El-Kanemi Warriors 2-0 at the Okigwe Township Stadium to escape relegation from the NPFL may no longer be news but the big news is the role Imo State governor-elect, Rt. Hon. Emeka ihedioha played in the team’s last minute survival.
With little attention or motivation from the outgoing Gov. Rochas Okorocha administration, Heartland had frolicked with the drop for most part of the season.
Going into the last game of the season, the team was in the relegation zone and only a victory over El-Kanemi would guarantee escape.
Ihedioha had always nursed plans of returning Heartland to their once domineering status in Nigeria and on the continent but was wary of inheriting an NNL club from the current administration.
Well aware of Heartland’s dire situation on Sunday, Ihedioha mobilised Imo PDP chairman Bar. Charles Ezekwem, Ikemba of Okigwe and former Heartland Chairman and Imo FA Chairman, Fan Ndubuoke to Okigwe to ginger the team against El-Kanemi.
It was obvious the team had been poorly motivated all through the season but needed a late minute push to pull through against an El-Kanemi team that had been well-motivated by the Borno State government to avoid the drop.
A poor run which saw El-Kanemi lose their last two home matches meant the club had suddenly found themselves battling the drop.
From being a top challenger for one of Group B playoff tickets, El-Kanemi were at risk of being relegated if they lost to Heartland. Meanwhile a draw would guarantee their survival.