The Special Adviser on sports to Akwa Ibom State Governor Emmanuel Udom, Etubong Paul Bassey led a lively celebration at the Stephen Keshi Stadium Asaba on Monday after Akwa Starlets thumped 3SC 3-0 in a Nigeria National League promotion play-off match, Completesports.com reports.
Akwa Starlets’ win and promotion to the NPFL hands Akwa Ibom State two slots in the Nigerian topflight, with Akwa United already there.
“I feel great, exceedingly great”, Bassey, who is also Chairman of Akwa United told Completesports.com after the match.
“With two teams in the NPFL, Akwa Ibom state joins the ranks of Abia and Delta states with two clubs in the NPFL.
“There is already a precedence. As I’m talking now, I don’t know what’s happening in Enugu where Warri Wolves are playing against Dynamites Force of Benin.
“Abia State has two teams (in the NPFL), now we (Akwa Ibom) have joined and if Warri Wolves win (they won penalties), then it will be fantastic.
“It’s all about South South. Whether you like it or not, that’s where Nigerian football is being played and we have to establish our superiority.
“Honestly, I feel great about what we’ve achieved today,” the former publisher of Today Sports Newspaper and CAF media guruIs said.
Femi Ajayi jumped highest to plant his headed effort into the top corner from Imoh Obot’s corner kick on 18 minutes.
Five minutes later, Ajayi grabbed his brace on the night with a left foot drive just outside the area which gave Shooting Stars goaltender, Lucky Jimoh absolutely no chance.
The Oluyole Warriors poured out in numbers in the second period but lacked the cutting edge in the final third.
Isaac George sealed the win for Akwa Starlets and as well put the game beyond redemption for Shooting Stars in the second minute of the five minutes added time when he shot from 50 yards out to keep the final scoreline at 3-0.
The beautiful goal and guile of the scorer overshadowed the entire thrilling encounter to form the major talking point of the evening afterwards.
“I’m very happy to score the goal,” George told Completesports.com.
I saw the goalkeeper several times straying way out of his goal line. That was why I took the kick when with my hind sight I saw him out of his post. I had tried it the first time but he blocked it but this second one was way beyond him. I’m really happy.”
The 19-year-old recalled it was not the first time he would score such textbook goal.
George added: “Yes, it is not the first time I would score such a goal. During the regular league, I scored like this against 36 Lions in Lagos. I also scored in similar manner against Hill City FC during our State FA cup.”
Paul Bassey said it was important people realised that things have changed in the game. He said time has gone when big names dominate the game.
“The way people talk about Shooting Stars name and (past) record. Yes, they were great in the past, but past belongs to history. Let’s talk about the present. Let’s forget about the past,” he said.
“You saw what happened here, you don’t win games in the boardroom (apparently referring to 3SC protest against one of Akwa Starlets players over alleged use of two different names during the regular season and in the promotion play off).
“You don’t also win because you had (big) name in the past. We are talking about the present.
“I’m proud of these boys, they put in everything in the first half. In the second half, they kind of, relaxed but when they had the opportunity, they stamped their superiority.
“3SC had absolutely nothing to (complain) say about the three goals. They were fantastic goals”, a delighted Paul Bassey summed up.
With this victory, Akwa Starlets now join Warri Wolves, Jigawa Golden Stars and Adamawa United in securing their spots in the 2019/2020 NPFL.
The four promoted teams will assemble at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, from July 24 through July 31 for the NNL Super Four Play-offs to determine the champions.
Results Of The NNL Promotion Play-offs
NAF FC 2-3 Jigawa Golden Stars.
Road Safety 1-2 Adamawa Utd .
3SC 0- 3 Akwa Starlets .
Dynamite Force 0-0 Warri Wolves (3-5 pen)
By Sab Osuji