By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Nigeria Nationwide League side Ibom Youth FC shocked pre-tournament favourites Akwa United and Akwa Starlets to win the maiden edition of Akwa Ibom Super Four Football Tournament in Uyo on Friday.
Ibom Youth were crowned champions after forcing both Akwa United and Cofine FC to 1-1 draw in their opening two games before beating Akwa Starlets 1-0 on the last day of the competition to finish on 5 points from three round-robin matches.
Second placed Akwa Starlets recorded a 2-1 win over Cofine FC on the opening day, held Akwa United to a 1-1 draw before losing their last match 0-1 to winners Ibom Youth FC to finish on four points from three games.
Nigeria Professional Football League club and pre-tournament favourites Akwa United failed to live up to expectations and could only manage three draws in three games.
A 1-1 draw with Ibom Youth FC on the opening day was followed by another 1-1 draw against Akwa Starlets before being held to a goalless draw by bottom of the table Cofine FC. The Promise Keepers’ two goals at the tournament were scored by striker Boniface Mathew who ended as the tournament’s highest goal scorer.
Speaking after his team’s success Coach Itoro Akpan said he was proud of his team and promised to build on the impressive outing when the league resumes.
“We are very happy winning this tournament, it was a tough competition considering the calibre of teams that took part. We thank the Ministry of Youth and Sports for this great initiative and I hope it will be sustained.
“We played against some of the best teams in Nigeria and finished the tournament unbeaten. We are very proud with our performances in this tournament. We have had a wonderful season in the nationwide league. This victory has underlined the fact that we are ready and capable of competing against the best in any division in this country, excited Coach Akpan concluded.
Reacting to his team’s performance at the end of the tournament, Chief Coach of Akwa United, Aliyu Zubairu said he was not bothered by the results of his team and hinted that he was more interested in getting his players back to full fitness after more than three weeks of FIFA World Cup break embarked upon by his side.
“We are very grateful to the Akwa Ibom State Government for putting together this mid-season tournament for teams in the state because we have benefitted greatly from it.
“The four teams that participated know each other very well so we are not really surprised with the results we got. We went into the competition with the knowledge that any team was capable of winning it. If we had won the tournament, maybe we would have had the impression that everything was going on well but now we know that we still have a lot of work to do.
“The tournament afforded us the opportunity to test all our players and I can say that I am impressed with their fitness level and before the resumption of the second round of the league, we believe they will get back to full fitness and will be ready for the task ahead, ” said Coach Zubairu.
Addressing the organisers at the end of the tournament, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Mr. Monday Ebong Uko congratulated all the participating teams and assured that the government will continue to support sports development in the state.
“I wish to urge all the state teams in the different leagues not to relent but to ensure they finish well by winning in their various divisions.
Nsikak Paulinus of Ibom Youth FC was voted as the tournament’s most Valuable Player and was presented with an award for his efforts.
The Mid-Season tournament which was organised by the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Youth and Sports in collaboration with Akwa Ibom State Football Association was put together to help the four participating teams who are playing in different tiers of the football league in the country to prepare well for the second round of the season later this month.