By Jimoh Bashir
For Kwara United Football Club in the present dispensation, it’s about records, memorable moments and positivities, in the face of multiple challenges. It is also about historical moments and remarkable feats, in a journey which was laced with interesting shows and intrigues.
It’s all about results, performances and the quest for uplift, far and above existing records.
Performances in sports is relatively calculated on the premise of results and impacts, positively, especially in consonance with general anticipation and aspirations, irrespective of the internal and external forces pushed forward by environmental factors.
For Kwara United in the last four seasons, the fulfilment would be that of graduation from pessimism to optimism in virtually all aspects, because of the records already created, records already broken and the achievements, which arguably can be measured within a given period of time. All these realizations defines the progresses made within the last four seasons, which is Kwara United’s longest stretch of stay in the elite league since its venture into that circle in 1998.
The longest stretch of stay before now was after Kwara United gained promotion to the NPFL from one of its numerous sojourn in the NNL in 2008/2009 season. The team came first in the NNL then to return to the elite league, and stayed for three seasons, and got relegated again, alongside city rivals, Abubakar Bukola Saraki Ilorin Football Club, in the 2012/2013 season.
Kwara United defeated Nasarawa United by a lone goal on Sunday May 7th, 2023, at the Akure Township Stadium, against all odds, and that result guaranteed that the team retains its Premier League status, making it four seasons consecutively, the first time the club would achieve this feat.
It is worthy of note that this feat was achieved despite playing an all-round away matches in the 2022/2023 NPFL Abridged League, considering the huge challenge of doing so, made it all important and worth celebrating. The pitch of the Main-Bowl of its traditional home, Kwara State Stadium Complex is being re-grassed. It’s a risk well taken, and sacrifices well made in achieving the unthinkable.
Kwara United, after preparations to participate in the Nigeria National League (NNL) in the 2019/2020 season, got elevated through Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq’s magnanimity, as he approved the taking over of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) space of the then Delta Force, after the Delta based team had played ten matches in the NPFL season. The team however, had a rough season, but escaped relegation.
Kwara United, under the Chairmanship of Kumbi Titiloye ended the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 seasons in the fourth positions on the log, and were, owing to acceptable arrangements as contained in the rule book, given a continental slot, as it campaigned in the 2022/2023 TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup competition, losing out at the preliminary stage to the then defending champions, RS Berkane of Morocco. The team defeated the Moroccan side 3-1 at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Lagos, and lost the return leg 2-0. They had earlier dusted AS Douanes of Niger Republic out of the competition clinically, after a three goal aggregate scores.
From the 2020/2021 seasons, especially on the backdrop of the experiences learnt from the 2019/2020 season, Kwara United rose to absolute greatness from the path of uncertainty. Rose from playing with pessimism to playing with optimism, with hope and absolute flair, from playing without aspirations to playing with hope, and from just playing to playing with purposefulness and determination.
The team would have ended the 2020/2021 season in the second position, with 65 points, and plus 20 goals difference.
However, the outcome of the decision of the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) at its meeting held on August 5th, 2021, as it concerns Matchday 34 fixture played on 21th July, 2021 at Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna State, between Jigawa Golden Stars FC and Rivers United FC changed that narrative.
Rivers United FC had protested against the fielding of a player, Richard Christopher (Jersey number 8) by Jigawa Golden Stars FC in the match, on the grounds of ineligibility, having accumulated five (5) yellow cards during the season.
The NFF decision stated that Jigawa Golden Stars FC shall forfeit 3 points and 3 goals to Rivers United FC in respect of the match, for fielding an ineligible player in breach of C5 of the NPFL Rules.
The Appeal Committee of the NFF, few days later, adopted the ruling of the Disciplinary Committee, which therefore, placed Rivers United in the second position of the table, pushing Kwara United to the fourth position.
The club recorded remarkable successes in the 2020/21 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season. Some of the achievements included ending the first round of the season on top of the table.
The team did not lose any match at home for three consecutive seasons, and this feat had been achieved by the club for a very long time. And for the first time in several seasons, they did not fight relegation, as was the feature before now, except for the ongoing season, for obvious reasons.
Kwara United FC were rated as one of the best playing teams, and were adjudged as a surprise package of the NPFL by the stakeholders, especially considering previous outings. Of the 20 NPFL teams for the 2020/21 NPFL season, Kwara United usually parades the youngest squads, with about 12 U-17 players registered for the NPFL in the period under review.
The successes recorded so far can also be traced to the unity and friendly atmosphere in and around the team, and this averted the curse that ‘each year had led from bad to worse’ which people see as a common aphorism. The narratives have no doubt, changed, and can also be sustained with the arrangements on ground with the team.
For Kwara United FC under the current management, it’s been a campaign of purposefulness, laced with professionalism, which has brought a huge difference and a great departure from the past.
Just like every other season before now, objectives were drawn, targets set, aspirations kept, and hopes hinged on many variables, which importantly has to do with the caliber of players engaged, and the capacity of the technical bench.
The new found status has continued to bring more positive exploits for the team, especially as the management is expected to build on the positives recorded, while finding solution to the negative ones.
Also in the period under review, Kwara United have numerous of its players invited to the national teams, the U-17, U-20, U-23 and the home based Super Eagles.
The Club’s medical system was upgraded and ranks among the best so far, as players get rapid attention in cases of injuries or illnesses. The club also ranks among the best in observing Covid-19 protocols, as spelt out and adopted by the NFF and LMC. All these variables have strengthened its welfare system.
Going down memory lane, Kwara United first played in the CAF inter-club competition in 1999/2000 season, losing out in the quarter-finals to Zamalek of Egypt.
In 2006/2007 season, the club came first in Group A of an Abridged League, with 34 points, and ended up in third position after the Super Four played in Abuja. Ocean Boys won the Super Four, and joined second placed team to represent Nigeria in the Champions League, while Kwara United played in the Confederations Cup for coming third.
And 15 years after, the team was back in the continent after the 2021/2022 season, despite finishing fourth on the 2021/2022 NPFL table, just to beat the CAF registration deadline, as the Aiteo Cup was not concluded on time. The team gave good account of itself in the 2022/2023 TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup.
The last four seasons will also go down in history as the best in terms of cordial relationship among the various components of stakeholders, because of the professional way things were being done. The Supporters and Fans Club also worked together to complement the efforts of the management, players and officials.
For the first time in many years, that unity and togetherness was evidenced in the way Kwarans supported the team against Nasarawa United in the Matchday 17 of the ongoing season in Akure. The support was tremendous, not only because of the placement of the team on the table then, but to sustain the philosophy as enshrined by the founding fathers, and being sustained by the management.
The support of the Kwara State government is key and instrumental to the new found status of the team, which is arguably one of the symbols of unity for the state.
Before now, just like it was easy for the team to go on relegation, so was it easy to change management even at the slightest record of a single game loss. That obviously gave room for inconsistency in the club’s campaign in the league, as the so called aggrieved stakeholders always undermine support for the team getting good results even at home.
Apart from engaging tested players, the team also recruited more Kwara players, to compensate for the yearnings of Kwarans to have more indigenes in the team. This was also extended to the technical crew, as Coach Abdullahi Biffo was engaged to champion the cause of the team, spending three seasons in charge. Coach Abdulazeez Mohammed had a brief stay, before another Kwaran, Coach Kabir Sulaiman Dogo, who is a traditional Chief in Ilorin, the Mogaji of Odo-Okun took over. These are part of the ingredients that have continued to add value to the team, and which, the management will never compromise.
The hopes and prospect of achieving more successes and also breaking new grounds are high. The very first major accomplishment that metamorphosed into the present characteristics known of the club has to do with investment in recruitments. Another very important factor that assisted the club’s cause was the prompt payment of salaries and allowances to the players and officials, even during Covid-19 period when there was no football action and the league was on break.
Indeed, for Kwara United, its a period of positive records and breakthroughs, as well as the period of great prospect, under Kumbi Titiloye, a Sports Promoter and Marketer. Kumbi is an excellent facilitator and solution provider, and a seasoned Administrator.
Under Titiloye, the rebuilding and rebranding processes of Kwara United Football Club is being geared towards meeting the required pedestal for business opportunities, away from the usual social services. It’s also coming at a time the government is desperately seeking to find alternative financial windows to push the club to the next level.
For his professionalism and transparency, Kwara United secured the partnership of Dickalo and 22Bet. These are partnerships that will obviously open more doors of possibilities and opportunities for the club soonest. Equally, a million dollar sponsorship arrangement is in the works with Reachat of USA, and will commence soonest.
The team lost out of this year’s Federation Cup competition at the quarter-final stage, after losing by a lone goal to Plateau United FC. The team had earlier beaten Gateway FC (2-1), Ikorodu City (3-1) and Nasarawa United (1-0) before reaching that stage.
With the level of works done on the pitch of the Main-Bowl of the Kwara State Stadium Complex so far, Fans, Supporters, stakeholders and lovers of the club are guaranteed of watching their team again, at home, at their traditional ground, and it will be part of the celebration of having the team retain its NPFL status, despite the multiple challenges, and a renewed target for the new season, with a renewed hope for the darling team of the state.