Heartland FC vs Enyimba FC, a derby like no other


By: Chuks Ogbu

In football, the word “derby” refers to a contest between two teams from the same area, city or region. Such encounters are usually and traditionally crunchy in nature.

In Nigeria there are very few derbies are crunchy and tough as the oriental derby between Heartland FC and Enyimba FC.

Heartland FC and Enyimba FC are two teams closely related in unique way, created on the same day back in November 1976 by Late Sir Jerry Enyeazu the then Sports Commissioner of the old Imo State few months after the creation of the state.

Heartland FC then known as Spartans FC were situated in Owerri the capital of the new state while Enyimba FC then known as Falcons FC were situated in Aba the Economic capital of the state.

From the time of their creation to this moment there has always been a huge rivalry between the teams.

Both teams have had memorable encounters especially during the the late 70s and 80s at the Imo State F.A Cup, even in the late 80s and early 90s When Heartland FC (then Iwuanyanwu Nationale) enjoyed their most successful era so far Enyimba FC were a thorn in their flesh.

There have also been some memorable league fixtures between the both sides, most notably includes. trom Iwuanyanwu Nationale’s memorable 2-0 victory against Enyimba FC, (a fixture that saw Ndidi Anumunu get a brace for the victorious Iwuanyanwu Nationale) to Enyimba’s 3-0 whitewash of Iwuanyanwu Nationale (a game that saw Vincent Enyeama make a loan appearance for the naze warriors), or the reverse fixture in Owerri that ended in an entertaining goalless draw. Others clashes include Heartlands 1-0 victory over Enyimba FC in Aba back in March 2008, Enyimba’s highly entertaining 3-2 victory over Heartland in Enugu (Heartlands adopted home ground back then), Heartlands 2-1 victory over Enyimba in Owerri back in 2015 and Heartlands 2-0 victory over Enyimba in Aba back in 2020.

This fixture has also produced some bad blood encounters in recent history, most notably the 2007 1-1 draw in Owerri (a tie that saw Enyimba earn 3 board room points due to alleged violence by Heartland fans) and the 1-1 draw in Aba during the 2008/2009 season (a fixture that brought temporary ban on the Enyimba stadium due to an attack on the match officials allegedly by Enyimba fans)

In the last ten years Heartland FC have enjoyed a better head to head over Enyimba FC and last lost to their neighbors in a competitive match in 2015 a 0-2 loss in Aba, ever since then they have met 9 times in the league Heartland winning 4 and drawing 5.

The last time Enyimba FC got a victory over Heartland FC away in Owerri was in 2013 when Kingsley Sokari’s finely taken free kick proved to be the difference in a bad tempered encounter.

This weekend fixture maybe coming at a bad time for Heartland FC on paper but considering the fact that Heartland FC have always used Enyimba FC as “a sacrificial lamb” whenever they have a little “jinx” to break.

Heartland FC endured an 18 year trophiless mediocrity but when the met Enyimba FC in the final of the 2011 federations cup the Name Warriors triumphed, also at the start of the 2013/2014 NPFL season, Heartland FC played six games without a win but when Enyimba FC came calling the enjoyed their first win.

It’s also important to note her that no Nigerian team has ever enjoyed an unbeaten streak of up to 10 league matches against Enyimba FC.

If The above are anything to go by, it sure does suggest that Saturday’s Orientation derby will surely be a crunch one.


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