The legendary Dan Anyiam was a man of history, symbolism and significance. Historically, he was the first indigenous coach to handle the Super Eagles. This is very remarkable. Symbolically, he moulded Rangers into a National and Continental champions, making the Enugu side the first Nigerian club to play in the final of any CAF organized competition in 1975. It was an epoch making event. And significantly, Anyiam, perhaps, proved his mettle when he assembled the first formidable as well as competition winning Imo team known as Trojans.
A year after Imo State was created in 1976, the now late Commodore Ndubuisi Kanu, approved the appointment of Anyiam as the Chief Coach of the state. His first major assignment was the football event of the National Sports Festival held in Kaduna in 1977. Anyiam, assisted by equally great coaches Isaac Nnado, Ray Ohaeri, Elkannah Onyeali and Paulinus Nzerem, put together a team that harassed the entire Nigeria at the Third Edition of the National Sports Festival in Kaduna tagged Kaduna “77.
Although Anyiam died tragically in his car in Owerri on the day the team was leaving for Kaduna, the other coaches never let him down. Team Imo defeated Team Rivers, 1 -0, whitewashed Team Benue 4 -0, piped Lagos and Plateau I -0 accordingly. In the final against Kaduna, the ruthless boys from Imo State smashed their host 2 -0 to smile home with the soccer gold medal. By that time, Abia was an integral part of Imo State.
Quite dramatically, on Wednesday, January 13, Dan Anyiam, playing as the 12th man at the stadium named after him, brought Heartland back from the brink. Anyiam’s spirit favoured Heartland against Enyimba. Being the father of both sides, he knew Heartland needed the victory more than Enyimba. In view of that, he used the General Manager, Chukwudi Ifeanyi, to energize the players. It was clear that Heartland were the better side and so all those who had thronged to the stadium to jeer the team and mock the General Manager and his management team went home disappointed! Their evil prayers were never answered by the devil.
Of course, Anyiam knew very well that January 13 as a date has usually produced mixed feelings for Owerri as an entity. It was on January 13, 1970 that the Federal forces recaptured Owerri leading to Biafra’s final surrender on January 15, 1970. Therefore, Anyiam never wanted the Chukwudi Ifeanyi -led management team to surrender because he was convinced that the three consecutive losses recorded by Heartland were never in tandem with the tremendous job the current management has been assiduously performing. Even its sacrifices have been quite enormous. Indeed, Heartland are back and they can be better. Another January 13 imbroglio for Owerri was the Supreme Court judgement of 2020 that dethroned Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and enthronement of Senator Hope Uzodinma as Governor. The matter was billed 13 but was taken to 14!
The same way General Murtala Muhammad was assassinated on February 13, 1976, but sadly Nigeria played a Nations Cup final game against Cameroon on February 13, 2000 at the National Stadium, Surulere. The effect was, the spirit of Murtala played against Nigeria. In the process, the Tunisian referee ruled Victor Ikpeba’s strike as no goal. It also made Nwankwo Kanu not to convert his own kick and Cameroon won.
Meanwhile, fantastic Muda Lawal, who understood history and its significance, while playing for Super Stores, scored the winning goal that for the first time sent the almighty Shooting Stars to relegation in 1986, wept uncontrollably and refused to celebrate the goal, Mutiu Adegoke in Enyimba’s colours, equally scored the winner that once again forced Shooting Stars to the lower division in 2005 in Aba. You see, Muda was among those that made Shooting Stars great. He could not believe that he would be the one, whose goal could relegate his once pride. Adegoke also played for Shooting Stars. But he lacked historical basis and so he saw nothing wrong in celebrating his goal that got his former team going down. Those Imo football personalities, who went to the Dan Anyiam Stadium on Wednesday, January 13 to ostensibly celebrate the defeat of Heartland by Enyimba so as to serve their respective selfish interests are like Adegoke. Ndonu. Pele. Sorry!!!
Yes! Number 13 is a symbolic number in football. It signifies revival. Remember, Pele, after wearing the number 10 jersey for several years, wore number 13 in the twilight of his career. Tijani Babangida was sporting jersey number 13 when he scored Nigeria’s only goal in 4 -1 loss to Denmark in France 1998 World Cup Finals. Heartland are back and it will get brighter and bigger.