Heartland FC goalkeeper Ebele Obi is hopeful his newly promoted side will keep their league status at the end of the 2017/18 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season in spite of their preparation difficulties.
Obi, older sibling of Super Eagles captain, Mikel was voted Player of the Season by Heartland fans at the end of last season after an impressive qualification run which ensured the team make a swift return back to the elite division.
The veteran of over a decade in the league is optimistic his team will keep their status and believes that aim will be their biggest ambition for the season. “A good season for us will be for us to remain in the NPFL, nothing else,” a candid Obi told www.aclsports.com “We have to work hard, it’s not easy because for the team that just gained promotion back to the NPFL, I know it’s going to be difficult because we are not really prepared,” added the former Rangers goalkeeper.
Heartland have not been as busy as their NPFL contemporaries during the off season despite resuming early for pre-season as we reported here. ( https://www.aclsports.com/6594-2/ ) The team’s major action of pre-season came in the NNL Super Four held earlier this week in Lagos. Obi acknowledges this will make it difficult for them.
“We didn’t go for any pre-season tournament or had any closed camping. Nothing was done. So I know it’s going to be a little bit difficult for us but we’re going to push in between the league and at the end of the day (hope to) remain in the NPFL.”
Relegation at the end of the 2015/16 season was the first time Heartland (formerly called Iwuanyawu Nationale and Spartans) would drop from the top flight in their illustrious history and Obi is delighted to be back among the elites.
“It feels great (to be back). This is what every footballer wants, to play in the higher league in the country. Last season we were in the NNL and we had it in mind we didn’t need to be there and at the end of the day we worked extra hard and we got the desired result.”
Heartland will start their campaign on Sunday with a home tie against Sunshine Stars at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri.