Heartland F.C.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Heartland FC
Heartland F.C. logo
Full nameHeartland Football Club
Nickname(s)Naze Millionaires, Spartans, Soccer Scientists, The Hearts
Founded1976; 47 years ago (1976)
GroundDan Anyiam Stadium
Owerri, Okigwe Stadium
ChairmanPromise Nwachukwu
ManagerChristian Obi[1]
LeagueNigeria Professional Football League
2022–23Nigeria National League, 1st (promoted)[2]

Heartland Football Club founded as Spartans F.C., later known as Iwuanyanwu Nationale from 1985 to 2006[3] is a Nigerian football club based in Owerri. The team play their home games at Dan Anyiam Stadium (and the Okigwe Stadium as their temporary home ground pending renovations at the Dan Anyiam Stadium). Their local rivals are Enyimba FC and Enugu Rangers. They reached the finals of the 1988 African Cup of Champions Clubs and 2009 CAF Champions League, the premier African continental club tournament, and won four straight Nigerian league titles from 1987 to 1990.[citation needed]

Until their 18th place showing and first-ever relegation in 2016, they were one of two teams in the Nigerian top flight that had never been relegated.


The club were founded as Spartans FC in 1976.[4] Their first international match was a friendly played against Ararat Yerevan of the USSR which Spartans won 2–0 at the Township Stadium, Tetlow Road, Owerri, in August 1976.[5] Spartans FC were supported by the Imo State government, which itself had been founded in 1976, and had the support of the state administration, including the state military.[6] Spartans FC played matches at the Old Owerri Stadium.[6]

Iwuanyanwu Nationale FC (1985–2006)[edit]

Spartans FC were renamed Iwuanyanwu Nationale FC in 1985 following a successful change of ownership from Imo State Government to chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu. Iwuanyanwu Nationale embarked on a 3-week training tour of Brazil in January 1986. That season, Nationale finished runner-up of the Nigerian top league.

The late 1980s were the most successful time in the club's history, when they won four straight championships from 1987 to 1990. During this time, the club featured several Nigerian national team players, such as Thompson Oliha, Benedict Iroha, and Uche Okechukwu.[7]

Iwuanyanwu Nationale finally emerged as League winners in 1987 ahead of Leventis United on goal difference, the first of four straight championships. The league win earned them the right to represent Nigeria in CAF Champions Cup. In 1988, Iwuanyanwu Nationale repeated as League champions and completed the double as they won the Nigerian FA Cup for the first time, beating Flash Flamingoes of Benin 3–0 in the final. The club also reached CAF Champions Cup final, winning 1–0 in first leg tie in Ibadan, losing 4–0 in Constantine, Algeria in return leg versus Entente Setif.[8]

In 1989, the Iwuanyanwu retained the league title but lost the FA Cup final 0–1 to BCC Lions.[9] They played Stationery Stores of Lagos in Lagos in the first ever game of the newly professional Nigerian league and won 2–1, with Ben Iroha scoring the first goal.[10] Nationale emerged as the first pro league winners in Nigeria.

The club's fortunes finally changed for the worse in 1991, when Nationale lost the league title to Julius Berger. The club also crashed out of CAF Champions Cup in the semifinals, losing to Nakivubo of Uganda 4–3 on aggregate, including a 1–1 draw at home where a win would have qualified them for the final.[11]

Nationale won the league title again in 1993 following a 2–0 away victory over El-Kanemi Warriors in last league fixture to edge out Bendel Insurance to the title race. The 1993 team featured a young Nwankwo Kanu, who at the age of 16 scored 15 goals in 25 matches. Kanu would move on to Ajax after the 1993 season.[12]

Tragedy struck Heartland in the champions league in 1994. Nationale reached the Champions Cup quarter-final, losing 3–0 to Espérance de Tunis of Tunisia in first leg tie, 18 September, in Algeria. Iwuanyanwu chartered an Oriental Airlines plane to fly home from Tunis the night of the game, but upon landing at Tamanrasset in southern Algeria, the plane hit a runway lamp and a fire truck and crashed.[13] Two players, defender Aimola Omale and goalkeeper Uche Ikeogu, lost their lives in the accident, along with the pilots and a flight attendant. According to striker Tony Nwaigwe, the plane broke into three pieces on landing.[14]

Due to the crash, the CAF shifted the return leg match in Owerri from 3 to 10 October. Nationale would draw the return match 1–1, failing to advance in the competition.[15]

The 1995 season, the first after the plane crash, Iwuanyanwu faced more adversity in the Nigerian domestic league. Led by manager Uche Ejimofor, Iwuanyanwu managed to survive a relegation battle by only a couple games, which included a match which was replayed two times against 1994 champions BCC Lions, finally ending in a 1–1 draw.[15]

1999 saw Iwuanyanwu win the league but they ended up losing the title to Lobi Stars of Makurdi in the inaugural Super League play-off. They also finished runners up in the Nigerian F.A. Cup to Plateau United after breaking the hearts of city neighbors FC Arugo in the semifinals with a 2–1 victory. Arugo had just been set up in 1999 by former Iwuanyanwu manager Uche Ejimofor.[16]

In 2000, Iwuanyanwu player Gabriel Anats died during the season from a tetanus infection.[17]

In 2005, Iwuanyanwu finished third in Premier League and also in the Coca-Cola FA Cup with coach Stanley Eguma in charge.[18]

Heartland FC (2006–present)[edit]

On 7 February 2006, the Imo State Government re-acquired ownership of the club from Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and renamed it Heartland FC.[5]

Heartland finished second in the 2008 Premier League by one point to Kano Pillars, earning a Champions League slot in 2009. Heartland would go on to make the finals of the 2009 CAF Champions League, losing to away goals to TP Mazembe after tying 2–2 on aggregate. Heartland won the first leg at home 2–1 but an own goal in the 73rd minute in the return leg in Lubumbashi meant the Nigerian side finished as runners-up.[19]

After the club's failure to win the Champions League, they brought in Christian Chukwu as a technical consultant and Fan Ndubuoke as general manager.[20] In 2011, the club won the Federation Cup, its first silverware since its last league win in 1993. Heartland defeated highly fancied Enyimba 1–0 thanks to a 40th-minute goal by their captain, Chinedu Efugh.[21] Ramson Madu, a player on the 1993 cup winning team, was a member of the technical staff who won the 2011 cup, meaning he could celebrate winning as both a player and a coach.[20] Heartland, however, could not replicate their success in the league, as they finished at mid-table.

Heartland defended its cup win in 2012 by defeating Lobi Stars 2–1 in the finals held at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.

In 2013, Heartland were eliminated from the Confederations Cup due to a walkover against US Bitam of Gabon. Heartland had won the first leg 2–1 in Owerri, but were delayed leaving Nigeria due to visa and travel issues, and did not make it to Gabon in time for the match. Their protest was unsuccessful, and Bitam advanced in the competition.[22]

The club was relegated from the Nigerian top division for the first time in 2016.[23]

First relegation To NNL[edit]

Ending 18th in the 2016 Nigeria Professional Football League ensured Heartland went on relegation for the first time since its 40-year existence. On the final day of the season, the team had abandoned their game against Plateau United in the 75th minute, after a goal which was to give them a 2–1 lead, was disallowed. Heartland was eventually penalized by the League Management for abandoning the match and 3 points and 3 goals was awarded to Plateau United. Heartland were also levied a fine of N3 million.[24] The result of this meant that MFM FC would remain in the league at Heartland's expense.

They only spent a year at the second level, winning the Southern division with a game to spare, ending on 61 points and 18 wins, 7 draws and 7 losses.[25]

Later in August 2019, Heartland hired former MFM FC coach Fidelis Ilechukwu as its manager.[26]


1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1993.
1988, 2011, 2012.
2011, 2012.

Performance in CAF competitions[edit]

Results in CAF competitions[edit]

Season Competition Round Club Home Away Aggregate
1990 African Cup of Champions Clubs First Round Senegal ASC Diaraf 3–0 0–1 3–1
Second Round Ivory Coast Africa Sports 3–2 1–1 4–3
Quarter-finals Tunisia Espérance 2–1 1–1 3–2
Semi-finals Zambia Nkana Red Devils 0–1 0–1 0–2
1991 African Cup of Champions Clubs First Round Sierra Leone Old Edwardians 3–0 0–2 3–2
Second Round Gabon JAC Port-Gentil 5–0 2–1 7–1
Quarter-finals Ivory Coast ASEC Mimosas 3–0 0–3 3–3 (6-5p)
Semi-finals Uganda SC Villa 1–1 2–3 3–4
1994 African Cup of Champions Clubs First Round Niger Zumunta AC 3–0 3–1 6–1
Second Round Cameroon RC Bafoussam 1–2 3–2 4–4(a)
Quarter-finals Tunisia Espérance de Tunis 0–3 1–1 1–4
2000 CAF Cup First Round Gabon Mbilinga FC 3–0 2–2 5–2
Second Round Egypt Awassa City F.C. 2–1 1–1 3–2
Playoff Round Zambia Nchanga Rangers 2–0 0–1 2–1
Semifinals Algeria JS Kabylie 1–1 0–1 1–2
2006 CAF Confederation Cup First Round Ivory Coast JC Abidjan 2–0 0–0 2–0
Second Round Egypt Haras El Hodood 3–2 0–0 3–2
Playoff Round Equatorial Guinea Renacimiento FC 4–0 0–5 4–5
2009 CAF Champions League First Round Morocco FAR Rabat 3–1 1–1 4–2
Second Round Cameroon Coton Sport FC 2–1 1–1 3–2
Group Stage Democratic Republic of the Congo TP Mazembe 2–0 0–2
Zimbabwe Monomotapa United 3–1 1–2
Tunisia Étoile du Sahel 3–0 0–0
Semifinals Nigeria Kano Pillars 4–0 1–0 5–0
Final Democratic Republic of the Congo TP Mazembe 2–1 0–1 2–2(a)
2010 CAF Champions League First Round Cameroon Tiko United 1–1 2–2 3–3(a)
Second Round South Africa Supersport United 3–1 1–1 4–2
Group Stage Egypt Al Ahly SC 1–1 1–2
Egypt Ismaily 2–1 0–1
Algeria JS Kabylie 1–1 0–1
2012 CAF Confederation Cup First Round Cameroon Unisport Bafang 0–0 2–1 2–1
Second Round Republic of the Congo AC Léopards 3–2 1–2 4–4(a)
2013 CAF Confederation Cup First Round Gabon US Bitam 2–1 w/o[a]
  1. ^
    US Bitam advanced to the second round after Heartland arrived late for the second leg, as per ruling made by the CAF.

Current squad[edit]

As of 01 May 2023

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
1 GK Nigeria NGA John Bright
2 FW Nigeria NGA Emmanuel Ibekwe
4 MF Nigeria NGA Opara Chijioke
5 DF Nigeria NGA Nnaemeka Anyanwu (captain)
6 DF Nigeria NGA Chukwujekwu Onuoha
7 FW Nigeria NGA Ebuka Okoro
8 MF Nigeria NGA Olasunkanmi Quadri
10 MF Nigeria NGA Nnamdi Egbujor
11 FW Nigeria NGA Victor Wohuruche
12 MF Nigeria NGA Tony Okemmiri
13 GK Nigeria NGA Godwin Paul
14 FW Nigeria NGA Shuaibu Abdullahi
17 MF Nigeria NGA Fabian Omaka
19 FW Nigeria NGA Onyekachi Okafor
20 FW Nigeria NGA Victor Makalala
21 FW Nigeria NGA Ibe Chijioke
No. Pos. Nation Player
22 GK Nigeria NGA Chisom Chiagha
23 DF Nigeria NGA Tobechukwu Henry Ibe
24 MF Nigeria NGA Izuchukwu Abugo
25 DF Nigeria NGA Peters Afolayan
27 MF Nigeria NGA Chidiebere Ajoku
28 Nigeria NGA Best Amaechi
29 MF Nigeria NGA Chukwuma Nwankwo
32 MF Nigeria NGA Temitope Akande
33 FW Nigeria NGA Franklin Oyewole
34 MF Nigeria NGA Amoo Mumini
35 MF Nigeria NGA Jeremiah Ndukwe
36 MF Nigeria NGA Elvis Ori
38 FW Nigeria NGA Kingsley Arum
39 MF Nigeria NGA Christian Weli
42 FW Nigeria NGA Prince Onuoha

Former coaches[edit]


  1. ^ "How Heartland can secure promotion to NPFL – Coach Obi". Daily Post. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  2. ^ "Heartland Emerge 2022/23 NNL Champions". Complete Sports. Retrieved 7 July 2023.
  3. ^ "AfricanFootball - Heartland FC". African Football. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  4. ^ "AfricanFootball – Heartland FC". African Football.
  5. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 May 2007. Retrieved 2 January 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b "The gradual demise of Heartland FC?". Imo Trumpeta. 18 April 2013.
  7. ^ Noah, Oluwasegun (30 June 2013). "Thompson Oliha is dead". The Eagle Online.
  8. ^ "Untold story of Iwuanyanwu Nationale 1994 Plane Crash | The Nation". Latest Nigeria News, Nigerian Newspapers, Politics. 30 October 2020. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  9. ^ "NFF topshots recall FA Cup sweet memories". 23 September 2011.
  10. ^ Solaja, Kunle (12 May 2018). "NIGERIA PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE CLOCKS 28". Sports Village Square.
  11. ^ Obasi, Emeka (7 September 2018). "Sports Flakes: Ghanaian Goalies in Naija".
  12. ^ Horsfield, Stuart (22 August 2017). "Nwankwo Kanu and the languid brilliance of Nigeria's most celebrated footballer". These Football Times.
  13. ^ "NIGERIAN TEAM AMONG VICTIMS OF PLANE CRASH". Deseret News, Associated Press. 19 September 1994.
  14. ^ "How I survived '94 Iwuanyanwu Nationale plane crash — Nwaigwe". Best Naira News. 20 July 2014.
  15. ^ a b c Junior, Buchi (19 May 2018). "Times and tides of Uche Ejimofor". Vanguard NGR.
  16. ^ a b "Nigeria: FA Cup Unique to FC Arugo, Says Ejimofor". 28 October 2006.
  17. ^ Oyedele, Tunde (22 July 2000). "Nigeria: Pepsi Pro-League Review 2000 Season: Hooliganism, Blunders And Deaths".
  18. ^ "Nigeria: Nationale Not Ready for Africa - Ibe".
  19. ^ "Mazembe win African Champs League". CNN.com. 7 November 2009.
  20. ^ a b "FA Cup: Hearty celebrations as Heartland reign". Vanguard Nigeria. 26 September 2011.
  21. ^ "Heartland Win Nigeria's Fed Cup". PM News Nigeria. 25 September 2011.
  22. ^ "Nigeria's Heartland to appeal against Confed Cup walkover". BBC Sport. 8 April 2013.
  23. ^ "Heartland relegated for first time in history - P.M. News". Retrieved 22 November 2022.
  24. ^ Prince, Toby (7 October 2016). "Heartland FC officially relegated from NPFL". qed.ng.
  25. ^ "Heartland Beat FirstBank, Gain Promotion To NPFL". 11 October 2017.
  26. ^ Chukwu, Chibuike (5 August 2019). "Heartland To Unveil Ilechukwu As New Manager Today".
  27. ^ Ayomide, Akinshilo (19 May 2016). "Heartland FC manager quits post".
  28. ^ "Heartland Sack Coach Madu Over Poor Results". hotsportstv.com. 23 March 2018.

External links[edit]