Unsung Aremu determined to finish high with Akwa United

By Fisayo Dairo

Akwa United are arguably one of the most entertaining teams seen so far in the Nigeria Professional Football League 2016/17 season.

Everything about the team seem clad in splendour. Starting from their home base, Uyo; the beautiful capital city of Akwa Ibom state, the easy-on-the-eye playing philosophy known with Abdu Maikaba, the team's head coach, to the majestic Nest of Champions, home ground of the team, the magnificent understanding among the outfield players and the individual brilliance of new Super Eagles invitee, Alhassan Ibrahim.

Right at the centre of these exquisite features lie an unsung hero, a symbol of discipline and expertise, Afeez Aremu. The young midfielder has been an ever-present in the team's midfield, starting 18 out of their 19 league games so far in an unheralded but pivotal defensive midfield position.

The importance of Aremu to Abdu Maikaba's project in Uyo can be fearlessly likened to that of a Mikel John Obi to the Chelsea team of 2012 or the enigmatic Sergio Busquets to a vintage Barcelona side; break up play aided by a sound positional brilliance and act as building block to the team's numerous attacking moves.

Since completing his move to Uyo from United's neighbours Rivers United, Aremu's diligent contributions have not gone unnoticed to the fans who often greet his tidiness in midfield with applause and appreciation.

"Uyo is a peaceful place to play football for me," said Aremu

"I really love the place so much and their fans also always show the love they have for me."

Love is beautiful isn't it? Perhaps it is the love that permeates through the team itself which brings forth the expression of beautiful, free-flowing, easy-on-the-eye football.

"There is no hatred in the team," added the former Sharks FC midfield star. "We take ourselves as one family. I've not regretted making the decision to come here (Uyo)."

Two things that have made Aremu's play so definitive according to him is his midfield partner, Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and the team's home ground, the Nest of Champions.

"Wow! The stadium is very different from those of my former teams," he said when asked how it feels to play every other Match Day at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.

"Anytime I play on that pitch, it makes me feel like I'm playing in Europe. It always brings out the best in me," he added.

Speaking of former MFM midfielder Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Aremu said: "I am happy playing alongside Ifeanyi because he is a mature player and we cover for ourselves a lot. No one quarrels if any of us makes a mistake and even our coaches refer to us as 'Twin Midfielders.'

Akwa United had their worst start to a top flight league in five years this season, failing to win any of their first five games. Aremu attributed the initial lethargy to the presence of new players (like himself) and a new technical crew but he still firmly believes their ambitions of finishing in the top 3 at the end of the season is still on track.

"As you can see, most of the players and coaches in the team are new so it was difficult to gel and start doing well immediately. I thank God we adjusted and started doing well after our first five matches.

"We are well determined to win the league this season or at the very least be in the top 3 so we can grab a continental ticket for Akwa United," concluded Aremu who has only missed United's Matchday 1 loss at ABS this season.

United have since weathered the initial storm and have churned out impressive displays and great results to match, one of which is the important away victory against Kano Pillars on Match Day 18. The Promise Keepers are currently placed 5th on the log, six points behind leaders Plateau United and will hope more commensurate results trail their attractive style in the second stanza of the league.

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