Itodo returns to Enugu banking on Yobe Stars’ underdogs tag

By Fisayo Dairo

Not many Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) followers expected Yobe Desert Stars to be in the top half of the table after Matchday 14. For a team that has endured so much through the turbulence of insecurity and instability in the northeast region, their rise back to the elite class of Nigerian club football has somewhat gone unnoticed.

What was to follow after they sealed promotion was a partial overhaul which led to former Kano Pillars coach Mohammed Baba Ganaru bringing in experienced league campaigners with him to the Damaturu-based club. That did little to change the perception though as they were ranked among favourites to drop by the bookmakers.

With over a third of the season played already, one of the most travelled sides of this campaign have stamped their feet on the ground, boasting of an impregnable home record in Damaturu where they have only conceded once in seven home games, winning six in the process.

At the heart of their solid performances is a former league winner with Enugu Rangers, Itodo Akor – the Benue-born goalkeeper. Akor believes his team are an unknown proposition and that has helped them to surprise their opponents.

“Most of the clubs did not see much of us during pre-season,” Akor told npfl.ng.

“They only know the name of our team but they forgot that the players playing there have all been in the league for years. That has helped us so far added to the hard work by we players and coaches.”

Yobe Stars will be without top scorer Chinedu Ohanachom when they visit Rangers at the Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium in Enugu on Wednesday. They will however be able to call on other proven league stars like Philip Asuquo and Chidiebere Ajoku; who denied Rangers victory during his last visit to Enugu last year in the colours of Niger Tornadoes.

Of all the returnees to Enugu, the trip holds the most special feeling for Yobe’s goalkeeper Akor who describes it as “going home to family.”

“Going to Enugu to play against Rangers is like going back home to see your family after a while.

“I am filled with joy for that, but I’m also not forgetting that I have a job to execute there. I am focused on that,” he added.

Akor will be looking to add more clean sheets to his name starting from Wednesday’s trip. His six clean sheets so far is the most by any goalkeeper in the league, a feat jointly held by Rangers’ Olufemi Thomas and two others.