BY SAMMY WEJINYA
On Sunday, July 23, 2017, Rivers United goalkeeper, Abiodun Akande woke up with one thought at the back of his mind – inspire the ‘Pride of Rivers’ to a resounding victory over Wikki Tourists in the Nigeria Professional Football League, later that day.
Akande’s wish was granted as United won that game, 3-1 (the club’s biggest home win in the league in 11 months) against the Tourists but that win was soured by a shocking incident of monumental proportions.
Late in the second half, a freak incident involving a Wikki Tourists attacker and Akande culminated in a collision that left the latter with a multiple fracture of the right leg.
“The pain I felt at that moment was unbelievably excruciating,” Akande recounted in an exclusive chat with the official Rivers United FC website, www.riversunitedfc.com.ng.
“I thought my career was over at that instant. I recall that the Rivers State Commissioner (Boma Iyaye) ran towards me, with several other officials assuring me, while I was in tears, that the sponsors of the club would not abandon me.
“He assured me that I would get the best possible care and that my financial entitlements would still be paid for as long I was sidelined.
“Psychologically that was a big boost and it aided my complete recovery,” he said.
Akande fractured/broke the bones (tibia and fibula) of his right leg and had to undergo a special procedure to correct the damage.
It was a slow and painstaking process but there was light at the end of the tunnel with the club doctor, Chukwuemeka Agi confirming that the player has now been medically certified fit to return to competitive action.
“Akande was operated on by a foremost orthopedic surgeon in Rivers State, Dr. Bob Yellowe and metals (implants) were inserted in his leg,” Dr Agi said.
“It took quite a while to rehabilitate him and bring him back to his previous level (before he sustained the injury) after the metals were removed from his leg.
“The sponsors of the club, the Rivers State Government must be commended for the role they played in helping this young Man return to full fitness,” Dr Agi concluded.
Akande made his return to action for Rivers United on Wednesday, November 8, 2018 (16 months after his initial injury) in a 0-1 reverse to Cynosure FC at the ongoing South East/South South pre-season football tournament in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State.
He played all 90 minutes of the encounter and was outstanding between the sticks.
The goalkeeper was understandably pleased to return to action.
“I want to thank the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike for his help in making this a reality and also a big thank you must be said to the Commissioner of Sports in Rivers State, Boma Iyaye.
“I thank everyone involved with Rivers United for helping me return to football.
“Without their support, my career would have been over,” he said.