Sunday, March 09, 2014

The story behind Warri Wolves

The story of Warri Wolves, one of Nigeria’s flag bearers in the 2014 Orange Caf Confederation Cup can be likened to that of the mystical phoenix.

Phoenix in classical mythology was ‘that unique bird that lived for centuries in the Arabian Desert and got burnt but rose from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle.’ 

There used to be a team called ‘Warri XI’ nicknamed “Warri Wolves”; subsequently morphed to Nigeria Ports Authority but finally reverted to Warri Wolves following the birth of Delta State, out of Bendel Sate in 1991.

Between 1955 and 1969, Warri XI was a potent force on the Nigerian football scene famed for their four appearances in the final of the Challenge Cup (now known as Federation Cup), without winning the diadem.

But there was no doubting the powerful impression made by the upstarts from Warri with most of the players sourced from Urhobo College and the famous Hussey College (reportedly named after Eric Hussey (Eric Robert James Hussey, the first British Director of Education in Nigeria and an Olympian at the 1908 Summer Olympics).

Yet the metamorphosis of Warri XI as a provincial club to Warri Wolves as a continental cup campaigner is better told by no other person than Josiah Dombraye, a former international who distinguished himself as a school boy for the team on their way to the finale of the 1969 Challenge Cup.

“Warri Wolves was actually formed from Warri XI by one philanthropist, Bernard Baro Barkpa and this has nothing to do with the fact that wolves existed in Warri,” Dombraye, a graceful midfielder in his heydays told

“He was the financier of the team with the support of late Alhaji Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who was then the Brigade Commander in Warri. It was after the creation of Delta State out of the old Bendel State (in 1991) that led them to think of having a new club in Delta State and that was how they came up about using that old nickname of the 1960s after taking controlling interest in NPA (Nigeria Ports Authority),” he affirmed.

Most recently, notable names that have passed through the club are 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations hero, Sunday Mba as well as the duo of Nosa Igiebor and Fegor Ogude. Others are Chigozie Agbim who manned the post for the Super Eagles at the Orange Chan tournament in South Africa last February. 

The products include Anthony Ujah, now with FC Koln; Temile Omonigho who plies his trade with Maltese club side, Valletta FC and Jude Aneke, who joined from Kaduna United after netting 20 goals during the 2011/2012 season. 

Though not the oldest club in Nigeria, they are counted amongst the most efficient in terms of management and funding. Like many others, the club is the ‘property’ of Delta State Government and are under the auspices of the Delta State Sports Council headed by Amaju Pinnick, one of the pioneers of the idea of a state-owned club.

The club was birthed from the ashes of NPA Football Club who were relegated after the 2005/2006 season and moved back to Warri in April 2007 after a deal with the government of Delta State. They will later gain promotion back to the elite division in 2009 and have been waxing stronger ever. 

They made their debut in the continental club championships in 2010 featuring in the Caf Confederation Cup, edging Zesco United of Zambia 3-2 on aggregate at the first round. Their campaign will end at the next round after losing to CAPS United of Zimbabwe 2-3 on aggregate.

The following season, they came close to winning the domestic league but finished third, earning a ticket to the 2012 Orange Caf Confederation Cup. They overcame FC Kallon of Sierra Leone 2-0 on aggregate at the first round but crashed out yet again in the second round on the away goal rule after a 3-3 tie with against Black Leopards of South Africa.

This season, Warri Wolves are hoping to go further in the second-tier Caf club championship, after boosting their squad with new faces including Ikechukwu ‘Mosquito’ Ibenegbu [pictured with Wolves shirt] who sealed their victory in the 3-2 away win against Union Douala of Cameroon in Douala last week.

Also on board are Ikechukwu Thankgod, a seasoned campaigner with Heartland FC in the past and the duo of Gbolahan Salami and goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi who represented Nigeria at the 2014 Orange Chan.

“In all sincerity, we want to get to the group stage and when that is achieved we are going to make some significant changes in the team,” said the CEO of the club, Davidson Owumi, ex-national player who was also part of the Enugu Rangers team that missed out narrowly on a final berth of the 2004 edition (Rangers lost out to Asante Kotoko of Ghana via head-to-head).

“We cannot use the first leg away win against Union Douala of Cameroon as the yardstick for our preparedness or commitment for the Confederation Cup, but the result has given us the opportunity to know areas where we urgently need improvement,” he noted.

The same sentiments were expressed by head coach Paul Aigbogun who has returned to the club after a stint with FC Cape Town of South Africa and Enyimba.

“We just want to win every game and must have a winning spirit going into every game. We will continue to do the best we can and I believe it would always be down to the 11 players we put out there to do us proud,” said Aigbogun.

Culled from

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