” Stationery Stores, Eagle Cement(Dolphins), Sharks Fc, Abiola Babes, Ocean Boys, Julius Berger, Leventis United, Iwuanyanwu Nationale “. 

Walk into the midst of some couple of really young boys, (Gen Z), mention the above names to their hearing, ask them if they’ve ever heard any of the names? There’s a 99.9% chance no one knows any of those names.

Now mention names like “Enyimba Fc, Kano Pillars, Enugu Rangers, Shooting Stars”, etc, you’d get at least 65% of the boys to give you an affirmative response that they’ve heard some of those names.

Having gotten their response, it wouldn’t be bad to actually tell them little about those names they do not know, because how do you talk about the Nigerian Football history of clubs without listing those names? 

Clubs where players like Garba Lawal, Emmanuel Okala, Finidi George, Victor Ezeji, Isaac Okoronkwo, Muda Lawa, Rashidi Yekini and Goalkeepers like Peter Rufai & Ike Shorunmu grew through the ranks.

Although, the likes of Enyimba, Enugu Rangers & Shooting Stars also fall into that historic terrain of old club listings, and that’s because they’ve not gotten defunct like some of those ones above.

The Likes of Leventis, Abiola Babes, Ocean Boys, Sharks and Eagle Cement(Dolphins) now defunct.

Switching gears, on that famous Night when AS Roma did the unthinkable and one of the best “Shakespearean”  commentary was birthed by the famous Peter Drury when he used the line “Roma has risen from their ruins ” it was more than just a poetry but a majestic display of football gallantry that happened that night.

That victory wasn’t for Roma alone but for all victory that was forged from the fire of perseverance, wind of self belief and above all the desire to conquer.

Drury was talking about the future on how “Rivers united” will rise from their ruins.

When you move down south to Port Harcourt, two big clubs who were owned by Rivers State government, Sharks Fc & Dolphins FC had so much animosity between themselves and built a strong footballing rivalry that match days between themselves was always so feisty.

This rivalry was brought to an end in February 2016, when the League Management Company (Governing body) of the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL announced a new name “Rivers United FC”, having received the request of the state Governor who approved a Merger of Sharks & Dolphins.

Due to inability to run both clubs separately, because of the financial cost incurred, and with Sharks also relegating the year before that, and Dolphins barely surviving on the final day, there came about a Merger. 

With the Merger, a new team emerged, and behold a New journey. Every thought of rivalry died, and it was now a case of coming together to achieve one goal.

On the 21st of February 2016, Rivers Utd played its first league game, at the Yakubu Gowon stadium in Port Harcourt. 

Chijioke Akuneto

Photo Credit: ModZero Media

The first game for Rivers Utd and manager Stanley Eguma was against the Champions Enyimba.

Enyimba had just won their 7th League title, and title defence began against Rivers Utd.

Rivers Utd didn’t have it easy, but a 1 nil victory edged it for them over the champions on Match Day 1. 

Six Years down the line, Rivers Utd have won the Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL title. They were crowned Champions of the 2021/2022 season on Sunday, and Stanley Eguma who started as the club’s manager has handed them that trophy.

How did they do this??? We take a look at each season for the Port Harcourt side from 2016 – 2022.

2016 SEASON 

It did look like the Merger was going to yield good results quickly as they finished 2nd on the log in this season.

It was a fantastic season for the team, finishing the season with 60 points, 3 behind Champions Enugu Rangers(63 points) was some positives for the Rivers team, and also securing Qualification for the CAF Champions League. 

Not only did they finish 2nd, no team(Not even the champions, Enugu Rangers) had more wins than them in that season, winning 19 games for the season, with 3 coming on the road for them. 

They could have probably been Champions if they didn’t lose too many games and picked up draws. Afterall Enugu Rangers who were champions won 18 games, drew 9 and Lost 9.

But losing 14 games and drawing 3 games had Rivers Utd in 2nd. But it was a massive win, for a team who had struggled the previous season.

They scored 38 goals that season, conceding 29, with Bernard Ovoke scoring the highest number of goals for them that season.


What would have defined success for Rivers Utd coming into the 2017 season? Winning the League, still challenging for the title or sealing a spot for the Continental places would have been it. But it turned out to be very far from all these. 

Having gotten dumped out early in the CAF Champions League, it would have been an avenue for them to focus fully on the title chase, but it was rather a battle for survival this time.

Once again, the Sharks/Dolphins scene was beginning to come into play, would Rivers Utd get relegated? 

The battle was intense, for a team who had the most wins the previous season, they won 14, lost 14 and drew 10 games for the season. Their goal side of things was worse, finishing with a +1 goals difference, having scored 34 and conceded 33.

With all the struggles, they ensured survival, ending the season 2 points above the relegation zone. A 15th place finish with 52 points defined the season for them.

This time around, there was no qualification for CAF competitions. Who cares after all? At least they weren’t relegated.

2018 SEASON 

Tides for this season were different as things took a different shape. Only 24 games were played in the season, as the league got suspended after 24 rounds of games due to administrative issues. 

On the 31st of August, it was announced that the league was deemed concluded. There was no Champion, and the bottom four teams weren’t relegated.

Teams at the top 4 were chosen as representatives to represent the country on the continent. Four teams were promoted from the Nigeria National League and 24 teams will compete in the 2019 Nigeria Professional Football League season.

For Rivers Utd, after 24 rounds of games,they accrued 34 points and finished in 9th position, which was an improvement to how the previous season ended for them.

2019 SEASON 

Coming off the back of an inconclusive 2018 season, whereby there was no relegated team, and there were promoted teams, the 2019 season was held as an abridged version which had teams zoned into two groups.[12 teams per group, 24 in total]

The top 3 teams in the two groups were paired in a Play-off, in which Enyimba emerged as Champions.

Rivers Utd fell into group A that had the likes of Enugu Rangers, Enyimba, Sunshine Stars, Lobi stars but did not make the play-off spot.

With 22 games played, they finished with 31 points, with 8 wins, 7 losses and 7 draws.

2019/2020 SEASON

The CoronaVirus pandemic was another disruption to this season. The season which started on the 3rd of November 2019 was cancelled in July 2020 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league was initially halted on 18 March 2020 following a decision by the League Management Company to suspend the league due to the COVID-19 pandemic with no decision made on the league’s resumption. 

On 10 July 2020 however, the league was cancelled by the NFF for the second time in three seasons (after the 2018 season ended in a similar way), following an online meeting between its executive committee and the league board with no champions and no relegation or promotion from the National League, and stopped at Matchday 25.

The Points Per Game, PPG, method was adopted to decide the league’s representatives at the CAF Competitions.

Rivers Utd finished the season in 3rd place with this method, and had a total of 45 points in 25 games. 13 wins, 6 draws and 6 losses was how the season unfolded for the Port Harcourt side, with 3 of those wins coming for them away.

Malachi Ohawuma emerged topscorer for them with 7 goals from the 28 the team had in total.

At this point, a glimpse of Rivers Utd clinching the NPFL title was inching closer, were they going to remain Chasers for long or they’d have what they want soon?

2020/2021 SEASON 

This was an amazing season for Rivers Utd as they finished 2nd, which was an improvement to the previous season.

66 points from 38 games was what it took for Rivers Utd to seal 2nd position on the log and seal CAF Champions League qualification.

They scored 50 goals, and conceded 34.

But one thing following from previous seasons was their inability to cut down on their losses even with high win margins.

They won 19, lost 10 and drew 9 for this season, with 2 coming on the road. Perhaps if they had cut down on their losses they’d have won the title, afterall Akwa Utd who won the league didn’t win more than 19 games also, but had it less on losing, and secured some vital draw to clinch the title.

A 2nd place finish and a continental slot was enough for the Port Harcourt side as they aimed for the next season.

Would they ever clinch it or were they just going to keep coming close without having it?

2021/2022 SEASON

3 Match days into the season, Rivers Utd were off to a flying start with 7 points from a possible 9. Was this their time? Or it was just a case of another nearly scene for them? 

After the first stanza of the League(19 games gone), Rivers Utd were top of the log with 42 points, just 1 point ahead of Plateau Utd who were breathing down their neck heavily. But there were still 19 more match days to go, and it was going to be tough to say Rivers Utd had it sealed, No way!!! But the chances were beginning to tilt towards them more and more.

Those chances wouldn’t have fans carried away though having seen how nearly they’ve come close previously without having to get it.

I recall having a conversation with My colleague Peter Enwenode, stating that Rivers Utd looked like they would get it done this time. Peter in his response was blunt and gave a straight up answer saying he wouldn’t even fall into that trap of wanting to give them a chance anymore, as he had done previously with them having to come just close. So it was a ‘No No’ for Peter.

Even after 29 Matchdays whereby Rivers Utd had opened up a 7 point gap ahead of Plateau Utd, Peter still had doubts, but these doubts weren’t obviously pessimistic, but based on past precedence, so you wouldn’t fault him. And he was only going to believe Rivers Utd are NPFL Champions when it’s official. 

Rivers United vs Gombe United

Photo Credit: ModZero Media

After 34 games, Rivers utd were officially champions and the dreams & nearly scenes all became reality. There was so much Joy for a team that had been pushing for so long. At this point Peter’s doubts were erased. Rivers Utd are champions in grandstyle, winning the League with 4 games to go.

For a team who had fought hard to get to that point, there was no better way to be crowned Champions than win with 4 games to spare.

The title win was such a different one, setting the record for the most points(77) accumulated for a season was such a great feat.

Talking about cutting down on their losses, this time around, they knew they had to do it, they knew that had stymied them in previous years. And doing that actually helped them, after all they won 2 games more than Plateau Utd who they finished 10 points clear off.

Their beautiful season had them lose only 7 games in 38, winning 23, with 8 draws in the mix.

In all of these beauties, Rivers Utd fans would have to thank two Players for their continuous consistency, Chijoke Akuneto & Rafiu Ishaq.

Rivers United Players

Photo Credit: ModZero Media

The duo scored 33 goals between themselves, in the total 58 goals the club scored for the season. Undoubtedly, Rafiu Ishaq’s 14 goal tally and Chijoke Akuneto’s 19 goal tally proved to see Rivers Utd achieve such a great feat. 

The big question right now is if they’d have these guys next season or if the guys themselves would put in more of the effort to see them have a good title defence and push for a successful CAF Champions League outing.

That’s left to be seen, but right now, the Camp is in huge merriment still reminiscing about the title win, plus the 20 thousand dollar bonuses the state Governor said they’d be paid for their efforts. 

How would all of these end without huge crediting experienced coach Stanley Eguma?? An amazing Veteran in the game.

Speaking to, he spoke about the Journey of how Rivers Utd started, how they have always come close to the title win and how they finally got to win it.

Firstly, I thank God for the grace and the opportunity to achieve this within a short period. Established since 2016, and since then the responsibility of bringing glory to the state had always been on.

” I have been trying to use my experience to ensure we win the title, but it didn’t happen. The first season, we came very close coming 2nd, and most of the times up until we won it, we were hovering around 2nd and 3rd spot, but I’m glad we’ve finally achieved that”.

“The road to our win was such a long Journey, 

It was through thick & thin, and so much credit to the players and technical crew for all the efforts to ensure our aim came through”.

” One important factor was also the fact that the club was taking from the ministry and run through the Governor directly, and thanks to the Governor who brought in a vast and enabled man in Barrister Chris Green, his works have actually proven fertile”. Coach Eguma said.

Stanley Eguma

Photo Credit: ModZero Media

On targets for next season and how they intend to defend the title successfully, and also make a good show on the continent, he said:

” Experience from the past is a weapon for us, and with the built foundation we have now, the financial backing, we are on the right track. It’s going to be quite difficult, but it’s surmountable. But as a team we would keep doing better and work above our capacity because other clubs would come hard at us trying to see that they steal the title from us, but we have a good squad that can help us achieve this. 

” We know how things have been in recent times for Nigerian teams in the continent and we hope to change that, we can also compete and compete at the top level. Rivers Utd were ranked 17th on the continent recently, we can change that an move further, we know we can do this, and we would put in all the work to ensure we give a good fight “

One thing for most clubs is the inability to keep a large chunk of their squad, and Coach Eguma spoke about this and said:

” When we have cases of having players wanting to move, we do not stop them, we ensure they leave and wish them well, and once, the search to replace the player starts and I’m quite experienced to get a perfect replacement. But truthfully, right now, which player doesn’t want to Olay for Rivers Utd? Everything is well set, so why should a player want out? “

On their journey to being Champions, the team scored a total of 246 goals in the league, from 2016.

Rivers United Champions

Photo Credit: ModZero Media

NPFL Goals – 246

Points tally per season.

2016 – 60pts (36 games)

2017 – 52pts (38 games)

2018 (abandoned season) – 34pts (24 games)

2019 (abridged season) – 31pts (22 games)

2019/20 (p.p.g season) – 45pts (25 games)

2020/21 – 66pts (38 games)

2021/22 – 74pts* (37 games)

Positions by season

2016 – 2nd

2017 – 15th

2018 – 9th

2019 – 5th

2019/20 – 3rd

2020/21 – 2nd

2021/22 – 1st

Away wins by season

2016 – 3

2017 – 1

2018 – 1

2019 – 1

2019/20 – 3

2020/21 – 2

2021/22 – 5

Timothy Dehinbo

Timothy Mopelola Dehinbo is a Student, Sports Journalist and a Community Development Enthusiast. The ‘Interviewer’ as he fondly calls himself, proves to a fault as he has rightly built his portfolio through drive and passion for the Nigerian football Society. Starting his Journalism career at the prime age of 16, His vast array of works includes Sports writing, blogging, radio analysis and everything Sports Media. He has had the opportunity to work with Media houses like CompleteSports, NaijaFootballPlus, SoocernetNG, live radio stations across Lagos and Akure to mention a few. Many of his Interviews with Players and Coaches in the Nigerian Professional Football League, NPFL, as well as Other African Football Stars centers around the Nigerian & African growth in sports. The likes of Emmanuel Amuneke, Pitso Mosimane, Kalusha Bwalya, Sebastian Desabre and many more. TImothy is extremely addicted to the Super Eagles of Nigeria and the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL. A student of Mathematics in the Federal University of Technology, Akure, when you do not find Timothy dissecting the intricacies of a Football Game, he is knee deep in Community Development Programs and activities performing his duties and responsibilities as the Co-Founder of King Homes Charity where the development of Children living in Underserved Communities through Quality Education are his Top priorities.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Olayinka

    Amazing writeup from you Timothy, liked how you started from when the team was merged till when they became champion. Keep it up man.

  2. Ayere Sylvester

    Detailed article.

  3. Kamaldeen Mustapha

    What a great write up, interesting and compelling. The writer did a wonderful job with his research and data to the extent it gave me an insight into rivers united season without seeing a single game.

  4. Abraham

    Wow nice piece from the writer, so much education from this took us down memory lane ooh… wish to have more of this from you…… Nice one TIMOTHY..

  5. Mathias Jacob

    To open by Timothy Dehinbo is a wonderful and great achievements for ever humble guy who always remain himself in his writing skills.
    These stories of Rivers United is going to be an eyes openers for all the club’s whilst play in the league. I can understand the skeptical of Peter Ewenedo from the beginning of the season but think I knew about him is that he’s a believer of great things to come.

    A big congratulations to Timothy Dehinbo for the job Weldon 👍✅✅

  6. Ashiru Ibrahim

    A brilliant piece.

  7. Similoluwa Idowu

    What a lovely and engaging read. Good job Timothy

  8. Big Myroh

    What a beautiful read… Thank you Timothy for taking through the journey of Rivers United on becoming a champion

  9. Joseph

    I wish Rivers United the best next season, especially in their continental engagements. Thanks, Timothy for the brilliant work.

  10. John

    I really congratulate the coach Aguma for his consistency and the club for believing in him and giving him all necessary resources for this glorious win..
    impressive write up..
    Thank you TMT

  11. Halezis

    An amazing read, Tim. Big ups.

    Rivers United’s rise to top was organic, and no doubt they deserved to win the league this season. Getting 5 wins away from home in the NPFL shows how much work has been put in by the players, coaching staff and administrators. I hope they retain much of this pack, and get necessary reinforcements. It’s high time Nigeria presents a worthy competitor in CAF club competitions.

  12. Sodiq Suara

    Kudos to Rivers united on clinching the title after a long try at it and more inks to the pen of the writer of this articles

  13. Babalola Praise

    Wow! Awesome read! Well done Timothy.

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