Heartland Football Club founded as Spartans F.C., later known as Iwuanyanwu Nationale from 1985 to 2006 is a Nigerian football club based in Owerri. The team play their home games at Dan Anyiam Stadium (but currently use the new Okigwe Stadium as their temporary home ground pending renovations at the Dan Anyiam Stadium). Their local rivals are Enyimba FC and Enugu Rangers. They reached the finals of the 1988 African Cup of Champions Clubs and 2009 CAF Champions League, the premier African continental club tournament, and won four straight Nigerian league titles from 1987 to 1990. Until their 18th place showing and relegation in 2016, they were one of two teams in the top flight that had never been relegated. In October 2017, Heartland won the Nigeria National League Southern Conference to gain promotion back up to the top flight.
The club were founded as Spartans FC in 1976. Their first international match was a friendly played against Ararat Yerevan of the USSR which Spartans won 2â€“0 at the Township Stadium, Tetlow Road, Owerri, in August 1976. Spartans FC were supported by the Imo State government, which itself had been founded in 1976, and had the support of the state administration, including the state military. Spartans FC played matches at the Old Owerri Stadium.
On 7 February 2006, the Imo State Government re-acquired ownership of the club from chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu and renamed it Heartland FC. Heartland finished second in the 2008 Premier League by one point to Kano Pillars, earning a Champions League slot in 2009. Heartland would go on to make the finals of the 2009 CAF Champions League, losing to away goals to TP Mazembe after tying 2â€“2 on aggregate. Heartland won the first leg at home 2â€“1 but an own goal in the 73rd minute in the return leg in Lubumbashi meant the Nigerian side finished as runners-up. After the club's failure to win the Champions League, they brought in Christian Chukwu as a technical consultant and Fan Ndubuoke as general manager. In 2011, the club won the Federation Cup, its first silverware since its last league win in 1993. Heartland defeated highly fancied Enyimba 1â€“0 thanks to a 40th-minute goal by their captain, Chinedu Efugh. Randsom Madu, a player on the 1993 cup winning team, was on the technical staff, and could celebrate winning as both a player and a coach. Heartland could not replicate their success in the league, finishing mid-table. Heartland defended its cup win in 2012 by defeating Lobi Stars 2â€“1 in the finals held at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos. In 2013, Heartland were eliminated from the Confederations Cup due to a walkover against US Bitam of Gabon. Heartland won the first leg 2â€“1 in Owerri, but were delayed leaving Nigeria due to visa and travel issues, and did not make it to Gabon in time for the match. Their protest was unsuccessful, and Bitam advanced in the competition. The club was relegated for the first time in 2016.
Relegation To NNL
Ending 18th in the 2016 Nigeria Professional Football League ensured the club went on relegation for the first time since its 40-year existence. On the final day of the season, Heartland abandoned their game against Plateau United in the 75th minute after a disallowed goal which was to give them a 2â€“1 lead. Heartland was eventually penalized by the League Management for abandoning their game and 3 points and 3 goals was awarded to Plateau United. Heartland were also levied a fine of N3 million. The result of this meant that MFM FC would remain in the league at Heartland's expense. They only spent a year at the second level, winning the Southern division with a game to spare, ending on 61 points and 18 wins, 7 draws and 7 losses. Heartland hired former MFM FC coach Fidelis Ilechukwu as manager in August 2019.