Responsive Ad Slot

eSCAPE Book
Latest

Sports

Relationship Matters

Opinion

Federation Cup Final: Lobi, Akwa United Battle For 2015 Title

Ex-champions Lobi Stars and Akwa United face-off in the men’s Federation Cup final as Sunshine Queens battle Bayelsa Queens in the women’s version.

Federation Cup


Akwa United would be hoping to etch their name in the history books as the first club from Akwa Ibom State to win Nigeria’s oldest football competition, the Federation Cup, when they tackle former champions Lobi Stars in the final at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos, on Sunday (today).

In the women’s version of the competition, it will be a battle of queens, as Sunshine Queens battle Bayelsa Queens for the crown. Surprisingly, star-studded Rivers Angels, who won the last five editions of the competition, were sent packing in the quarter-finals, after a shock 2-1 defeat to Confluence Queens in August.

Bayelsa Queens beat Confluence Queens 1-0 in the semi-finals while Sunshine Queens edged out Amazon Queens on penalties 3-2 after playing 0-0 in regulation time to set up a final clash with the Yenagoa outfit.

New champions were bound to emerge in both categories after Enyimba, who won the men’s last two editions, were also bundled out in the Round of 32 by Remo Stars.

The People’s Elephants were held 1-1 in regulation time but the youthful Remo side held their nerves to win 3-1 in the penalty shoot-out and send their more illustrious opponents packing.

Akwa have never reached the final of the competition before and their manager Zachary Baraje says his side are fully prepared for the battle against Lobi, who defeated Sharks 2-0 to win the competition in 2003.

“We have enough time to prepare for this game and I’m sure our players are in the right frame of mind. It is a Cup final so everything is at stake and we will approach the game as such. We understand what we stand to benefit if we win and that is what we are looking at, it is our motivation,” Baraje was quoted as saying by news24.com.

“Lobi is a good club with good players and we must not forget that. They have won this competition before and it will also be in their mind to win it again, especially with the winner representing Nigeria in the CAF Confederation Cup next year, but I believe the best team will win.”

But Lobi forward Obioma Arinze says they are hungry for a second Federation Cup title, adding that they are also hoping to pay Akwa United back in their own coin, after they inflicted defeat on the Makurdi-based side, in their final Premier League game of the season.

Indeed Akwa United were only guaranteed safety in the Nigerian topflight league on the last day of the league, after their 1-0 victory over Lobi at the Nest of Champions in Uyo.

Arinze said, “We are here (Lagos) for one reason and that’s to lift the Federation Cup trophy. We won it in 2003 and lost to Heartland in 2012 but this year’s final will favour us.

“We played against Akwa United in Uyo in the last match of the Nigeria Premier League last season and we lost but playing against them in Lagos will afford us yet another opportunity to get over them and play on the continent.”

Lobi United captain, Terna Ikpeen, said they are highly motivated to claim the trophy.

“We have a good team. We are ready for this match. We have prepared for the game, and we are going to triumph on Sunday. The motivation is there for us and everything is set for us to become champions on Sunday,” he said.

Lobi’s motivation will be on test today, as the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Emmanuel Udom, has charged Akwa to return to Uyo with the trophy.

Udom stated this when he hosted the players to a breakfast meeting on Wednesday at the Government House, Uyo.

He said, “I am coming for the game against Lobi Stars in Lagos. I want you to go and bring back the trophy. The state is waiting patiently for the trophy.

“I know you have a good team that can make all of us in Akwa Ibom smile. This is the first time a club from the state will qualify for the final of the Federation Cup and I want you to make it count this time.”

To reach the final, 10-man Akwa United beat Nasarawa United 1-0 in the semi-finals in Abeokuta, while Lobi edged nine-man Enugu Rangers 1-0 in Katsina to book their place in the final for the fourth time.

Cup of upsets

The 2015 Federation Cup lived up to its billing as a competition of upsets as lower leagues and even non-league sides put their more-fancied opponents to the sword.

Perhaps the biggest Cup upset in 2015 was orchestrated by amateur side BJ Foundation, who shocked Premier League side Heartland 3-2 in the Round of 16.

The Naze Millionaires who eliminated fellow top flight side Sharks in the previous round, were not only beaten but were totally outplayed and outclassed by the Edo boys, who were only able to honour matches after individuals came to their rescue and hired buses for them to travel to match venues.

Edo champions BJ Foundation recorded a 3-1 win against Kurmi Market in the Round of 64 and also beat Sportlight by the same margin in the Round of 32, but their giant-killing run was stopped by Lobi in the quarter-finals.

Nonetheless, the Edo youngsters entered the history books as the first non-league side to reach the Round of 16 since 2011. They equalled the feat of Dekina Dragons, who reached the old group stage in 2011.

Another Premier League side, Dolphins, were also knocked out of the competition by Tornadoes Feeders. The Port Harcourt side rallied back from a goal down but lost out 4-3 on penalties after regulation time ended 1-1

Giwa FC were the first big casualties of the 2015 Federation Cup after unheralded Kukuruku Dragons beat them 5-4 on penalties at the Bako Kontagora Stadium in Minna.

The Jos-based side were edged out by the amateur side after the game ended 2-2 in regulation time.

After their defeat of champions Enyimba in the previous round, Remo Stars also caused a scare when they played Lobi at the Rojenny Stadium, Oba, in the quarter-finals.

They were close to causing another upset after taking the lead in the first half but Lobi rallied back to draw level in the second half and eventually secured a place in the next round after winning 5-3 on penalties.

Also Plateau United, who just gained promotion to the elite league, defeated Shooting Stars and Kano Pillars before they crashed out 1-0 to El-Kanemi Warriors in Minna.

Cup stars honoured

The Nigeria Football Federation will once again honour ex-stars and those who have contributed to making the Federation Cup the most glamorous football tournament in the country.

It is part of the NFF’s efforts to restore glory to the tournament. The 2015 Federation’s Cup Honourary list includes former Shooting Stars striker, Rashidi Yekini, Baba Otu Mohammed (Mighty Jets), Best Ogedegbe (Shooting Stars), Okey Isima (Standard of Jos), Friday Ekpo (Abiola Babes), Sam Opone (Stores), Amusa Adisa (Shooting Stars), Inuwa Rigogo (ECN), Dahiru Sadi (Ranchers Bees) and Ifeanyi Onyedika (Enugu Rangers).

Others are FIFA-graded referee Linus MBA and veteran journalist Segun Adenuga.

Prizes

The winners of the men’s trophy will receive ₦2m while the runners-up get ₦1m. The women champions will go home with ₦1m, with runners-up picking up ₦500, 000. There will also be awards and cash prizes for individual award winners.

Security

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Sports Commission and the Lagos State Football Association have disclosed plans to ensure adequate security on match day.

LSFA vice chairman, Tade Azeez, at a press conference in Lagos on Thursday, said they won’t allow a repeat of the crowd invasion which occurred at the same venue, when league champions Enyimba played Sunshine Stars in the final league game of the season.

Azeez said, “Last Sunday gave us an eye opener and we are prepared for this. People came with fireworks in the last game but now there will be security checks and everybody will be searched.

“There is no place for miscreants. As Nigerians, they (miscreants) are free to come and watch the game but they won’t have access to molest anybody. We are fully prepared.

“We must not see the police as if they are not trained. They are but all of us must be vigilant on the final day. Everybody will be a policeman on that day. In the past five years, there haven’t been cases of hooliganism in the finals hosted by Lagos and we will prove it on Sunday.”

The NFF and the state’s sports commission have also announced that gates will be free, and the sum of ₦200,000 will be won via a raffle draw.


Share this post with your friends and also share your thoughts by adding your comments below. 

Follow us on Social Media or Subscribe to our RSS feed for our latest posts.

Google+: +Nigeria News World
Facebook: @NigeriaWorldNews
Twitter: @nigerianewszone
Pinterest: @nigerianewszone
 

Source

No comments

Post a Comment