Akwa United coach Abdu Maikaba has dissociated himself from suggestions that his team are favourites in Sunday’s Aiteo Cup final clash with Niger Tornadoes.
Maikaba, who has been in charge of the Akwa Ibom state-owned club for less than 12 months, acknowledged the thrill that winning a title in his maiden season would bring, but knows that victory can only be achieved through hard work.
“I will be a very happy man to win a trophy in my first year in a club,” Maikaba noted in an exclusive chat with www.busybuddiesng.com.
“That makes it so important to me. If I can go to a club and win a trophy in my first year, it is something to be happy about.
“That is why we are not leaving anything. We are trying our best to make sure that at the end of the 90 minutes, we would come out victorious.”
The ‘Promise Keepers’ have been in unstoppable form in this year’s competition, scoring 23 goals in 7 matches and conceding only 6. They also dispatched some of their opponents with unbelievable ease in the process. A 5-1 thomping of Shooting Stars in the round of 16, followed by a comprehensive 8-2 aggregate trashing of Katsina United Feeders in the quarterfinal, could not have been a quiet way of signifying intent.
The 2015 champions also boast of the tournament’s leading scorer in Christian Pyagbara who has netted 7 times so far, including four in a match.
Such credential has informed many stakeholders to pick the Uyo-based club as the odds-on favourites for the title.
But Tornadoes, on the other hand, have been impressive in their own rights, felling two top NPFL sides en route the final. Coach Bala Abubakar’s side recorded impressive aggregate wins over reigning NPFL champions Plateau United in the quarterfinal, and Aiteo Cup holders FC Ifeanyi Uba in the last four.
Most remarkable about their surprising run to the final was the incredible comeback from 2-0 down to beat Ifeanyi Uba 4-2 in their semifinal first leg clash in Lokoja; and Maikaba is quite aware of how much threat ‘Ikon Allah’ can pose.
“I never consider our opponents as underdogs,” the former Wikki Tourist handler said.
”The team that eliminated the league champions, the team that eliminated the Aiteo Cup holders can never be underdogs. They have passed through even more obstacles than our team, so it’s not going to be that easy.”
Maikaba, however remains optimistic that his side’s potency in front of goal could prove decisive on the day.
“The quality of my team is that we can score goals at any time. That I think will work for us in the final. We can at least score a goal that will win the game for us. ”
The Aiteo Cup final is billed for the Agege Stadium; which is the home ground of last season’s NPFL runners-up, MFM FC.
In addition to representing Nigeria in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup, winners will take home a prize money of ₦25m while the runners-up will get ₦10m from the tournament sponsors, Aiteo Group.