With the regular season of the Nigeria Women Premier League out of the way, teams have now turned their attention to the oldest football competition in the country, the Federation Cup – which is now known as AITEO Cup.
It is still not certain what the prize money for the league would be, but there is 10 million naira on offer for the winner of the domestic cup competition following a five-year title sponsorship deal signed by AITEO group two months ago. And it can only be expected that the battle for supremacy on the money-spinning turf would be more intense compared to when the champions were given just one million naira.
However, Rivers Angels coach, Edwin Okon, in his reaction to the development, perceived a “gang up” against his team. He made this known while responding to questions after his side’s NWPL Match Day 8 encounter against Heartland Queens (the match was played on the same day the announcement was made) and went on to advise that every match in the AITEO Cup be duly scrutinized to avoid irregularities which might arise from teams’ desperation to claim the huge prize money.
“The Federation Cup is not meant for a particular team” – Whyte
Knowing that the Jewel of Rivers are five-time champions and most notably defending champions, one can understand the message coach Okon is trying to convey.
But Ibom Angels coach, Whyte Ogbonda, responded in an exclusive interview with busybuddiesng.com saying: “It depends on what he means by a gang up against Rivers Angels. If he is saying a gang up against Rivers Angels I think he is using a wrong word in the sense that the Federation Cup is not meant for a particular team.”
Coach Ogbonda, who used to be an assistant to coach Okon at Rivers Angels until two seasons ago, rather believes that the 10 million naira would increase the level of competitiveness among teams in terms of their quality of play and commitment to succeed.
“The Federation Cup is for the whole Federation so any team that works towards winning the Cup will win the Cup. So with this new sponsorship now, all states, all clubs no matter how highly placed or low will come up in full force to make sure they get the Federation Cup.
“So it’s not about Rivers Angels or people ganging up against them. I don’t think anybody will gang up against anybody because, everybody wants to win the Federation Cup, every coach wants to make a name, and every player wants to make a name.”
“Officiating will be good”
Speaking of officiating which is a key component of any match, with an ability to sometimes decide the outcome, coach Whyte expressed satisfaction with how referees managed the league games during the regular season and hopes it would be replicated in the Federation Cup.
“When I went to Owerri, the officiating was perfect. We lost that match to Heartland Queens. Then when we went to Rivers (Angels) the officiating was very perfect.”
This is not to say officiating was perfect in every league match, but according to the Ibom Angels gaffer: “Sometimes we shouldn’t be complaining about officiating rather I advise coaches and players, let us go and work and be able to call these match officials to our teams to educate us about the laws of the game so that we won’t go about complaining about match officials.
“So definitely I think in the Federation Cup, the officiating will be good.”
Coach Whyte Ogbonda is hoping to lead Ibom Angels to the AITEO Cup crown after overseeing a turbulent league season in which they rocked the bottom of the table for some weeks and failed to qualify for the Super Four in the end.