With just hours to the kick-off of the 2017 AITEO Cup, defending champions, FC Ifeanyi Ubah, are yet to receive their prize money for winning the competition last year, the club’s chairman, Chukwuma Ubah, has informed busybuddiesng.com, exclusively.
“The truth is that as the defending champions you would be surprised to know that we’ve not been given any prize till date,” Ubah said in an interview late on Tuesday. “We have asked questions but till this moment we haven’t gotten an answer.”
FC Ifeanyi Ubah were crowned champions after they beat Nasarawa United 5-4 on penalties, as regulation time ended goalless. The competition was then called Federation Cup.
The Nnewi-based club were entitled to receive two million naira from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) as prize money for lifting the trophy, but as they prepare to start their title defense, the “Anambra Warriors” are still waiting to be rewarded for last year’s success.
“It’s quite discouraging,” Ubah said. He equally admitted that it’s painful “to have gone through those stages and played so many games last season and having to even lift the cup, and till this moment nothing has been given as the so-called prize money”.
A total of 64 teams would start the race for the AITEO Cup, with 32 matches billed to take place across the country. There are a few changes to the format for this year’s competition.
Unlike previous editions where a neutral venue was picked to host a fixture, the NFF have decided that this time, for the early rounds, one team would have the opportunity of playing on their home-ground, with a winner having to emerge either in regulation time or through penalties.
It’s a system that has thrived for decades in European football, but Ubah disagrees with its adoption in Nigeria, claiming the country’s football “hasn’t matured up to that.”
“Definitely, the officials could try to be fair, but we all know what’s happening here – intimidation and all what not,” he said. “Even if it comes to my side (playing at home) I won’t support that.”
FC Ifeanyi Ubah start their title defence away from home against FC Yarma Light of Gombe.
The final of the competition is billed for October 8, with the prize money now 25 million naira.