Today, the crème de la crème of Nigerian football would converge at the 4,000 capacity Agege stadium to witness the climax of the oldest cup competition on the land, The Aiteo Cup.
The Competition, which began in the 1940s, has gone through so much transformation over the past decades – starting out as the ‘Governor’s Cup’, then, later called, the ‘Challenge Cup’ before being renamed the ‘FA Cup’.
In 2008 the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) made another change of nomenclature, calling the competition the ‘Federation Cup’ – a name which lasted for eight years before the latest rebranding, as a result of sponsorship from the oil firm, Aiteo Group.
Two teams from the different parts of Nigeria would battle for supremacy, with Akwa United coming from Akwa Ibom state in the southern end of the country and Niger Tornadoes from Niger State in the central. The reward for being victorious in the final is not just getting the title “Aiteo Cup Champions”, but there’s a 25 million naira prize money on offer, with a ticket to represent Nigeria in the CAF Confederation Cup also at stake. That is enough motivation for the finalists who didn’t get this much reward the last time they won this cup.
For Niger Tornadoes, their only victory in the tournament came in 2000 when they beat Enugu Rangers in the final, while Akwa United tasted success as recently as 2015 with a win over Lobi Stars. Both teams have had to overcome some difficult hurdles to get to this stage as Tornadoes knocked out Nigerian League Champions Plateau United in the quarter-finals before eliminating defending Cup champions FC Ifeanyi Ubah in the semi-final stage.
For Akwa United, wins over Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) sides Shooting Stars in the round of 16 and Sunshine Stars in the semi-finals have underlined their intentions.
Now, it wants to lift the trophy for the second time in its history. But the motivation for the Uyo-based team is much
more than being cup champions, it is the pride of playing continental football at the magnificent Godswill Akpabio stadium, an edifice the Akwa Ibom state government – owners of Akwa United – like to call “Nest of Champions.”
“Our people deserve more,” Paul Bassey, chairman of the club, told busybuddiesng.com.
“That beautiful stadium should not only be for Super Eagles matches, we want top clubs in Africa to come there and play. That is what it is for us.”
While a motivated Akwa United already look forward to playing in the CAF cup, their opponent, Niger Tornadoes, have warned they’re no pushovers. The Minna club have sent out a clear message regarding Sunday’s final.
“We are going to tell our fans that they should come to Lagos to come and witness another victory,” said Assistant Coach Christopher Benard.
With the game kicking off by 6pm today, we can only pray and hope for the best team to emerge victorious. Good luck to Niger Tornadoes and Akwa United.