FC Ifeanyi Uba, Nasarawa United trade tackles for 74-year-old FA Cup
New comers to the Federation Cup, FC Ifeanyi Uba of Nnewi and Nasarawa United of Lafia, will on Sunday test their might when they file out for the 74-year-old trophy.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the FA Cup, virtually the oldest football competition in Nigeria, will witness for the first time, two teams that have never been to the final of the championship.
The final will be played at the Teslim Balogun Stadium Surulere, Lagos on Sunday.
The competition which started as War Memorial Challenge Cup in 1942, had ZAC Bombers of Lagos winning the maiden edition though it was then limited to clubs based in Lagos.
The cup was renamed Governor’s Cup with improved format in 1945 and in 1954, it was again renamed Federation Cup after the promulgation of Nigeria Football Association.
In 1960, after a revised format the competition, it was renamed Challenge Cup until 1999 when soft drink bottlers, Coca-Cola took up the sponsorship and consequently named it Coca-Cola FA Cup.
At the expiration of a 10-year sponsorship deal with the then NFA, the competition went back to its former name, Federation Cup.
The competition has a rich history of big teams contesting for honours; to them, winning is seen as a thing of pride; thereby engendering stiff competition by top teams.
This has made the cup so glamorous and has also attracted unprecedented spectators to its finals wherever it is played.
Shooting Stars Sport Club of Ibadan is the most successful team in the competition, winning it eight times, while defunct Railway of Lagos won it seven times.
Rangers International FC of Enugu followed winning it five times.
However, in a new twist of fate, this year’s FA Cup will see two-year-old Ifeanyi Uba squaring up with other outsiders in the competition, Nasarawa United for the title.
Both teams has never reached the final of the Federation Cup before; while high flying Ifeanyi Uba came fourth in the just-concluded Nigeria Professional Football League; Nasarawa United are 11th on the log.
FC Ifeanyi Uba, funded by Oil Magnate, Ifeanyi Ubah took the NPFL by storm in the last two years with club’s investment worth over N200 million.
The club at the beginning of the 2015/2016 season had announced a budget of N100 million to reposition the team and the purchase of high quality players.
The Nnewi-based club also employed the services of a Bulgarian tactician, Mitko Dobrev, as the Technical Adviser and a number of foreign players.
The club, however, gained an instant reward with a fourth place finish in the NPFL with astonishing record of 100 per cent unbeaten home record, two draws against Lagos-based MFM FC and Sunshine Stars of Akure.
En-route to the final, the Anambra Warriors defeated Ebonyi United 1-0 in the round of 64 and also sent Lobi Stars of Markudi out with a lone goal in the round of 32.
The Dobrev-tutored squad edged out Kastina United 2-0 and also beat Warri Wolves in the quarter-finals.
To reach the final, Ifeanyi Ubah defeated the giant killers, Crown FC of Ogbomoso 2-1 in the semi-finals at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna.
Speaking on the exploits of the team so far, the Chairman of the club, Chukwuma Ubah, said the team remained in the pole position to win the competition.
Ubah said: “Considering the investment our chairman has made, we are in the pole position to win the Cup.
“The club’s President, Ifeanyi Ubah, is passionate about giving back to the society and this he is doing by funding this club to better the lot of Nigerian footballers.
“Our base in Nnewi is wearing a new look with the construction of a sports village which will not be for football only. We have other sports that are encouraged.
“In terms of football development, Nigerians have not seen anything yet; we have not even started; we want to create a new thinking about football in Nigerian.’’
Ubah said that though the Nnewi outfit has some semblance of Chelsea FC of England, yet the team has a long way to go.
“Comparing it with Chelsea may not be totally true, but we have some semblance because Chelsea has been in existence before they were bought over, but we are just two years in the football circle.
“The club has a lot to offer in Nigerian football and we have been positive about it.
“On Sunday’s game, we also have a lot to offer if we win the Cup. Nasarawa United has had its chance in the continental campaign but they did not go far.
“I think it’s time FC Ifeanyi Ubah take up the challenge and I hope we will make a good representation in the continental campaign.’’
Nasarawa United on the other side is owned and sponsored by the sports-loving governor of the Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura and is seen by bookmakers as underdogs in the competition.
The team came second in its campaign in the 2014/2015 NPFL log and thus represented the country in the continental championship which was not too successful.
The Solid Miners, however, stood distant 11th in its 2015/2016 NPFL campaign but will want to win this year’s FA Cup to seal its continental ticket.
To pick the final ticket, Nasarawa United started the campaign with a 1-0 victory over FC Abuja in the round of 64, proceeded to beat Go Round FC by the same scoreline in the round of 32.
The Kabiru Dogo boys got the better of Akwa United, the defending champions, 4-2 on penalties.
The Solid Miners created a shocker in the semi-finals by defeating Enyimba of Aba 2-1at the Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Ibadan.
The Kabiru Dogo-tutored side’s goal came through a penalty by Seun Sogbesan after Enyimba’s goalkeeper, Joel Afelokhai, brought him down in the 18-yard box.
On its game against Ifeanyi Uba on Saturday, the club’s Chairman, Isaac Danladi, said it was ready to make the governor proud.
Danladi said: “We are ready for this final; we have promised our sports-loving governor, Al-Makura, the trophy for his efforts at sports development, we are glad to have his support.
“Our amiable governor has promised to be physically present at the stadium on that day and he will be the number one supporter in spite of his tight schedule.
“Playing in front of the governor is such an honour and we are ready to make him proud by winning the trophy.
“We also have the pleasure of having the Deputy Governor, Mr Silas Agara’s support, whom himself, is an ex-footballer, he is another pillar behind the club.’’
Danladi said the players were aware of the task ahead of them, therefore, they are bracing up for the all-important clash with FC Ifeanyi Ubah.
He said: “We cannot afford to lose the final; the players are rearing to go. Although from the bookmakers’ prediction, we are underdogs, we are going to prove our mettle come Sunday.
“We want to win the cup for the first time in the history of the club, first time in the history of the creation of the state about 20 years ago.
“We also want to make history as the first club in history to win the cup as an outsider.’’