– Clinch N10m prize money
BY Pat PA Okon
2015 Champions of Nigeria’s oldest and biggest domestic competition, Akwa United FC of Uyo on Sunday reclaimed the title of the Federation Cup, now named AITEO Cup, on a brilliant and exciting evening at the Agege Stadium, popularly known as ‘Soccer Temple’Lagos.
The scoreline at the final whistle was 0-0 but the Promise Keepers prevailed 3-2 after the penalty shoot-out to become the first winners of the captivating AITEO trophy.
Scoreline after five penalty kicks was 2-2, with each side missing three kicks each.
Niger Tornadoes missed their opening kick in the sudden death phase; but Striker Gabriel Okechukwu scored the decisive spot-kick giving Akwa United a smile through being perfect with a left foot shot down the middle.
Substitute Okechukwu had failed to convert the biggest chance of the day in the 85th minute when he was clear on goal with only goalkeeper Mustapha Aliko to beat.
In a dire first 45 minutes, Friday Ubong was denied a clear sight on goal by a timely header from Niger Tornadoes defender Reuben Ogbonnaya.
Musa Newman was let down by a poor first touch just before half-time, with the teams having to wait until penalties to decide the final.
The competition’s final match ended with a colourful closing ceremony which was graced by eminent personalities, including Governors Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom and Abubakar Bello of Niger; CAF President Ahmad, CAF Vice Presidents Kwesi Nyantakyi and Omari Selemani, CAF Emergency Committee members Souleman Waberi and Amaju Melvin Pinnick, Executive Committee members of NFF, chieftains of sponsors AITEO, NFF Management, Members of the Lagos State Executive Council and members of the diplomatic community.
The victory means that Akwa United will play in the CAF Confederation Cup competition next season, having lost in the 2016 preliminary round.
Akwa United also swept the individual honours as goalkeeper Ojo Olorunleke won both the Best Goalkeeper and Most Valuable Player awards, while Coach Abdu Maikaba was adjudged the Best Coach.
Akwa United forward Christian Pyagbara also claimed the Top Scorer award with his seven goals in this year’s competition.
Apart from the mouthwatering 25 Million Naira ($70,323)prize money and the glittering trophy as winners, Akwa United also earned the ticket to represent Nigeria in next year’s Total CAF Confederation Cup.
It was the 11th time the competition was decided via penalties after it began in 1945 as Governor’s Cup. It was later known at various times as Challenge Cup and Federation Cup.
In June 2017, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) entered a five-year deal with AITEO Group for the naming of the competition.
The deal will have the winners and runnerup get ₦10,000,000 and ₦5,000,000 respectively