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Nigerian Football

AGEGE SET FOR ITS HIGHEST PROFILE EVENT IN HISTORY

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

 

 

Agege Stadium makes history on Sunday when it hosts the maiden edition of the Nigeria’s national football cup now called AITEO Cup.

The national cup itself is in its in its 73rd edition having began in 1945 and held yearly except in 1973 owing to congested calendar.

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The change of name of the competition this year is the fourth having earlier been known as Governor’s Cup from 1945 to 1954, All Nigeria Challenge Cup from 1955 to 1995, Coca-Cola FA Cup from 1996 to 2008 and Federation Cup from June 9, 2009.

Two former winners of the national cup will be contesting the AITEO Cup on Sunday.

Niger Tornadoes, winners via Akin Ademofe of Rangers’ own goal in the 2000 final match at the National Stadium, Lagos will be facing the 2015 winners, Akwa United.

The two sides therefore strive to win for the second time. But for Niger Tornadoes, it is the third time in the final having lost 1-4 to Stationery Stores in 1982.

On the road to this year’s final, Niger Tornadoes eliminated national cup holders, FC IfeanyiUbah on a 4-3 aggregate in the semi finals. Akwa United, seeking glory once again and a possible return to the CAF Champions League which it missed to Enyimba via fourth placing in the league, edged out fellow premier league sides, Lobi United and Shooting Stars before showing Sunshine Stars the exit rout last Sunday in the return leg of the semi final duel.

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As for the Agege Stadium, it becomes the 13th arena to host the national cup final. Sports Village Square recalls that this is the first time the arena set up by the Western Regional Government of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as play ground for the industrial district of Ikeja as playground, will host a national cup final.

The national cup final which began as Governor’s Cup had its origin at Onikan Stadium which was then known as Association Ground. It hosted the national final under different names from 1945 to 1972 as it changed names from Association Ground to King George V and later to Lagos City Stadium.

It never hosted the final under its present name of Onikan Stadium, a name it adopted after the old structure was pulled down in 1974 and rebuilt by Lateef Jakande’s government in the early 1980s.

It last hosted the then Challenge Cup in 1972 in an ill-tempered match between Mighty Jets and the then Bendel Insurance. The match ended 2-2 and had to be replayed. It was the last time a national final match was held at the water-front arena.

For the first time, the final was moved to Ibadan at the then Liberty Stadium, now renamed Obafemi Awolowo Stadium. The 1974 final was played at the newly built National Stadium, Lagos where successive editions were held uninterrupted till the 1988 edition which held at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan.

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The fifth stadium to host the final match was Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi in 1989. It was in Bauchi that history was made when for the first time in 36 years; a club from the North won the national Cup.

The relatively unknown and young Amodu Shaibu coached BCC Lions to beat a higher rated Iwuanyanwu Nationale 1-0.

The Bauchi stadium went on to host in 1994. Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi was the sixth host in 1992. It hosted again in 2008.

Sports Village Square recalls that the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna in 1993 became the seventh host. Since then, the arena that was inaugurated on August 2, 1964 hosted again in 1997 and 2003.

The eighth host was Ranchers Bees Stadium in Kaduna in 1998. Ogbemudia Stadium hosted in 2004 as the ninth arena while Liberation Stadium, now renamed Yakubu Gowon Stadium hosted the following year.

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The MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta became the 10th stadium to host the then FA Cup in 2006. For the first time, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos hosted the final in 2007 a role it repeatedly played in 2009 and from 2011 to 2016.

The 12th stadium to host the final match was Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano in 2010.

Past National Cup Final Matches Venues

Association Ground, Lagos (Later Lagos City Stadium) 1945 to 1972)

Liberty Stadium, Ibadan (Now Obafemi Awolowo Stadium) 1972 replay.

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National Stadium, Lagos. 1974 -1987, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1999-2002.

Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan. 1988.

Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi. 1989, 1994.

Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi. 1992, 2008.

Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna. 1993, 1997, 2003.

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Ranchers Bees Stadium, Kaduna. 1998.

Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin. 2004.

Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt (now Yakubu Gowon Stadium). 2005.

Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos. 2007, 2009, 2011 – 2016.

Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano. 2010.

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Agege Stadium, Lagos.

 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Nigerian Football

Finidi deserves our support, says former international, Kingsley Onye

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NFF Confirms Finidi George

Ahead of the first press parley that Super Eagles’ new manager, Finidi George is going to have on Thursday in Lagos, former Nigeria international, Kingsley Onye has canvassed for full support for the new coach.

 To him, the time of politicking and pushing for a particular candidate was over. “It is time for all of us to back the chosen one, Finidi George”, remarked Onye who was a left rearguard player in the 1985 class of Flying Eagles who against all odds, upstaged hosts,Soviet Union to clinch the third place in the then World Youth Championships that is now called the U-20 World Cup.

  “Although I canvassed for Emmanuel Amuneke’s candidature, am still happy that an equally good Finidi George got the job”, he said in a phone conversation from his base in the United Kingdom.

  “The fact that some players complained after Nigeria’s second friendly match in March shows that Finidi is a man of his class and cannot be influenced by players’ sentiments.

  “I believe he will take Nigeria to an enviable height, the same way Amuneke too would have done.”

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 Continuing, Onye who played for Enugu Rangers while he was in the country in the 1980s also remarked that he was on the same page with Victor Ikpeba who has asked that Finidi’s assistants should always back him in team selection  and tactical formations.

 “We should be more than 100 per cent behind the coach. If we do, he will perform wonders. He has his own philosophy which we must allow to flourish. He did it will Enyimba, leading the club to success last season and was at the brink of repeating the success before his appointment as Super Eagles’ coach.”

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s broadcast icon, Danladi Bako hails NFF on choice of Finidi George

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Nigerian broadcasting icon, Dr. Nasir Danladi Bako has praised the Nigeria Football Federation for settling for former international and ex-Enyimba FC strategist Finidi George as Head Coach of the Super Eagles.

The Kogunan Sakwatto, 66, who created a plethora of famous TV programmes including Morning RideMastersports and Second Chance, among others, and served as Special Adviser to a number of Sports Ministers many years ago, insisted the NFF leadership struck a bull’s eye with the appointment of the two-time FIFA World Cup star, stating that George oozes class and character, and an iron determination to succeed despite his public carapace of a quiet person.

“Finidi George has that cultured, disciplined mien and personality that makes you want to trust him with a big project. He understands the meaning of constituted authority and right from his playing days, has always displayed the attribute of a team player. He has always had that calm, collected nature even in the face of pressure or danger.

“Above all, he is not someone who thinks he is doing the nation a favour. He is grateful for the opportunity and I believe that he has all it takes to succeed. I am calling on the Federal Ministry of Sports Development, the NFF and Nigerians as a whole to support him to take the Super Eagles to brand-new heights.”

Bako, who holds a doctorate degree in development communication from the Ahmadu Bello University and was Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission between 1999 and 2002, says all hands must now be on deck to ensure victories in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches against South Africa and Benin Republic on 7 June and 11 June respectively.

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“No doubt, the NFF got this one appointment right. Very much on point. Now, they should endeavour to give George all the support he needs to succeed in his task of qualifying Nigeria for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.”

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Nigerian Football

Nigeria’s sports minister, Enoh applauds NFF for ‘buying local material’

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Sports Minister Enoh (left) and NFF President Gusau (right) unveil Finidi.

Nigeria’s Minister of Sports Development, John Owan Enoh on Monday praised the leadership of Nigeria Football Federation for settling for an indigenous Head Coach for the Super Eagles, despite the plethora of foreign tacticians who applied for the job.

Enoh, who spoke at the unveiling ceremony of the Eagles’ new substantive Head Coach, Finidi George at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, charged the NFF to give the former winger all the support to succeed, while also soliciting the support of all Nigerians for the new helmsman.

“As a student of the University of Calabar in those days, I used to go to the UJ Esuene Stadium to watch Calabar Rovers, which included Finidi George. I am excited to see him seated here as the new Head Coach of the Super Eagles.”

President of NFF,  Ibrahim Musa Gusau exuded delight with the ‘new chapter’ the Federation is opening about the Nigeria game, saying the football-governing body is determined to fully support George and his assistants to lead the Super Eagles to new heights.

“When we returned from the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire, we began the search for a new Head Coach. There was a plethora of foreign applicants, far more than the indigenous applicants. However, we undertook a thorough process that has produced an indigenous Coach and we are very happy about that. Finidi George was part of the technical crew that came close to winning the AFCON, and we have faith in him that he will lead the team to the title next time.  

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“Our objective now is to ensure the enthronement of excellence at all levels of the National Teams.”

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