Asaba rumbles as Rangers, Pillars battle for Aiteo Cup

Asaba, the capital of Delta State is ready to host the big game as two of the best-supported football clubs in Nigeria – Rangers of Enugu and Kano Pillars – battle in the final of the Aiteo Cup 2018 men’s competition at the Stephen Keshi Stadium on Wednesday.

Named after Nigeria’s longest-serving Nigeria captain who also coached the team to win the Africa Cup of Nations title on away ground, the newly-renovated arena will become the 14th venue to host the 73-year old national football cup.

It could not have been a more fitting final, with Rangers – one of the truly traditional powerhouse teams in the country with a robust history – and Pillars both in flaming forms at the moment with some of the best players in the domestic scene on their books.

The Flying Antelopes with a large following across the federation will be led out by ageless defender Okey Odita, and there are also Semiu Liadi and Isaac Loute, as well as Ugochukwu Ugwuoke, Bright Silas, Ifeanyi George and Ugonna Uzochukwu.

Rangers, who won the Africa Cup Winners’ Cup in 1977, and are five-time winners of the Aiteo Cup under its previous names of Challenge Cup and FA Cup, have not taken home the most glamorous diadem in the land since beating DIC Bees of Kaduna on penalties inside the National Stadium, Lagos 35 years ago.

The lines from above may just inspire the boys from Enugu, as it can be recalled that the team made good in the elite League two years ago after waiting for 32 years.

Yet, Kano Pillars would not be push-overs in any way. As Pillars, they would be aiming to take home the title for the first time, after losing to El-Kanemi Warriors 2-3 in the 1991 final played also at the National Stadium, Lagos. Though, a team styled Kano XI became the first team from the northern part of the country to win the Cup after defeating Lagos Dynamos 2-1 at the Association Ground 65 years ago.

It would then take another 36 years for another team from the northern sector to triumph, when BCC Lions-coached by Amodu Shaibu of blessed memory – shocked Iwuanyanwu Nationale by the odd goal at the Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi in 1989.

Pillars’ biggest name on the sheet on Wednesday could be Junior Lokosa, the 2017 NPFL goal king who came close to making the cut for Nigeria’s 2018 FIFA World Cup final squad.

However, there are also equally dangerous customers. Odita will be confronted promptly in the tunnel by another ageless performer, midfield ace Rabiu Ali, likely to lead out Pillars, and artistes like Nyima Nwagua, Emmanuel Anyanwu, Nzube Anaezemba and Hillary Ikenna are match winners on their day.

Rangers must also watch out for Joel Djoundang and Ibrahim Alhassan.

Last year’s final, which marked the first time it would be called AITEO Cup following the acquisition of the naming right by Nigeria’s leading energy solution group, was at the Agege Stadium and Akwa United of Uyo prevailed over Niger Tornadoes after penalty shoot –out under floodlights.

Wednesday’s final would also be under floodlights; with the game to kick off at 6pm. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State is expected to be installed in the VVIP Box with his Enugu and Kano State counterparts – Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Umar Abdullahi Ganduje respectively. President of the NFF and CAF First Vice President, Amaju Pinnick and the full complement of members of his Executive Committee will join them.

Leading Nigerian music stars Patoranking (Okorie Patrick Nnaemeka), Phyno and Seyi Seyi (Deborah Joshua) will entertain guests before hostilities kick off on the lush turf.

 

 

 

Aiteo Cup: past finals

GOVERNOR’S CUP

1945: Marine  1-0  Corinthians

1946: Lagos Railways 3-1 Port Harcourt FC

1947: Lagos Marine 3-1 Lagos Railways

 

1948: Lagos Railways 1-0 Warri XI

 

1949: Lagos Railways 3-0 Port Harcourt FC

 

1950: Lagos UAC 3-2 Port Harcourt FC

 

1951: Lagos Railways 3-2 Mighty Jets

 

1952: PAN Bank 6-0 Warri

 

1953: Kano XI 2-1 Lagos Dynamos

 

FA CUP

 

1954: Calabar 3-0 Kano XI

 

1955: Port Harcourt FC 4-1 Warri

 

1956: Lagos Railways 3-1 Warri

 

1957: Lagos Railways 5-1 Zaria

 

1958: Port Harcourt FC 6-0 Federal United

 

1959: Ibadan Lions 1-0 Police

 

CHALLENGE CUP

 

1960: Lagos ECN 5-2 Ibadan Lions

 

1961: Ibadan Lions 1-0 Lagos UAC

 

1962: Police 1-0 Mighty Jets

 

1963: Port Harcourt FC 1-0 Mighty Jets

 

1964: Lagos Railways 3-1 Mighty Jets

 

1965: Lagos ECN 3-1 Mighty Jets

 

1966: Ibadan Lions W/O Mighty Jets

 

1967: Stationery Stores 3-1 Mighty Jets

 

1968: Stationery Stores 3-1 Warri

 

1969: Ibadan Lions 5-1 Warri

 

1970: Lagos ECN 3-1 Mighty Jets

 

1971: WNDC Ibadan 2-1 Enugu Rangers

 

1972: Bendel Insurance 3-2 Mighty Jets

 

1973: -All Africa Games

 

1974: Enugu Rangers 2-0 Mighty Jets

 

1975: Enugu Rangers 1-0 Shooting Stars

 

1976: Enugu Rangers 2-0 Alyufsalam Rocks

 

1977: Shooting Stars 2-0 Raccah Rovers

 

1978: Bendel Insurance 3-0 Enugu Rangers

 

1979: Shooting Stars 2-0 Sharks FC

 

1980: Bendel Insurance 1-0 Stationery Stores

 

1981: Enugu Rangers 2-0 Bendel Insurance

 

1982: Stationery Stores 4-1 Niger Tornadoes

 

1983: Enugu Rangers 0-0 DIC Bees

 

*Rangers won 5-4 on penalty shootout

 

1984: Leventis United 1-0 Abiola Babes

 

1985: Abiola Babes 0-0 BCC Lions

 

*Abiola Babes won 6 – 5 on penalty shootout

 

1986: Leventis United 1-0 Abiola Babes

 

1987: Abiola Babes 1-1 Ranchers Bees

 

*Abiola Babes won 7-6 on penalty shootout

 

1988: Iwuanyanwu 3-0 Flash Flamingoes

 

1989: BCC Lions 1-0 Iwuanyanwu

 

1990 Stationery Stores 0-0 Enugu Rangers

 

*Stores won 5-4 on penalty shootout

 

1991: El-Kanemi Warriors 3-2 Kano Pillars FC

 

1992: El-Kanemi 1-0 Stationery Stores

 

1993: BCC Lions 1-0 Plateau United

 

1994: BCC Lions 1-0 Julius Berger FC

 

1995: Shooting Stars 2-0 Katsina United

 

1996: Julius Berger 1-0 Katsina United

 

1997: BCC Lions 1-0 Katsina United

 

1998: Wikki Tourists 0-0 Plateau United

 

1999: Plateau United 1-0 Iwuanyanwu

 

2000: Tornadoes 1-0 Rangers

 

2001: Dolphins FC  2-0 El-Kanemi

 

2002: Julius Berger 3-0 Yobe Stars

 

2003: Lobi Stars 2-0 Sharks FC

 

2004: Dolphins FC 1-0 Enugu Rangers

 

2005: Enyimba 1-1 Lobi Stars

 

*Enyimba won 6-5 on penalty shootout

 

2006: Dolphins FC 2-2 Bendel Insurance

 

*Dolphin won 5-3 on penalty shootout

 

2007: Dolphins FC  1-1 Enugu Rangers

 

* Dolphin won 3-2 on penalty shootout

 

2008: Ocean Boys 2-2 Gombe United

 

* Ocean Boys won 7-6 on penalty shootout

 

FEDERATION CUP

 

2009: Enyimba 1-0 Sharks FC

 

2010: Kaduna United 3-3 Enyimba

 

* Kaduna United won 3-2 on penalty shootout

 

2011: Heartland 1-0 Enyimba

 

2012: Heartland 2-1 Lobi Stars

 

2013 Enyimba 2-2 Warri Wolves

 

*Enyimba won 5-4 on penalty shootout

 

2014: Enyimba 2-1 Dolphins FC

 

2015: Akwa United 2-1 Lobi Stars

 

2016: FC IfeanyiUbah 0-0 Nassarawa United

 

*FC IfeanyiUbah won 5-4 on penalty shootout

 

2017: Akwa United 0-0 Niger Tornadoes

 

*Akwa United won 3-2 on penalties