Nigeria Professional Football League sides, Akwa United and Niger Tornadoes, head into the final of Nigeria’s oldest cup competition on Sunday, October 15 at the Soccer Temple in Agege with so much to play for.
Apart from a CAF Confederation spot, a prize money will be up for grabs, as Maikaba’s men – who narrowly missed out on a continental place after finishing fourth in the league – take on the Minna side.
Sunday afternoon’s victors will pocket a not-too-shabby ₦25m in prize money – an amount only enough to cover the cost of running the Uyo side for a few weeks – but not a figure to be scoffed at.
The losers, on the other hand, will get less than half of that – ₦10m.
Both clubs are former winners of the competition, with Tornadoes – then plying in the second-tier – claiming the title in 2000 following a shock 1-0 win over Enugu Rangers through Akin Ademofe’s 85th minute own goal.
Akwa United’s win came only recently – in 2015 – where they beat Lobi Stars 2-1 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, to record their first ever domestic title.
Nnamso Edo and Abdulafeez Awakan gave Akwa a 2-0 lead, before substitute Nanen Barnabas Imenger came on to score a consolatory goal for Lobi Stars in stoppage time.
Abubakar Bala and Abdullahi Maikaba will both be gunning for their first career title.
Coach Bala joined the Minna club on interim terms towards the end of 2015/16 NPFL season following the departure of Coach Abdullahi Usman Biffo and permanently at the start of the 2016/17 campaign. He guided the Ikon Allah boys to an 11th-place finish.
Maikaba joined Akwa United as Technical Adviser, after leading Wikki Tourist to third-spot finish in the 2015/2016 season.
After missing on the 2018 CAF Interclub spot on the final day of 2016/2017, the Promise Keepers turned attention to the Aiteo rebranded cup competition trophy as an a
Maikaba led side saw off amateur side, Halfa FC, newly promoted NPFL side, Yobe Desert Stars, newly promoted NNL side, Katsina United Feeders, and relegated NPFL club, Shooting Stars and Sunshine Stars to reach the final.
After finishing at the edge of the drop zone in the just concluded season, Bala tutored Niger Tornadoes have channelled their focus into the Aiteo Cup. The Ikon Allah boys have earned ‘giant killers’ tag after seeing off 2016/2017 league champion, Plateau United and cup defending champion, FC Ifeanyi Ubah in the quarter final and semi final respectively.
Experience will be instrumental for both sides on Sunday. For captain of Akwa, Otobong Effiong, it will be his second cup trophy after the right-back captained the Uyo club to victory two years ago.
Akwa have been boosted by the return of six players – centre-back, Ariwachukwu Emmanuel, midfieelders Aremu Afeez and Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, winger Ubong friday as well as Beninoise defenderConnou Paterne – from the WAFU Cup.
Ikon Allah’s veteran midfielder cum striker, Ilyasu is Isiaku, is the only surviving member of the Tornadoes winning side in 2000 and a motivation for young Tornadoes players.
2017 MEN’S AITEO CUP
ROAD TO FINAL
Minda FC (Benue) 1-3 Niger Tornadoes Feeders (Niger)
Moyero FC (Ondo) 3-1 Fashmog FC (Ekiti)
Young Talent (Sokoto) 2-5 Halfa FC (Jigawa)
Ayade Babes (Cross River) 1-0 Lexington FC (Taraba)
Kaka FC (Kaduna) 0-0 Potiskum Academy (Yobe) (5-6 penalties)
FC Galadima (Kebbi) 1-1 Jarma FC (Zamfara) (5-4 penalties)
Sam Daddy FC (Imo) 0-2 Coal City FC (Enugu)
Spartan FC (Lagos) 3-1 JCTC FC (Ogun)
FC Ifeanyi Ubah Feeders (Nnewi) 2-2 Cynosure FC (Ebonyi) (4-3 penalties)
George Turnah (Bayelsa) 1-3 Ngwa FC (Ebonyi)
ROUND OF 64
•Ngwa FC (Ebonyi) 6-2 FC Galadima (Kebbi)
•Heartland FC (Imo) 0-0 Insurance FC (Edo) (5-4 penalties)
•Lobi Stars (Benue) 2-0 Katsina United (Katsina)
•Katsina United Feeders (Katsina) 1-0 Aklosendi FC (Nasarawa)
•Aitel FC (Taraba) 0-0 Unicem Rovers (Cross River) (3-5 penalties)
•Mighty Jets FC (Plateau) 1-2 Sunshine Stars (Ondo)
•Bayelsa United (Bayelsa) 3-0 (W/O) FC Zamfara (Zamfara)
•Adamawa United Feeders (Adamawa) 2-1 Cynosure FC (Rivers)
•Ede United (Osun) 2-0 Sakaba United FC (Kebbi)
•FC IfeanyiUbah Feeders (Anambra) 2-1 Jigawa Golden Stars (Jigawa)
•Samba Kurna (Kano) 2-0 Wikki Tourists Feeders (Bauchi)
•Ekiti United (Ekiti) 3-2 Dolphins FC (Kaduna)
•Niger Tornadoes (Niger) 2-1 El-Kanemi Warriors (Borno)
•Rivers United (Rivers) 0-0 FC Atete (Delta) (6-7 penalties)
•Delta Warriors (Delta) 2-0 Ayade Babes (Cross River)
•FC Yarmalight (Gombe) 1-3 FC Ifeanyi Ubah (Anambra)
•Halfa FC (Jigawa) 1-3 Akwa United FC (Akwa Ibom)
•Shooting Stars (Oyo) 3-1 Dynamite FC (Edo)
•Kogi United (Kogi) 0-3 Rangers International (Enugu) (Decision after abandonment)
•Nasarawa United (Nasarawa) 3-0 MFM FC (Lagos)
•Niger Tornadoes Feeders (Niger) 1-4 FC Abuja (FCT)
•Doma United (Gombe) 1-1 Adamawa United (Adamawa) (4-3 penalties)
•Osun United (Osun) 2-0 Coal City Youths (Enugu)
•FC Lokoja (Kogi) 0-2 El-Kanemi Babes (Borno)
•Kwara United (Kwara) 4-0 Sokoto United (Sokoto)
•Wikki Tourists (Bauchi) 1-2 Plateau United (Plateau)
•ABS FC (Kwara) 2-1 Enyimba FC (Abia)
•Yobe Desert Stars (Yobe) 1-1 Kano Pillars (Kano) (6-5 penalties)
•Abia Warriors FC (Abia) 1-0 Crown FC (Oyo)
•FRSC FC (FCT) 1-0 Potiskum Academy (Yobe)
•Almar FC (Ogun) 0-0 Spartan FC (Lagos) (5-3 penalties)
•Moyero FC (Ondo) 0-2 Akwa Starlets (Akwa Ibom)
ROUND OF 32
•Sunshine Stars 4-2 Nasarawa United
•Akwa United 4-2 Yobe Desert Stars
•Osun United 0-0 Kwara United (4-3 penalties)
•Niger Tornadoes 1-0 FC Atete
•Ngwa FC 0-0 Lobi Stars (4-3 penalties)
Unicem Rovers 1-1 Rangers •International (6-5 penalties)
•Ekiti United 1-1 Abia Warriors (4-2 penalties)
•FRSC FC 1-1 Heartland FC (4-5 penalties)
•FC IfeanyiUbah Feeders 0-2 FC IfeanyiUbah
•El-Kanemi Babes 1-1 Almar FC (4-2 penalties)
•FC Abuja 2-0 Samba Kurna
•Plateau United 1-0 Ede United
•ABS FC 6-3 Adamawa United Feeders
•Katsina United Feeders 1-1 Bayelsa United (4-3 penalties)
•Akwa Starlets 4-2 Doma United
•Delta Warriors 0-2 Shooting Stars
ROUND OF 16
•FC Abuja 0-0 Niger Tornadoes
•Akwa Starlets 1-2 Plateau United
•Ngwa FC 1-3 Sunshine Stars
Osun United 2-1 El-Kanemi Babes
•Unicem Rovers 0-1 ABS FC
•Akwa United 5-1 Shooting Stars
•Ekiti United 1-1 Katsina United Feeders
•FC IfeanyiUbah 3-1 Heartland FC
ROUND OF 16 REPLAYS
•Niger Tornadoes 1-0 FC Abuja
•Katsina United Feeders 3-1 Ekiti United
•Niger Tornadoes 2-0 Plateau United
•Osun United 1-0 Sunshine United
•FC IfeanyiUbah 3-0 ABS FC
•Akwa United 7-0 Katsina United Feeders
•Plateau United 2-2 Niger Tornadoes (Aggregate 2-4)
•Sunshine United 3-1 Osun United (Aggregate 3-2)
•ABS FC 0-1 FC Ifeanyi Ubah (Aggregate 0-4)
•Katsina United Feeders 2-1 Akwa United (Aggregate 2-8)
•Niger Tornadoes 4-2 FC IfeanyiUbah (Lokoja)
•Sunshine United 1-0 Akwa United (Ijebu-Ode)
•FC IfeanyiUbah 1-0 Niger Tornadoes (Nnewi) (Aggregate 3-4)
•Akwa United 3-1 Sunshine Stars (Uyo) (Aggregate 3-2)
•Niger Tornadoes ?-? Akwa United