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Big guns jostle for Federation Cup honours

It is the first time the competition which made its debut in 1942 as the War Memorial Challenge and later the Governor’s Cup will be…

It is the first time the competition which made its debut in 1942 as the War Memorial Challenge and later the Governor’s Cup will be competed for under the new name of Federation Cup.

The setting is the competition’s group stage matches scheduled to take place in four centres, namely Ilorin (Kwara State), Uyo (Akwa Ibom State), Abeokuta (Ogun State) and Jalingo (Taraba State).

The one-week soccer extravaganza would hold from 22nd and 28th June, 2009, promises to be explosive and entertaining as top Nigerian clubs gear up for the country’s most prestigious soccer trophy.   

All the teams are expected to arrive their respective centres on Sunday, 21st June 2009.Two teams will qualify from each group for the quarter finals scheduled for the 1st July, 2009.

In the race for the quarterfinal tickets are the competition’s veterans that ruled it during good days, wining it several times and later won the African version of the competition for Nigeria.

Some of the clubs are Rangers International of Enugu who were victorious in 1974, 75, 76, 81 and 83. There are also four time winners BCC Lions of Gboko and Dolphins of Port Harcourt, as well as three-time winners Shooting Stars of Ibadan.    

While the Gboko side was champions in 1989, 1993, 1994 and 1997, Dolphins were champions in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2007.

Other clubs with towering credentials in the race for the trophy are two-time winners El-Kanemi of Maiduguri and Julius Berger; 2005 winners Enyimba of Aba and last year’s winners Ocean Boys of Brass, as well as 2009 league champions Bayelsa United.

There are also Nasarawa United, Ila FC, FC Taraba, Bussdor FC, Sharks, Akwa United and Lobi Stars of Makurdi.

As the group matches get underway tomorrow, intense focus will be on Group D in Jalingo, tagged group of death where Lobi Stars, Dolphins, Rangers and Enyimba will slug it out for the two quarter final tickets.

On paper and going by their showing in the just concluded league season, Enyimba Football Club of Aba and Dolphins are likely teams to emerge from this group with Rangers waiting in the wings for a possible slip from any of the two to pick the second slot.

If past records are to be used as a deciding factor, then BCC Lions and Julius Berger would emerge from their group ahead of Ocean Boys and Nasarawa United, but based on their current standing in the Nigerian football league, Ocean Boys and Nasarawa United have an edge over these two past FA Cup winners.

As it is, all the four teams have equal opportunities of advancing from the group and therefore only ninety minutes of gruelling soccer would decide.

In Uyo the Akwa Ibom State capital where group B matches will take place, 1976 African Cup Winners Cup winners Shooting Stars of Ibadan and two-time FA Cup winners El-Kanemi of Maiduguri are likely winners in an all-Professional league teams group.

In the just ended National Division One League, Shooting Stars (3SC) playing in group A ended ahead of Ila FC while El-Kanemi were better than FC Taraba in group A, but the Confederation Cup known for its surprises could see Ila and FC Taraba turning the tables against their most favoured opponents.

In Group C with centre at Abeokuta, 2009 Globacom Premier League winners Bayelsa United will tackle fellow premier league sides Sharks and Akwa United and National Division One League club Bussdor for a place to the last eight.