The Nigerian FA Cup is the main football single-elimination tournament in Nigeria. It was created in 1945 as the “Governor’s Cup”, succeeding the War Memorial Challenge Cup that was created in 1942 and was limited to teams from Lagos.
It then metamorphosed into the FA Cup in 1954 and the Challenge Cup in 1960 and this year the Nigeria Football Federation changed it to Federation Cup.
Among the present crop of football teams, only Rangers of Enugu won the trophy five times, while BCC Lions and Dolphins won four times, Shooting Stars (3SC) has won it thrice in 1977, 79 and 95, while El-Kanemi Warriors of Maiduguri and Julius Berger of Lagos lifted it twice each.
While Sharks piped Lobi Stars 4-2 on penalties after the match was tied at 0-0 after full time at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri to qualify for the final of the Nigerian most glamorous soccer competition, the People’s Elephant of Aba edged out current league crown holders Bayelsa United to book a passage into tomorrow’s final.
Enyimba have already qualified to represent Nigeria in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup after they placed third in the Premier League this past season; and if they go ahead to win the Confederation Cup tomorrow, Warri Wolves who finished fourth in the league, will earn a berth to feature in the Confederation Cup as Nigeria’s second representatives alongside Enyimba.
To get to this stage, Enyimba relied on mother luck, as they depended on a toss of coin to pick the second ticket from the Jalingo centre ahead of Dolphins Football Club of Port Harcourt after both of teams garnered four points each just as Sharks Football Club on their part qualified from the Abeokuta centre as the second best team behind league title holders Bayelsa United.
Enyimba also edged out 3SC of Ibadan in the quarter-final on penalties to move to the last four, while Sharks got the better of Nasarawa United Football Club of Lafia to make it to the semi-final stage.
While Enyimba will be gunning for their second FA Cup title, having won the trophy in 2005, Sharks on their part are yet to drink from the giant cup; hence they will be all out to register their name among the title holders.
On paper and going by their showing in the just concluded league season, Enyimba Football Club of Aba who finished third on the ladder has an edge over Sharks who ended the league in the tenth position.
However one cannot rule out the possibility of an upset tomorrow as Sharks are known for spoilers’ job.
Meanwhile, the semi-finals losers’ match otherwise known as third place match will take place between 2003 winners Lobi Stars of Makurdi and this year’s Globacom league champions and CAF Cup contenders Bayelsa United of Yenagoa.
Against all odds, the Makurdi team which struggled to survive relegation defeated Enyimba and Rangers to remain at the Jalingo centre where they beat El-Kanemi Warriors to secure their semi-final ticket. They however could not survive against Sharks of Port-Harcourt in the semi-finals as they lost 4-2 on penalties. Their opponents too had their dream of winning the trophy for the first time aborted when they were stopped by Enyimba FC.
In the consolatory tie, Lobi Stars players may not give out their best as they are said to be psychologically down having lost the opportunity to win the trophy for the second time and also secure a continental ticket. Bayelsa United players may be better motivated for the encounter which promises less fire work because a third place finish can boost their morale as they carry on with their campaign in the CAF Cup.