On June 4, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) gave the 36 State Football Associations and the FCT Football Association ten days to submit names of clubs that will represent them in the 2021 National Aiteo Cup Competition.
The NFF in a statement released by Wilfred Onaji said “The Organising Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) deliberated on the directives by CAF that all countries should submit by June 30, 2021, names of teams that will take part in the various CAF competitions for 2021.
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“In view of the above, the committee concluded that all state football associations should produce one representative latest June 14, 2021. Each state should produce their Aiteo Cup licenses.
“A national draw will be held at a date to be communicated for the 37 teams that qualify,” the statement added.
Interestingly, what many saw as an impossible task appears to have been achieved without much ado as before the expiration of the deadline on June 14, almost all the states including the FCT had submitted names of their clubs for the 2021 Aiteo Federation Cup draws which were held on Thursday in Abuja.
For many, this may seem like another ninth wonder of the world but Trust Sports observed that the tough order was carried out seamlessly by the state’s football association because they ‘cut corners’ to arrive at their destination.
In order to meet the deadline, almost all the states, except Ogun and Ebonyi state as well as the FCT FA, handpicked teams to represent them at the national level. By this, the 35 states considered only the profiles of the teams, mostly the NPFL clubs and their chances of winning the tickets, even if the competition was played.
Therefore, it will be correct to say that the state FAs based their selection of representatives on assumption but not results on the field of play.
Already, some football stakeholders have criticised this method as they argued that it negates the main objective of the competition which is to provide a level playing field for hitherto unknown clubs to tango with their more illustrious opponents.
For instance, in 2017, Kano Pillars narrowly avoided an upset against giant killers Ngwa FC. ‘Sai Masu Gida’ as Pillars are called, faced a major scare by the amateur side, but eventually triumphed 3-2.
In 2018, another NPFL side, Heartland were stunned by rookies Confine FC who beat them 4-2 on penalties. In 2019, an unknown Smart City of Lagos dumped giants Enyimba and former champions, 3SC of Ibadan out of the competition while Kano Pillars again had to struggle against ABS FC of Ilorin before they could qualify to the next round.
Therefore, based on what has happened this year, most of the states have effectively denied the ‘giant killers’ the much needed opportunity to contest against their more endowed opponents for national recognition.
However, the Chairman, Ogun State Football Association, Alhaji Ganiyu Majekodunmi told Trust Sports that the competition was played in his state before Gateway FC emerged champions.
“We have concluded all the games. We played our finals on Monday and it was very successful.
“All the 32 states that registered played all their matches and Gateway FC emerged champions. It was possible for us to achieve this because in Ogun state, we are blessed with about 6 stadia courtesy of the state government. We also, have Remo Stars stadium,” he said.
But the Kano FA chairman, Sharif Rabiu Inuwa confirmed to Trust Sports that there was no competition in the state as Kano Pillars was picked by consensus.
“Kano Pillars will represent the state based on the emergency meeting with the various stakeholders. They all agreed that they don’t have the time and concluded that since Pillars have the structure and facilities, they should be presented to represent them at the national level,” he said.
The chairman of Katsina State FA and member of the NFF technical Committee, Aminu Balele Kurfi equally said there was no competition in his state to pick a representative.
“We have submitted Katsina United to represent us in the national Aiteo Cup after discussing with other clubs. We invited the stakeholders who unanimously accepted that Katsina United should represent Katsina state. So there was no challenge,” said Kurfi.
In the same vein, the Borno FA chairman and member of the NFF Executive Committee, Alhaji Babagana Kalli said El-Kanemi Warriors was picked without a competition.
“We have submitted El-Kanemi Warriors who we chose through a consensus. The time frame given to us was short and we just decided that Warriors should represent us since the El-Kanemi Juniors do not exist again.
“It is our desire to see smaller clubs challenge the bigger ones but the COVID-19 pandemic has put spanners in our works. We know the smaller clubs are eager to play so as soon as the pandemic is over, we would return to status quo,” he noted.
As stated earlier, FCT FA also managed to play the competition and the Secretary of the association, Coach Haruna Ilerika explained to Trust Sports how that was made possible.
“The format we used can’t be used by another state in Nigeria. We had 42 teams which we invited. We seeded the four teams playing in the National League and the remaining slots were open. If you pick ‘Yes’, you qualify and if you pick ‘No’, you are automatically out.
“Eventually we got 12 teams who then joined the teams from the National League and we started from the round of 16 till NAF FC emerged champions. It was fast and easy,” said Ilerika.
The same ‘assumption’ method was applied by the states to arrive at clubs that will represent them in the women’s Aiteo Cup competition at the national level.
By the arrangement, the following clubs, Nasarawa Amazons (Nasarawa), Ekiti Queens (Ekiti), FC Robo (Lagos), Confluence Queens (kogi), Naija Ratels (Benue), Edo Queens (Edo), Beautiful Tours (FCT), Sunshine Queens (Ondo), Osun Babes (Osun), FC Heartland Queens (Imo), Pelican Stars (Cross River) and Bayelsa Queens (Bayelsa) will be representing their respective states.
Others are Bright Future Queens, Dakkada Queens (Kaduna), Abia Angels (Abia), Kwara Ladies (Kwara) and Rivers Angels (Rivers).
The tournament debuted in 1945 as the Governor’s Cup. But beginning from 2017, it has been sponsored by the AITEO group and is now known as the AITEO Cup for men and women.
The 2018/19 Aiteo Cup which was the 73rd edition was won by Kano Pillars who defeated Niger Tornadoes 4–3 on penalties to represent Nigeria in the CAF Confederation Cup.
When the COVID-19 pandemic wiped off the 2020 edition, Kano Pillars as defending champions, were picked by the NFF to represent the country in the CAF Confederation Cup.
So Kano Pillars are going into the 2021 edition as defending champions. They will start their title defence against giant killers, Smart FC of Lagos.
MALE CLUBS SUBMITTED FOR AITEO CUP
1. Kano Pillars
2. Smart FC (Lagos)
3. Kwara Utd (Kwara)
4. Kebbi Utd (Kebbi)
5. Warri Wolves (Delta)
6. Green Barets (Kaduna)
7. Sunshine Stars (Ondo)
8. Kogi Utd (Kogi)
9. Jigawa GS(Jigawa)
10. Plateau Utd (Plateau)
11. Bendel Insurance (Edo)
12. Calabar Rovers (Cross River)
13. Nasarawa Utd (Nasarawa)
14. Katsina Utd (Katsina)
15. Ngwa Utd (Ebonyi)
16. Elkanemi Warriors (Borno)
17. FC Technobat (Taraba)
18. 3SC (Oyo)
19. Gombe Utd (Gombe)
20.Akwa Utd (Akwa Ibom)
21. Gateway FC (Ogun)
22. Wikki Tourists (Bauchi)
23. Osun Utd (Osun)
24. Bayelsa Utd (Bayelsa)
25. Rangers Int’l (Enugu)
26. Aspire FC (Anambra)
27. Yobe Desert (Yobe)
28. Lobi Stars (Benue)
29. Sokoto Utd (Sokoto)
30. Rivers Utd (Rivers)
31. Ekiti Utd (Ekiti)
32. Heartland FC (Imo)
33. Zamfara Utd (Zamfara)
34. Abia Warriors (Abia)
35. FC Mai Angwa (Adamawa)
36. Niger Tornadoes (Niger)
NAF FC (FCT)