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Stakeholders condemn shabby organisation of FA Cup

Nigeria’s Federation Cup which debuted as far back as 1945 as Governor’s Cup is modelled after the English FA Cup, the Spanish Copa del Rey,…

Nigeria’s Federation Cup which debuted as far back as 1945 as Governor’s Cup is modelled after the English FA Cup, the Spanish Copa del Rey, the Germany’s DFB-Pokal, Italy’s Coppa Italia, France’s Coupe de France and Belgium’s Belgian Cup. 

Most Nigerian football fans still savour memories of the oldest club competition when it was organised by the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA) with a big brand like Coca-Cola as sponsor. Unfortunately, since the change of name from the NFA to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in 2008, the competition has deteriorated.

Sadly, even as the present NFF had announced a company called Tingo as sponsor of the elite competition, the same federation said it has cancelled the deal following Tingo’s failure to keep to contractual agreements.

This unfortunate development has left the Federation Cup without a sponsor making an already bad situation even worse. However, enticed by one of the tickets to continental football, clubs that can afford it still register to play in the Federation Cup.

So, ahead of this year’s competition, the NFF accordingly fixed the state preliminaries to commence on 1st March – 31st March 2024 across all the states with the finals to be held between Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, March 31.

However, most of the state Football Associations (FA) went to sleep until the NFF threatened to sanction any state that would fail to meet the deadline. NFF’s Director of competitions, Ruth David stated that the football house could no longer condone the disruptive attitude of some FA’s who set their own timetables outside that of the NFF.

 “Any State that fails to conclude its championship by Sunday, 31st March will be fined the sum of N1m. Any State that concludes its championship before Saturday, 30th March will be fined the same amount of money,” David said in the stern statement.

As if shocked into life, the FAs hurriedly concluded the competition in their states to avoid sanction. Our findings show that most state FAs didn’t organise the competition. They picked from the available clubs to stage the final matches.

According to our correspondent in Kano, the State FA Cup witnessed only three clubs vying for glory. The tournament commenced at the semi-final stage, with the state-owned Kano Pillars FC securing an automatic berth in the final through a bye, while the remaining two contenders battled for the coveted spot.   

Pro-Line FC, previously known as Tukuntawa United until their rebranding in 2022, emerged victorious over Junior Kano Pillars in the only semi-final clash, securing their place in the final showdown.  

In the final between Kano Pillars FC and Pro-Line FC, Usman Ghali’s lone goal in the first half made the difference as Kano Pillars emerged the winners.   

In Kwara, our Correspondent reported that the competition was organised based on the number of teams that registered. Although the registration for the competition had commenced about one and a half months ago, only Kwara United and Abubakar Bukola Saraki (ABS) paid the N150,000 fee and they both played the final. Kwara United piped ABS 2-1 to retain their title.

Our Correspondent in Calabar also reported a low turnout as only three clubs registered. The clubs are the state owned Rovers FC, May & Frank FC of Calabar as well as Athu Olayi FC of Bekwara Local Government Area.  

While the bigger side, Calabar Rovers were drawn bye, the other two clubs played the only semi-final match and May and Frank spanked Athu FC by 4-2 to set up the final against Rovers. M& F eventually shocked Rovers in the final to take home the cash prize of N500,000 and a ticket to the national competition.  

Our Correspondent also reported that no female team registered for the competition. As a result, Cross River State will not be represented at the national level in the Women’s Federation Cup.

Similarly, the Gombe State FA handpicked the two Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) clubs, Gombe United and Doma United to play the final match which Doma United won 3-0.

The Benue State FA also did the same as the state owned NPFL club, Lobi Stars and NLO team, Flight FC of Gboko contested the final which the former won 2-1 at the JS Tarka Stadium in Gboko.

From the foregoing, it is evident that most states didn’t organise the FA Cup properly but in few places where it was held, there were some upsets like in Oyo where an unknown football academy known as Ilaji FC stunned the more endowed 3SC on penalties to win the title. Basira FC also edged their more illustrious neighbours Nasarawa United in Lafia.

Before then there were big upsets in Ogun, Imo and Lagos where NPFL sides, Remo Stars, Heartland and Sporting FC were shockingly eliminated from the competition by minnows.

Stakeholders condemn poor organisation

Some football stakeholders have unanimously condemned the steady decline in the organisation of the FA Cup. Those who spoke to Trust Sports blamed the NFF and state Football Associations for the increasing apathy towards the competition.

A football administrator, Godwin Bamigboye said “The cost of participation in the Federation Cup is going higher and there are incentives. Does the eventual winner go home with anything? Nothing. Is there any sponsor? None. Branding of jerseys? Nothing. So, what is the benefit? Is it just to come and kick the ball around and then go home?

“I think these are the major causes of the lack of concern towards the competition. No benefit attached to participation in the FA Cup. I think there is a need to reinvent or look at the past and make the present better than the past.”

On his part, the FCT FA Chairman, Alhaji Adam Mohammed Mouktar, said there is a lack of trust and confidence in football leadership in the states.

“There is no development, high fees, lack of innovation and no prize money to encourage clubs to participate.”

Also speaking, a former Chairman of the Gombe State Sports Commission and proprietor of FC Yarmalight, Malam Farouk Yarma, said the Federation Cup or FA Cup is not well promoted.

“There is no awareness about the competition. This makes it hard to get fans interested in it. Another thing is that the NFF charges high fees for teams to participate which makes it harder for smaller clubs to join.

“In addition, there is no reward for clubs and players. This can make them less motivated to do well in the competition,” he said.

A retired football referee, Chinedu Ohanusim said to restore the lost glory, the NFF should revert to the Wembley effect in England by ensuring that the national final is played at the MKO Abiola National Stadium in Abuja. “Enough of moving the final from state to state. No more highest bidder. Let’s have our final at our own Wembley,” he advised.

It is also imperative to note that the women’s version of the FA Cup is suffering the same fate that has befallen the men’s competition.

The State FAs are in charge- NFF

In the face of mounting criticisms, the NFF Director of Communications, Ademola Olajire, who responded to our reporter’s questions, said “Tingo is no longer the sponsor of the Federation Cup. They promised so much and delivered nothing.

On the failure to pay cash prizes to past winners, he said “I think last year’s winners are being owned because of Tingo’s failure to meet with contractual obligations.

The NFF Spokesman concluded by saying “The State FAs are in charge of organising the FA Cup in their States. The NFF only reiterates to them what is the best practice now and again.”

Bendel Insurance and Bayelsa Queens are the defending champions in the men and women’s FA Cup.


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