Governor Babatunde Fashola (L) handing over the FA Cup to the NFF President, Alhaji Aminu Maigari
Ahead of Sunday’s Federation Cup final between defending champions Heartland of Owerri and Lobi Stars of Makurdi at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, host of the competition, Lagos State, has mapped out plans to bring back the glamour associated with the competition as long as it continues to host the finals of the Federation Cup.
The state’s Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Social Development, Wahid Oshodi said the state is poised to return the glory of the oldest competition in the country.
According to Oshodi: “The most important thing about this year’s competition is that His Excellency, Governor Babatunde Fashola is bent on restoring the passion of yesteryears that his associated with the competition by making sure that there is awareness of the tournament, the history and what made it such a great tournament that brings all Nigerians together.”
The commissioner said the state is working with the Nigeria Football Federation to bring back the glory of yesteryears.
“Those days everybody from all walks of life from different parts of the federation had to fight hard to come to the centre to be the top knockout team in the country and that is what we want to achieve and so far, we are happy that we are on the right path. His Excellency has donated a new befitting trophy to symbolize the importance of this competition to the country. This is the most important national knockout tournament in Africa and we need to bring the glamour back and that is what we have been trying to do,” he emphasized.
This year the state will be honouring the legends of the competition. Those that made the competition what it is today and what it was in those days will be honoured, “because without them, we will not be talking about the Federation Cup in this way.
“This is a tournament that dates back to the 1940s, therefore there are lots of people who have excelled in the tournament and from year to year as long as Lagos State continues to host the competition, which we believe we should, we will always continue to honour the past players, coaches and administrators. This is just the beginning. I know in anything you do in football, when you select people, there will always be criticisms of the choices but we believe that whoever honour is due to we shall give them in Lagos,” Oshodi said.
With regard to the relationship between NFF and Lagos State in staging a befitting tourney this year, Oshodi said: “The state governor during the unveiling of the new trophy made a very valid point when he pointed out that the greatest knockout competition in England is the English FA Cup, with Wembley as the home of the finals. So all teams in England are always fighting hard to make it to Wembley. This will also help in popularizing the event and that is what we are seeking to do in Lagos. Lagos is the traditional home of the Challenge Cup and we want it to continue as the traditional home of the Federation Cup. As you know that there will be enough support for any team coming to Lagos because people all over the country reside in Lagos. They are here in numbers and we need to encourage teams from the state qualifiers who know that their destination is Lagos.”
Fashola has therefore appealed to the NFF to continue to host the tournament in Lagos. “It is something we look to do on a continuous basis and our relationship with NFF is good as the federation has been very accommodating in many areas. The NFF has a cordial relationship with the state and with our state FA, which is also doing a good job. We have a good team and we hope we will be able to build on the achievements we made last year and bring this tournament back to life,” he noted.
The sports commissioner is however not worried that the state is not having a team in the final. The truth is that it is a knockout tournament and in Lagos we keep on harping on fairness. All we ask is that there should be fairness in officiating and the best team should be there because people want to watch the best teams and if Lagos has the best teams so be it. We are however really working hard to get one of our teams into the Nigeria Premier League. With a team in the premier league, we will be bringing all the teams to Lagos and the fans are yearning for this as well. We believe things should be done properly and we hope one of the teams will get to that stage,” he said.
In the finals Heartland of Owerri take on Lobi Stars while Kano Pillars will slug it out with this year’s surprise team Prime of Oshogbo for the third place ticket.