The Final matches of the men and women competitions of this year’s AITEO Cup will take place at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna on Sunday, setting alight the former administrative capital of northern Nigeria.
In the women’s final, Cup holders Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt will clash with Nasarawa Amazons of Lafia in a match that kicks off at 2pm.
Angels have maintained a vice grip on the women’s trophy of the women’s competition, having won eight of the past nine editions, with only Sunshine Queens of Akure (2015) breaking their streak.
Ibom Angels, from Uyo, were going to make it a third successive final against Rivers Angels, before losing to Nasarawa Amazons in the semi finals, paving the way for the 2005 champions to constitute the opposition to Rivers Angels on Sunday.
The men’s final of the National Cup competition that used to be known over the years and decades variously as Challenge Cup, FA Cup and Federation will see 2017 losing finalists Niger Tornadoes tango with last year’s losing finalists Kano Pillars.
Pillars’ faithful are perhaps yet to recover from last year’s shock, when Masu Gida led Rangers International of Enugu 3-0 for one hour at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, only to watch the 1977 African Cup Winners Cup champions storm back to equalize and then win on penalty shoot-out.
Tornadoes, from Minna, have their own ghosts to exorcise. Having played delightful football under floodlights at the Agege Stadium, Lagos in 2017, they were put to the sword by Akwa United after penalty shoot-out following a scoreless regulation period.
Additionally, the boys from Niger State (popularly known as Ikon Allah) have their fans to appease after surprisingly losing their Nigeria Professional Football League status at the end of the recently –concluded season.
Tornadoes have a lone previous triumph in the competition, after defeating Rangers International 1-0 in the 2000 final. But Pillars are still looking for their first win in the oldest competition in the land and the second oldest in Africa, with only two runners-up position to their name. This, despite tremendous success in the League.
With Pillars finishing third in the Nigeria Professional Football League and already guaranteed of a spot in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup, Niger Tornadoes are guaranteed of the second slot in the continent’s second club competition no matter the outcome of Sunday’s confrontation.
The proximity of Kano and Minna to Kaduna is one factor that is likely to guarantee a sizeable crowd to the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, on the occasion of the third year sponsorship of the competition by Nigeria’s leading energy solution company, AITEO Group.
“Many people believe that Kano Pillars will have it easy against us simply because we got relegated to the lower division,” observed Niger Tornadoes’ veteran goalkeeper and captain, Mustapha Aliko. “We have won the Cup (Tornadoes beat Enugu Rangers 1-0 in the 2000 edition) before and technically, I don’t think we are inferior to Kano Pillars.
“It is true that they parade some of the best players around but that is not to say we won’t be able to play our game. If they believe we are underdogs in this match, they will receive a rude shock. In addition, AITEO Cup is always full of surprises.”
However, in the camp of Kano Pillars, there is robust optimism. “What you (Kano Pillars) have achieved is a unique feat,” Kano State’s Deputy Governor, Dr. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna was quoted as saying. “You have made it back-to-back in the final. You were there (in the final) last year and you are there again this year; Insha Allah (by the grace of God), that Cup is ours.”
And even though both teams have pocketed tickets to continental campaigns ahead of Sunday, the mouth –watering cash prize on offer for the winning team is a big incentive to push both to optimum performance.
At stake are prize monies of N25 million for the winner of the men’s competition and N10 million for the winner of the women’s competition. The runner –up for the men’s competition will pocket N10 million, with the runner –up for the women’s event going home with N5 million.
AITEO CUP: PAST FINALS
1945: Marine 1-0 Corinthians
1946: Lagos Railways 3-0 Port Harcourt FC
1947: Lagos Marine 1-0 Zik Athletics Club
1948: Lagos Railways 1-0 Port Harcourt FC
1949: Lagos Railways 3-0 Port Harcourt FC
1950: Lagos UAC 3-2 Port Harcourt FC
1951: Lagos Railways 3-2 Jos XI
1952: Lagos PAN Bank 6-1 Warri XI
1953: Kano XI 2-1 Lagos Dynamos
1954: Calabar XI 4-3 Kano XI
1955: Port Harcourt FC 4-1 Kano XI
1956: Lagos Railways 3-1 Warri XI
1957: Lagos Railways 5-0 Zaria XI
1958: Port Harcourt FC 6-0 Federal United
1959: Ibadan XI 2-1 Police
1960: Lagos ECN 4-1 Ibadan XI
1961: Ibadan Lions 1-0 Lagos UAC
1962: Police 1-0 Jos XI
1963: Port Harcourt FC 1-0 Jos XI
1964: Lagos Railways 3-1 Jos XI
1965: Lagos ECN 3-1 Jos XI
1966: Ibadan Lions W/O Jos XI
1967: Stationery Stores 3-1 Jos XI
1968: Stationery Stores 3-1 Jos Plateau (First match ended 2-2)
1969: Ibadan Lions 5-1 Warri XI
1970: Lagos ECN 3-1 Mighty Jets
1971: WNDC Ibadan 2-1 Enugu Rangers
1972: Bendel Insurance 3-2 Mighty Jets
1973: -All Africa Games
1974: Enugu Rangers 2-0 Mighty Jets
1975: Enugu Rangers 1-0 Shooting Stars
1976: Enugu Rangers 2-0 Alyufsalam Rocks
1977: Shooting Stars 2-0 Raccah Rovers
1978: Bendel Insurance 3-0 Enugu Rangers
1979: Shooting Stars 2-0 Sharks FC
1980: Bendel Insurance 1-0 Stationery Stores
1981: Enugu Rangers 2-0 Bendel Insurance
1982: Stationery Stores 4-1 Niger Tornadoes
1983: Enugu Rangers 0-0 DIC Bees
*Rangers won 5-4 on penalty shootout
1984: Leventis United 1-0 Abiola Babes
1985: Abiola Babes 0-0 BCC Lions
*Abiola Babes won 6 – 5 on penalty shootout
1986: Leventis United 1-0 Abiola Babes
1987: Abiola Babes 1-1 Ranchers Bees
*Abiola Babes won 7-6 on penalty shootout
1988: Iwuanyanwu 3-0 Flash Flamingoes
1989: BCC Lions 1-0 Iwuanyanwu
1990 Stationery Stores 0-0 Enugu Rangers
*Stores won 5-4 on penalty shootout
1991: El-Kanemi Warriors 3-2 Kano Pillars FC
1992: El-Kanemi 1-0 Stationery Stores
1993: BCC Lions 1-0 Plateau United
1994: BCC Lions 1-0 Julius Berger FC
1995: Shooting Stars 2-0 Katsina United
1996: Julius Berger 1-0 Katsina United
1997: BCC Lions 1-0 Katsina United
1998: Wikki Tourists 0-0 Plateau United
1999: Plateau United 1-0 Iwuanyanwu
2000: Tornadoes 1-0 Rangers
2001: Dolphins FC 2-0 El-Kanemi
2002: Julius Berger 3-0 Yobe Stars
2003: Lobi Stars 2-0 Sharks FC
2004: Dolphins FC 1-0 Enugu Rangers
2005: Enyimba 1-1 Lobi Stars
*Enyimba won 6-5 on penalty shootout
2006: Dolphins FC 2-2 Bendel Insurance
*Dolphin won 5-3 on penalty shootout
2007: Dolphins FC 1-1 Enugu Rangers
* Dolphin won 3-2 on penalty shootout
2008: Ocean Boys 2-2 Gombe United
* Ocean Boys won 7-6 on penalty shootout
2009: Enyimba 1-0 Sharks FC
2010: Kaduna United 3-3 Enyimba
* Kaduna United won 3-2 on penalty shootout
2011: Heartland 1-0 Enyimba
2012: Heartland 2-1 Lobi Stars
2013 Enyimba 2-2 Warri Wolves
*Enyimba won 5-4 on penalty shootout
2014: Enyimba 2-1 Dolphins FC
2015: Akwa United 2-1 Lobi Stars
2016: FC IfeanyiUbah 0-0 Nassarawa United
*FC IfeanyiUbah won 5-4 on penalty shootout
2017: Akwa United 0-0 Niger Tornadoes
*Akwa United won 3-2 on penalties
2018: Rangers Int’l 3 Kano Pillars 3
* Rangers Int’l won 4-2 on penalties