Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Federation Cup Final: Gov. Udom Emmanuel must cheer Akwa United to victory by Amos Etuk


The two major football competitions in Nigeria are the Nigeria Professional Football League and the Federation Cup formerly known as the Challenge Cup. Winners of both competitions are guaranteed automatic slots to represent the country at the continental battle for the different competitions of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) each season. Winners of the Nigeria Professional Football League and the runner up automatically represent the country at the CAF Champions League while the third placed team and the winners of the Federation Cup represent the country at the CAF Confederations Cup.
It is always a gruesome season as clubs battle with many matches moving from one end of the country to the other winning and losing matches on the road to victory as each game comes with more pulsating actions and for the losers, more regrets and heart breaks.

For the Federation Cup, this competition is the oldest football event in Nigeria created since 1945 and can be likened to the English FA Cup and it comes with all the major upsets and revelations each season with the quality of teams that feature from all thirty six states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory as it remains the highest single elimination football series till date.
Past winners of the Federation Cup right from early inception when it was known as the Governor’s Cup to the Challenge Cup , Coca –Cola FA Cup and now the Federation Cup include the Lagos Railways (1946, 1948, 1949,1951,1956, 1957,1964,), Calabar FC (1954), Port Harcourt FC (1955,1958,1963), Stationery Stores (1967,1968, 1982,1990), Bendel Insurance (1972,1978,1980), Enugu Rangers (1974,1975, 1976, 1981,1983,) Shooting Stars (1977,1979, 1995) and Leventis United (1984,1986),
Other notable great teams in the country that have lifted this prestigious trophy include Abiola Babes (1985,1987), Iwuanyanwu Nationale (1988), BCC Lions (1989,1993,1994,1997), El-Kanemi Warriors (1991,1992), Julius Berger (1996,2002),Wikki Tourists (1998), Plateau United (1999), Niger Tornadoes (2000), Dolphins (2001, 2004, 2006, 2007), Julius Berger (2002), Lobi Stars (2003), Enyimba (2005, 2009, 2013, 2014), Ocean Boys (2008), Kaduna United (2010) and Heartland (2012).
For the 2015 edition, the road to the final has been very interesting especially for the fans of Akwa United who are appearing for the first time in the final of the Federation Cup. This is the first time Akwa United or any team from Akwa Ibom State would be making an appearance at the final of any major national competition as history beckons under the Governor Udom Emmanuel leadership of the state to be the first State Chief Executive in Akwa Ibom State to win a continental ticket as the darling side looks set to fly past Lobi Stars of Markurdi to win the trophy.
For the record, the road to the final stage started with the round of sixty four where Akwa United demolished Dalatu FC 6-0, beat Peacemaker FC 2-0. Defeated Prime FC of Oshogbo in the round of sixteen by a lone goal, defeated Niger Tornadoes Feeder Team in the quarter final in pulsating encounter which ended 2-2 and (4-3) on penalties and also beat fellow premiership side Nasarrawa United by a lone goal in the semi final.  
Your Excellency, the Federation Cup is a pride to every state in Nigeria and as a leader with a midas touch; this opportunity that beckons for Akwa Ibom state to be listed among the all time great states that have won the trophy must be achieved as we look forward to victory at the final.
When the present Chairman of Akwa United Football Club, Akparawa Nse Ubeh came on board in March 2015, he spoke passionately of his vision to chart a new course for the club with a strong promise of a continental berth next season.
He outlined his vision for the club including a better marketing strategy for the club which would involve attracting sponsors and better welfare for the players. Despite the lean resources available to the club so far in the season, the Club Chairman and the Ministry of Youth and Sports in the State have propelled the team to a comfortable season on the Professional Football League table and remained focus with the Federation Cup with just a game to spare to realize this vision just in his first season.
Nse Ubeh has remained calm in taking the strides of each outcome of the team’s fixtures and even after qualifying for the final of the Federation Cup, he spoke with Yours Truly emphasising that the job of the semi final had been done and he had already shifted focus on how a winning formula will defeat Lobi Stars for the cup to arrive Akwa Ibom State.
Your Excellency, you are the number one supporter of Akwa United Football Club and this feat is coming at a time when the Nest of Champions has also become a fortress to this darling side of Akwa Ibom State.  When the team was directed by your administration to play their league matches at the Nest of Champions, the Sports Ministry urged the team to justify the confidence given on the new home soil be excelling and bringing continental opportunities and glory to Akwa Ibom State.
The team has vastly improved so far and the fans have thronged out to cheer the team to victories in all their home matches. The dynamics of the success story of Akwa United today also falls in line with your vision to make sure that the private sector has a strong investment status in almost all the sectors of the state and despite your landmarks so far in less than a hundred days in office, the final of the 2015 Federation Cup will be the first unique selling point of your success story to Nigeria and a strong message to Africa that Akwa Ibom State has arrived.
Akwa United’s appearance and expected victory at the final will be the first major export of the present administration’s milestones and yours sincerely strongly believes just like every passionate supporter of Akwa United that you are leading this team to the final in the Blue colours of this great club side that is ready to dominate Nigerian football.
It will be an epic clash where your words of motivation and encouragement will lift this team to glory. It will be a moment in history as you arrive the venue of this epic final and your players see you adorning the club jersey with pride singing the national anthem as the fans jubilate in songs of praises.
Lobi Stars have won the Federation Cup once and pundits may give the club some edge to win the game but I can assure you sir that your darling club side is in sizzling form and that is why the Road to the final must be memorable and victorious.
The team will need the support of the Akwa Ibom State Government and if there is anytime where every hand must be on deck avoiding bureaucratic delays is now as we have limited time towards the game and hopefully return home to the blitz and overwhelming memories of a celebration party.
In the good old days of the then Challenge Cup final, it was ‘’war’’ between teams and their supporters as thousands of supporters filled buses (Marco Polo) arriving the National Stadium , Surulere, Lagos State and we must please, yes, I have to plead that we make the right call on this as we begin massive mobilization for the big game.
The final game will be no child’s play and the team will need all the support it can get to take as many supporters to cheer the them nonstop ninety minutes and even beyond if it stretches into extra time. That support base would be our greatest motivation on the pitch on our way to making history.
Whatever financial challenges the club may be facing must be addressed especially players’ welfare to keep them in the best frame of mind for this acid test as their entitlements must be paid as they make the state proud. They deserve to be happy in playing their hearts out as this opportunity would be a platform to sell their skills to the global stage even as scouts will pay more attention to the club as they take the country by storm.
Though the team will play some league games in between that famous semi final victory and the final, we must avoid every unnecessary distraction at this stage and pray that the team is injury free to prosecute the game plan of the technical crew.
One of the greatest tools of intimidation which should be maximised will be the need to ensure that as many jerseys of the club in various sizes should be available for the teeming supporters as the fan base of the club must be filled beyond half of the Stadium at the final. It will also be realistic to reach out to our sons and daughters in across the country and other indigenes to come out and watch the team excel.
The boys must be pampered to strike without mercy on the pitch, the blaring of the horns will not cease from the supporters club who by now should have been fully mobilised to show the world the energy and motivation they bring into the game.
Winning this crucial game begins the branding of the state just like Orji Kalu made Enyimba Football Club a household name in the country and continent till date, our sports tourism has started with the world focused on our modest strides so far and we must ensure that we build successfully on this rare opportunity as the team begins a renaissance on the big stage.
The sponsors are going to come in droves begging to be part of the team’s new fame and success story and it will be that all important decision not to sell off the team at a cheap cost but to ensure that we have a strong package that will be beneficial to the players, management and the supporters in the new season especially as they hopefully will play on the continental stage.
The Nest of Champions has one of the best football pitches on the continent and our expected victory this weekend will showcase the outstanding facilities at the stadium when the Confederation Cup begins by virtue of our qualification, encourage sports tourism into the state and further generate income into the state with the influx of visitors.
We must commend the stakeholders of our football in Akwa Ibom State for the supportive role played so far in the season in ensuring that the set targets of Akwa United is achieved including the State Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Rt. Hon. Monday Ebong Uko, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Elder Nse Edem, the Director of Sports, a man whom sports lovers across the country refer to as ‘’ the winning director’’, Coach Aniedi Dickson, the management and technical crew of Akwa United Football Club, the supporters club, the fans and of course the media especially the Sports Writers of Nigeria in Akwa Ibom State who have stood by Akparawa Nse Ubeh’s leadership for him to succeed.
The sports media in Akwa Ibom State remains worthy partners in the development of our sports and the growth of Akwa United Football Club today and we will continue to promote this great team to more success stories as we look forward to an exciting final.
I must also commend our big brother and veteran sports journalist, Etubom Paul Bassey who remains an asset to the development of Nigerian football and his immense support to the strides of glory of Akwa United. 
Akparawa Nse Ubeh has shown that he remains an astute leader of this team passionately changing the tide of the club to new songs of victory and his commitment shows his exemplary qualities in football management as his records and achievements have yielded fruits despite the very lean resources available to him to run the club.
Your Excellency, this is obviously a new dawn in sports renaissance in Akwa Ibom State and you are the face of this history and expected victory. Your presence at the final of the 2015 Federation Cup will be a defining moment as you hopefully sit with your counterpart from Benue State, Samuel Iortom and the host Governor waiting for ninety minutes as the Stadium will erupt in the BLUE colours of Akwa United Football Club and millions of fans at home watching on television  the victory of our first national trophy for Akwa Ibom State, a feat achieved in the first one hundred days of your administration.
It will be a glorious home coming when the team arrives the Akwa Ibom International Airport with the trophy to the cheers of thousands of fans and the victory parade of the trophy across major streets of the capital city before you finally receive them with smiles of a mission fulfilled as you roll out the expected goodies for them will be another milestone.
This expected victory and continental flavour will be the new beginning where Akwa United Football Club will emerge as the new soccer power house in Nigeria and the continent and the work for the growth of the team will not finish by just winning the Federation Cup , but building a formidable side where all indices will be available to make ‘’the Promise Keepers’’ our pride.
Akwa United can be Champions. We believe.

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