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Asaba on edge as Rangers, Pillars battle for AITEO Cup


The city of Asaba, capital of Delta State must be fully ready with its Big Heart on Wednesday evening as two of the best –supported football clubs in the land tango in the final of the AITEO Cup 2018 men’s competition at the Stephen Keshi Stadium.


Named after Nigeria’s longest –serving Senior Men Football Team captain who also coached the team to win the Africa Cup of Nations title on away ground, the newly –renovated arena will become the 14th venue to host the 73 –year old glamour National Football Cup.


It could not have been a more fitting final, with Rangers – one of the truly traditional powerhouse teams in the country with a robust history – and Pillars both in flaming forms at the moment with some of the best players in the domestic scene on their books.


The Flying Antelopes with a large following across the federation will be led out by ageless defender Okey Odita, and there are also Semiu Liadi and Isaac Loute, as well as Ugochukwu Ugwuoke, Bright Silas, Ifeanyi George and Ugonna Uzochukwu.


Rangers, who won the Africa Cup Winners’ Cup in 1977, and are five –time winners of the AITEO Cup under its previous names of Challenge Cup and FA Cup, have not taken home the most glamorous diadem in the land since beating DIC Bees of Kaduna on penalties inside the National Stadium, Lagos 35 years ago.


The lines from above may just inspire the boys from Enugu, as it can be recalled that the team made good in the elite League two years ago after waiting for 32 years.


Yet, Kano Pillars would not be push –overs in any way. As Pillars, they would be aiming to take home the title for the first time, after losing to El-Kanemi Warriors 2-3 in the 1991 final played also at the National Stadium, Lagos. Though, a team styled Kano XI became the first team from the northern part of the country to win the Cup after defeating Lagos Dynamos 2-1 at the Association Ground 65 years ago.


It would then take another 36 years for another team from the northern sector to triumph, when BCC Lions – coached by Amodu Shaibu of blessed memory – shocked Iwuanyanwu Nationale by the odd goal at the Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi in 1989.


Pillars’ biggest name on the sheet on Wednesday could be Junior Lokosa, the 2017 NPFL goal king who came close to making the cut for Nigeria’s 2018 FIFA World Cup final squad.


However, there are also equally dangerous customers. Odita will be confronted promptly in the tunnel by another ageless performer, midfield ace Rabiu Ali, likely to lead out Pillars, and artistes like Nyima Nwagua, Emmanuel Anyanwu, Nzube Anaezemba and Hillary Ikenna are match winners on their day.


Rangers must also watch out for Joel Djoundang and Ibrahim Alhassan.


Before the Stephen Keshi Stadium, venues that have hosted the National Cup finale include the Association Ground, Lagos (which later became King George V, later Lagos City Stadium and later Onikan Stadium); Liberty Stadium, Ibadan; National Stadium, Lagos; Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan; Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi; Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi; Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna; Ranch Bees Stadium, Kaduna; Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City; Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt (now Yakubu Gowon Stadium); Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano and; Agege Stadium, Lagos.


Last year’s final, which marked the first time it would be called AITEO Cup following the acquisition of the naming right by Nigeria’s leading energy solution group, was at the Agege Stadium and Akwa United of Uyo prevailed over Niger Tornadoes after penalty shoot –out under floodlights.


Wednesday’s final would also be under floodlights, with the game to kick off at 6pm. Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State is expected to be installed in the VVIP Box with his Enugu and Kano State counterparts – Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Umar Abdullahi Ganduje respectively. President of the NFF and CAF 1st Vice President, Mr. Amaju Pinnick and the full compliment of members of his Executive Committee will join them.


Leading Nigerian music stars Patoranking (Okorie Patrick Nnaemeka), Phyno and Seyi Seyi (Deborah Joshua) will entertain guests before hostilities kick off on the lush turf.





    1945: Marine  1-0  Corinthians

    1946: Lagos Railways 3-1 Port Harcourt FC

    1947: Lagos Marine 3-1 Lagos Railways

    1948: Lagos Railways 1-0 Warri XI

    1949: Lagos Railways 3-0 Port Harcourt FC

    1950: Lagos UAC 3-2 Port Harcourt FC

    1951: Lagos Railways 3-2 Mighty Jets 

    1952: PAN Bank 6-0 Warri 

    1953: Kano XI 2-1 Lagos Dynamos


    1954: Calabar 3-0 Kano XI  

    1955: Port Harcourt FC 4-1 Warri

    1956: Lagos Railways 3-1 Warri

    1957: Lagos Railways 5-1 Zaria

    1958: Port Harcourt FC 6-0 Federal United

    1959: Ibadan Lions 1-0 Police


    1960: Lagos ECN 5-2 Ibadan Lions

    1961: Ibadan Lions 1-0 Lagos UAC

    1962: Police 1-0 Mighty Jets 

    1963: Port Harcourt FC 1-0 Mighty Jets 

    1964: Lagos Railways 3-1 Mighty Jets 

    1965: Lagos ECN 3-1 Mighty Jets 

    1966: Ibadan Lions W/O Mighty Jets 

    1967: Stationery Stores 3-1 Mighty Jets 

    1968: Stationery Stores 3-1 Warri

    1969: Ibadan Lions 5-1 Warri

    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