Energy giant, Aiteo transforms Nigeria’s favourite football tournament

| November 5, 2018 | 0 Comments

On Wednesday 24th of October 2018, Delta State’s capital city, Asaba stood still for a football miracle that will long be remembered in the coming years in Nigeria’s local football competition. The clash between two top-flight teams, Enugu Rangers and Kano Pillars in the final of Aiteo Cup 2018, has been described as splendid, not just because of the impressive records and pedigree of both teams, but because of the excitement it generated as Rangers ended their 35-year wait for the Nigerian Cup. The football heroes bounced back from a 3-0 defeat to beat Kano Pillars 4-2 in the suspense-filled game, which recorded 6 goals in regulation time, and 6 more in penalties.

Before the game kicked off, anticipation had already lit up the whole of the city. Football fans trooped to the 22,000 capacity Stephen Keshi Football Stadium, taking almost all seats. The atmosphere was super ecstatic. Some fans say it brought back memories of Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League final victory over AC Milan, while a majority of football lovers and observers have described it as one of the greatest comebacks in Nigerian football history. Despite the fact that it was played on a Wednesday and away from the regular Agege Township Stadium in Lagos, it got fans engaging on and off social media.

What is today known as the Aiteo Cup has had an interesting history in Nigeria; it was called the War Memorial Challenge Cup limited to the city of Lagos in 1942. It became the Governor’s Cup in 1945, the FA Cup in 1953, Challenge Cup in 1960, Coca Cola FA Cup in 1999, Federation Cup in 2009 and the Aiteo Cup since 2017. Rangers have won the cup five times in the past when it was known as the Challenge Cup.

This is the second year since Aiteo took over the sponsorship of the Federation’s Cup after signing a N2.5 billion sponsorship deal with Nigeria Football Federation to seal a naming right. Participation has tremendously improved. When Aiteo came onboard, the first thing the oil giant did was to increase the prize money to make it more attractive to teams. The winning team in the Men’s category now goes home with N25 million and the first runner-up with N10 million. This is a huge difference from what Aiteo met on ground, which was N2 million for the winner, and N1 million for the runner-up.

In the Women’s category, the winning team also takes N10 million, while the runner-up goes home with N5 million.  It used to be N1 million and N500,000 respectively. This year, Rivers Angels retained the trophy after defeating Ibom Angels at the Samson Siasia Stadium in Yenegoa, Bayelsa.

A lot has changed since Aiteo came onboard, and with this remarkable difference in a short while, the tournament is expected to become more glamorous in 2019. Although, the tournament had some initial planning hiccups due to the NFF leadership tussle, NFF, and sponsor, Aiteo put together a world-class final against all odds. The final was the largest televised Aiteo Cup final in the history of the tournament in Nigeria.

“This is the first ever local match I have watched live. I was drawn by how the whole of Asaba, right from the airport was rebranded and the conversations that were going on around town. It almost felt like we had our own little version of the World Cup”, a 48-year professional, said.

Another, who came all the way from Lagos said, that he was not disappointed. “The whole event was topnotch. We watched football at its finest and had performances from Phyno, Patoranking, Seyi Shey and Rara band.”

This year’s event drew the attention and appearance of high-ranking individuals across the country. The Men’s finals had in attendance, the governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi; Deputy Governor of Kano State, Nasiru Gawuna; Chike Onyejekwe, the Managing Director of Aiteo Eastern EP and Super Eagles Coach, Gernot Rohr. The Women’s final also had in attendance, Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson; Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Pinnick; Head of Nigeria Women Football Aisha Falode and host of others.

CAPTION

Enugu Rangers Captain, Okechukwu Odita receiving the trophy from Aiteo Group Managing Director, Chike Onyejekwe and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa at the final of the 2018 Aiteo Cup in Delta State.

Culled from :Here

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