The 2016 Federation Cup came to an end on Sunday with FC IfeanyiUbah picking up their 1st ever silverware and Rivers Angels their 7th cup title. The streets of Nnewi may still be buzzing with the celebrations and Dr. IfeanyiUbah would be a happy man seeing that he will showcase his team in Africa thanks to a slot in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup but the happenings of Sunday needs to be looked at for future corrections.
We have come a long way. The Federation Cup, formerly Challenge/FA Cup, is Nigeria’s oldest tournament and incorporates every team down to state levels but this year’s tournament lacked the flair associated with cup games. Let’s look at some grey areas in that final.
The publicity for the Federation Cup final was not as load as the next round of group matches in the UEFA Champions League. I noted about 10 different brands on the signage boards in the stadium and I can’t remember any of them hyping the Federation Cup final – including the organizers, NFF.
The first mention of the Federation Cup final by the NFF on twitter was 26 hours before the Women kick off. Has the Cup lost its glamour? The NFF site has been down. No need to check for any information there. Just follow on social media.
FC IfeanyiUbah gave the final a lot more hype and publicity than the NFF and Nasarawa United. They had vehicles in different part of Lagos to convey fans to Teslim Balogun Stadium. They did what can be described as their best and they have the trophy to hype about now. The Anambra Warriors even got a message from their UK partners, Westham.
- Kick Off Time
It is either we don’t understand time or we don’t value it. Time is money. The published kick off times for the women and men finals was 2pm and 4pm respectively but that was not respected. Soccer loving Nigerians had these times in mind and those of us that believe in female football made a duty to be present for the women final. If you had arrived the stadium by 1:55pm, you would have seen Rivers Angels and Bayelsa Queens jogging in for the second half. The women final kicked off by 1pm, an hour before the published time.
The final between FC IfeanyiUbah and Nasarawa United was not left out. It kicked off by 3:18pm, 42 minutes before the published. What happened? Was it because of TV time? The stadium MC kept hurrying everything? Rivers Angels had limited time to celebrate their victory before the teams for the Men Final came up. Even after the end of the penalty shootout, there was a hurry to have the players awarded. TV time?
Was there a need to give a false time? A lot of fans missed out of the first halves of their beloved teams because of “wrong information”.
The last time a Federation Cup final ended goalless was in 1998. Where was I then? – somewhere in Odogbolu. FC IfeanyiUbah and Nasarawa United served us with a goalless draw and needed the lottery of penalties to separate the winner from the loser. The Final was a figment of the 2016 competition (excluding state FA matches) with only 142 goals, about 48 goals less than in 2015. The two teams were involved in more 1-0 victories than any other team in the 2016 tournament. I expected a 1-0 win but the strikers left their scoring boots. Please none of them should moan at not being invited to the Super Eagles.
- Net Burst?
“IfeanyiUbah missed one penalty, the side-netting” said someone in the media stand. I looked around and told him “No, the ball past through the net”. This was during the shootout and he was surprised. He kept highlighting how this could have made him to make a wrong judgment. The journo beside me asked: “What was the assistant referee checking before the match and during half time?” Be the judge.
- Pitch Invasion
Now, this is becoming unbecoming. I was at Teslim Balogun Stadium last year for the 2015 Federation Cup and there was a pitch invasion after the final whistle. I was there when Enyimba won their 7th league title and there was a pitch invasion. It was a replica of same invasion in Aba, when Kano Pillars were crowned champions in 2014.
In 2016, the fans in Enugu could not keep back to the stands as Rangers were crowned champions. Few weeks later, we are having same invasion in Lagos with the victory of FC IfeanyiUbah. I understand what passion can do but this must be curbed.
I didn’t remember to make a quick count of the number of policemen in the stadium but the available number could do nothing as the fans from the FC IfeanyiUbah corner jumped over the mini barricade into the pitch to celebrate with the players. Are our stadium poorly designed with respect to pitch invasion or are our security operatives naive about pitch invasions? Do we have the right amount of security personnel for every given game?
It is high time pitch invaders are prosecuted. You cannot continually break the law and go free. This should be applicable to all manner of crimes that happen within the perimeter of the stadium, not excluding assault, robbery, throwing of objects etc.
There are other stuffs that could be improved upon. The presentation of the cup to the winners could have more decor – it was crowded over there; the stadium could be filled up – it was half filled, the players could train with Federation Cup bibs – they used the NPFL bibs etc. We will leave the discussion of the quarter final and semi final for another day.
This is our game and we have to clean it up.