BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Agege Stadium makes history on Sunday when it hosts the maiden edition of the Nigeria’s national football cup now called AITEO Cup.
The national cup itself is in its in its 73rd edition having began in 1945 and held yearly except in 1973 owing to congested calendar.
The change of name of the competition this year is the fourth having earlier been known as Governor’s Cup from 1945 to 1954, All Nigeria Challenge Cup from 1955 to 1995, Coca-Cola FA Cup from 1996 to 2008 and Federation Cup from June 9, 2009.
Two former winners of the national cup will be contesting the AITEO Cup on Sunday.
Niger Tornadoes, winners via Akin Ademofe of Rangers’ own goal in the 2000 final match at the National Stadium, Lagos will be facing the 2015 winners, Akwa United.
The two sides therefore strive to win for the second time. But for Niger Tornadoes, it is the third time in the final having lost 1-4 to Stationery Stores in 1982.
On the road to this year’s final, Niger Tornadoes eliminated national cup holders, FC IfeanyiUbah on a 4-3 aggregate in the semi finals. Akwa United, seeking glory once again and a possible return to the CAF Champions League which it missed to Enyimba via fourth placing in the league, edged out fellow premier league sides, Lobi United and Shooting Stars before showing Sunshine Stars the exit rout last Sunday in the return leg of the semi final duel.
As for the Agege Stadium, it becomes the 13th arena to host the national cup final. Sports Village Square recalls that this is the first time the arena set up by the Western Regional Government of Chief Obafemi Awolowo as play ground for the industrial district of Ikeja as playground, will host a national cup final.
The national cup final which began as Governor’s Cup had its origin at Onikan Stadium which was then known as Association Ground. It hosted the national final under different names from 1945 to 1972 as it changed names from Association Ground to King George V and later to Lagos City Stadium.
It never hosted the final under its present name of Onikan Stadium, a name it adopted after the old structure was pulled down in 1974 and rebuilt by Lateef Jakande’s government in the early 1980s.
It last hosted the then Challenge Cup in 1972 in an ill-tempered match between Mighty Jets and the then Bendel Insurance. The match ended 2-2 and had to be replayed. It was the last time a national final match was held at the water-front arena.
For the first time, the final was moved to Ibadan at the then Liberty Stadium, now renamed Obafemi Awolowo Stadium. The 1974 final was played at the newly built National Stadium, Lagos where successive editions were held uninterrupted till the 1988 edition which held at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan.
The fifth stadium to host the final match was Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi in 1989. It was in Bauchi that history was made when for the first time in 36 years; a club from the North won the national Cup.
The relatively unknown and young Amodu Shaibu coached BCC Lions to beat a higher rated Iwuanyanwu Nationale 1-0.
The Bauchi stadium went on to host in 1994. Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi was the sixth host in 1992. It hosted again in 2008.
Sports Village Square recalls that the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna in 1993 became the seventh host. Since then, the arena that was inaugurated on August 2, 1964 hosted again in 1997 and 2003.
The eighth host was Ranchers Bees Stadium in Kaduna in 1998. Ogbemudia Stadium hosted in 2004 as the ninth arena while Liberation Stadium, now renamed Yakubu Gowon Stadium hosted the following year.
The MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta became the 10th stadium to host the then FA Cup in 2006. For the first time, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos hosted the final in 2007 a role it repeatedly played in 2009 and from 2011 to 2016.
The 12th stadium to host the final match was Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano in 2010.
Past National Cup Final Matches Venues
Association Ground, Lagos (Later Lagos City Stadium) 1945 to 1972)
Liberty Stadium, Ibadan (Now Obafemi Awolowo Stadium) 1972 replay.
National Stadium, Lagos. 1974 -1987, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1999-2002.
Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan. 1988.
Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi. 1989, 1994.
Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi. 1992, 2008.
Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna. 1993, 1997, 2003.
Ranchers Bees Stadium, Kaduna. 1998.
Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin. 2004.
Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt (now Yakubu Gowon Stadium). 2005.
Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos. 2007, 2009, 2011 – 2016.
Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano. 2010.
Agege Stadium, Lagos.