BY APESIN ADEMOLA.
Defending champions Akwa United lead the rest of the teams in challenging for spots in the group stage, reserved for the winners of the matches today and tomorrow, as well as the victorious side in the rescheduled match between CAF Confederation Cup campaigners Enyimba of Abia State and Edo State’s Dynamite Force FC.
Akwa United dimmed the hope of Cross River State’s Hope of Glory 7-0 in the Round of 64, while last year’s finalists Niger Tornadoes walked over Adamawa State’s Chief of Staff FC.
The Promise Keepers, as Akwa United are known, have a date with Nasarawa State’s Aklosendi FC who edged out FRSC FC of Abuja on penalties to reach this stage, while Niger Tornadoes’ opponents – Kogi United – walloped Delta Stars FC 4-0 in the Round of 64.
Sokoto United and Akwa Ibom State’s Confine FC are the only two of the 10 teams that emerged from the preliminary stage to have survived up to this stage. Sokoto United eliminated Bityong Cornerstone of Kaduna State 5-0 at the Rookie phase and took out Lagos side MFM FC on penalties in the next round,
For Confine FC, who face Sunshine Stars (Ondo State) in Warri on Monday, their first victims Rickymarts Academy of Cross River State got whipped 6-1 in Yenagoa at the preliminary round, while Heartland of Imo State suffered penalty shootout elimination in the Round of 64.
Apart from Akwa United, Niger Tornadoes, Enyimba and Sunshine Stars, the other top flight teams remaining in the competition include Go Round FC, Enugu Rangers, Kwara United, Plateau United, Kano Pillars, Rivers United, Abia Warriors, FC IfeanyiUbah and Nasarawa United. Others who will fill out on Monday are: Wikki Tourists, Katsina United and El-Kanemi Warriors.
Wikki Tourists will be challenged by Bayelsa United in Makurdi, Osun United take on Katsina United in Abuja, while El-Kanemi Warriors have a date with Katsina United Feeders FC in Jos.
The Round of 64 matches claimed many “big” teams including newly crowned Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) champions Lobi Stars, who were kicked out by Standard FC of Kaduna State on penalties.
Shooting Stars, Gombe United, ABS FC and Bendel Insurance all failed the first test at the national phase.
The 16 winners of the Round of 32 will be divided into four groups in matches to be played between September 24 and September 28, with the group winners and runners-up playing the quarterfinals on October 3, while the semi-finals and the final come up on October 7 and October 14 respectively. Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba is the venue of this year’s final.
Nigeria is in a race to meet CAF October 15 deadline to submit the names of CAF Confederation Cup team, chosen through the Federation (Aiteo) Cup.
Following the crisis that bedevilled Nigeria’s football, the top flight league – the NPFL – had to be ended abruptly as the CAF deadline could not be met.
The football authorities adopted the “Doctrine of Necessity”, canvassed by Sports Village Square, to crown Lobi Stars, the top club at the time the league was suspended, as the champions.
The Makurdi side have since been registered for the 2018/19 CAF Champions League, which commences on November 27 while the final comes up on June 1, next year.
CAF is implementing a decision to synchronise its competition calendar with the FIFA’s.