Hmmm!!!! Where to start this review of the 2017 Aiteo Cup final at the ”Soccer Temple” in Agege has been a major headache for the past two hours; Ok let me start from here. I usually do not commend Amaju Pinnick for anything, but the guy sure knows how to play his politics. The 2017 Aiteo Cup final was scheduled for the weekend of the CAF Emergency Committee meeting slated for Nigeria; Lagos the preferred location, for obvious reasons; an opportunity to showcase a small township/community mini stadium as part of the ”entertainment” for the visiting CAF hierarchy. The farther we move away from the Politics or the reasoning of why Agege stadium is a different matter on its own. The Federation Cup Final has been hosted in Lagos for the last few years to a half empty stadium in Surulere; game was to be on Television (another issue for another time); the Final needed a TV friendly stadium with a ”crowd” to showcase; Agege was chosen, especially considering all the grumblings associated with MFM FC’s qualification for the CAF Champions League and the likelihood that Agege ”may” not meet CAF standards; cue the Soccer Temple audition; I make bold to say it must have made a good impression on CAF, however; let’s leave the rest of this conversation for another day.
Every Cup final comes with its Pomp and pageantry, those tiny, tiny details created to enhance the Match day experience for the fans; from the fireworks to the branding, setup and arrangement to the trophy presentation and general ambience that leaves a lasting memory in the Fans mind were achieved in more ways than one. Kudos to the team responsible for putting the whole ceremony together, though I know the individual involved is one that avoids the limelight; I hope they weren’t the ones responsible for those shambolic performances pre game and at halftime though. It was great to see things done differently for a change.
Now to the match proper; what an absolute shambles. Today’s final was the worst game I have seen at that Agege Stadium in the Three years I have been going there religiously. Talk about a poor advert for the Nigerian domestic game. The question then comes up; what is the problem? What is the reason for such a poor Cup Final? In my conversations with the media personalities in the Media Tribune; some said it probably was the nerves of playing in a final; another school of thought felt it was the players; but what seemed to resonate and was quite loud and resounding was the coaching. I firmly and unequivocally agree with the latter; Jesus Christ, it was disappointing to watch a game for 90 Minutes and not see a clear pattern, shape or approach from either team. Those who know me, would confirm how highly I rate Abdul Maikaba and how is team play. Can Akwa United’s poor showing be ascribed to the departure to pastures new of Al Hassan Ibrahim? This is not to single Akwa United out for criticism; both teams had not clue; I saw so much running, I could have been forgiven for thinking I attended an athletics meet instead of a football match. It was painful to watch, on a brighter note; Niger Tornadoes have a really good winger in Babawo Ibrahim; he was constantly tormenting his opposing full back, but like is the case with most wingers these days, they tend to over do it and the end product is always lacking. This can be solved by Coaching; unfortunately I do not see this lad maturing or getting any better if he continues under this kind of atrocious coaching or tutelage. So, with just four shots on target all game; three for Tornadoes and one to Akwa United; Penalties were inevitable for the second year running and my was it a poor shoot out just like what we endured for 90 minutes; luckily as it always is with shoot outs, Akwa United carried day, 3-2 after sudden death penalties. With this sort of performance; I do not see Akwa United going beyond the first round in the CAF Confederations Cup unless something drastic is done. Whilst it is painful relieving this game in my head; I have to write on the performance of the two Super Eagles invitees showcased today; Ifeanyi Ifeanyi and Azeez Aremu. Simply put; on the strength of this performance, they shouldn’t expect to be called up to the Super Eagles again; no need to go into deeper details.
So the good people at SWAN (Sports Writers Association of Nigeria) were kind enough to give us transport fare back to our destinations; Thank you very much ooooohhhh!!!! Used mine to fuel my car; however that whole chore could have been handled better, it was a complete waste of man hours, leaving room for potential hanky panky. The whole process was quite demeaning; why do we like to over complicate things. A register of some sorts was filled by all members of the media during the game, you know the number present; what would it have cost to buy envelopes; slot the token amount in there, hand to each individual and tick the names on the register; easy and sweet, instead cash was brandished to the full glare of every one and handed by hand to each person. Abeg SWAN, ”we” can do better.
Finally, why does Access and Crowd control remain a problem for us at our match venues? Whenever a government official is going to attend a game, there will be access problems; you can’t go here, you can’t pass there; this is separate from the madness outside which includes roadblocks and non access to the car park. The ticketing for the event was a shambles; next time create a two way check system; enter the stadium premises with your ticket; walk to your paid section and get wrist tagged as you surrender your ticket. I saw people passing tickets to others to enable them come in. Whoever handled ticketing, we can do better; I know the access issue has a lot to do with the overzealous nature of our uniformed personnel; but this is not rocket science.
***Pictures Courtesy Naij.com(Emmanuel Oshodi)