Against all expectations, Akwa United yesterday defeated favourites Lobi Stars 2-1 to claim their first ever Nigeria Federation Cup at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.
The Akwa Ibom owned team reconfirmed that its Match Day 38 defeat of the Benue team in Uyo that made the Promise Keepers remain in the topflight of the Nigerian professional league was no fluke.
Nonso Edo set the ball rolling for Akwa United when his free-kick in the 36th minute found the back of Lobi net. The kick was the resultant of the infringement on Friday Ubong in the 18-yard box of Lobi.
All efforts by Lobi to cancel the advantage of Akwa met stiff resistance all through the first stanza. The effort continued in the second half but instead of reprieve, it was Abdulafeez Awakan who doubled the advantage for Akwa United in the 70th minute.
Awakan rifled home powerfully in the peripheral of Lobi box to send Akwa Ibom fans in the stands into endless celebration of a historic Federation Cup already within their reach.
Barnabas Imengar Jnr who came on as a sub however got a consolatory goal for Lobi in stoppage time from a brilliantly taken free kick. The goal was not enough to ease the pains of thousands of Benue State indigenes who were hoping to pick another Federation Cup after former BCC Lions had set the pace with the old Challenge Cup in Bauchi in 1989.
Lobi had similarly won this cup in 2003 and were hoping for an encore.
The last time Akwa United came close to winning Federation Cup was two years ago when they reached the last four. But they were stopped in their tracks by Warri Wolves.
By this victory, Akwa United will represent Nigeria in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup.
Also yesterday, Sunshine Queens won the Women’s version of the Federation Cup after they defeated Bayelsa Queens 3-1 on penalties after full time scores stood at 1-1.
Last year, Sunshine Queens lost to Rivers Angels in the cup final.
Meanwhile, Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State has indicated that the state will seek Public Private Partnership in the running of the state-owned Club, Akwa United.
Speaking ahead of the Federation Cup final at the weekend, Udom promised to transform Akwa United Football Club to a force to reckon with in next season, through a public private partnership arrangement (PPP).
The governor also promised better welfare package for players and management of the club.
“My intention is to turn the team (Akwa United) to a team to beat in the country. As part of the strategies, we will set up a feeder team for the club in partnership with a football academy,” he added.
Udom said the state government through the Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework, has reached a deal with Julius Berger PLC for the establishment of an International Football Academy that will produce future footballers for the team (Akwa United) and the nation at large.
He also said sports centres and recreational facilities are currently being developed across various centres in the state, which upon completion, he said, will service Akwa United Football Club and other teams operating in the state.
“We are developing ten sports academies across the ten federal constituencies of the state to ensure Akwa Ibom youths are given the right platform to perform optimally at all levels,” Governor Udom added.
Commenting on the successful completion of the 2014/2015 Nigerian Professional Football league season, the governor also lauded the League Management Company (LMC) for re-engineering the administration of the league, which he said has opened bigger possibilities for the empowerment of Nigerian youths.