The finals of the 2019 Aiteo Cup will be played on Sunday at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna.
The men’s final of the National Cup competition that used to be known over the years and decades variously as Challenge Cup, FA Cup and Federation will see 2017 losing finalists Niger Tornadoes tango with last year’s losing finalists Kano Pillars.
Pillars’ faithful are perhaps yet to recover from last year’s shock, when Masu Gida led Rangers International of Enugu 3-0 for one hour at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, only to watch the 1977 African Cup Winners Cup champions storm back to equalize and then win on penalty shoot-out.
Tornadoes, from Minna, have their own ghosts to exorcise. Having played delightful football under floodlights at the Agege Stadium, Lagos in 2017, they were put to the sword by Akwa United after penalty shoot-out following a scoreless regulation period.
Additionally, the boys from Niger State (popularly known as Ikon Allah) have their fans to appease after surprisingly losing their Nigeria Professional Football League status at the end of the recently –concluded season.
Tornadoes have a lone previous triumph in the competition, after defeating Rangers International 1-0 in the 2000 final. But Pillars are still looking for their first win in the oldest competition in the land and the second oldest in Africa, with only two runners-up position to their name. This, despite tremendous success in the League.
With Pillars finishing third in the Nigeria Professional Football League and already guaranteed of a spot in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup, Niger Tornadoes are guaranteed of the second slot in the continent’s second club competition no matter the outcome of Sunday’s confrontation.
The proximity of Kano and Minna to Kaduna is one factor that is likely to guarantee a sizeable crowd to the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, on the occasion of the third year sponsorship of the competition by Nigeria’s leading energy solution company, AITEO Group.
And even though both teams have pocketed tickets to continental campaigns ahead of Sunday, the mouth –watering cash prize on offer for the winning team is a big incentive to push both to optimum performance.
At stake are prize monies of N25 million for the winner of the men’s competition and N10 million for the winner of the women’s competition. The runner –up for the men’s competition will pocket N10 million, with the runner –up for the women’s event going home with N5 million