Football fiesta: Edo Aiteo FA Cup set to kick off in Benin City

By Daily Sports on April 26, 2018

Views: 1,019

The rebranded Bendel Insurance of pro-league division one, newcomers to the same Nigerian professional league Dynamite Force FC, grassroots outfit and 2015 quarterfinalists in the National Federation Cup BJ Foundation; all big names of Edo football alongside 29 other grassroots clubs are set to slug it out in this 2018 Edo state FA Cup competition which kicks off on Friday afternoon in the ancient city of Benin, the state capital.

Draws for the FA Cup, which is being sponsored by energy conglomerates Aiteo Group, were held last Friday but official confirmation of dates and venues were only communicated to the teams on Wednesday afternoon after an anxious and worried wait by grassroots clubs seeking clarity on when their matches would be coming up to enable them sort out the usual teething logistics problems that befall most of the cash-strapped clubs.

But now, the teams know their match dates and there are a number of juicy fixtures lined up.

All matches (bar the final which venue is yet to be decided) are scheduled to hold at the University of Benin (UNIBEN) Sports Complex with some preliminary matches running concurrently at the university’s main bowl and the lush artificial training pitch at the sports complex located in Ugbowo in the far west of Benin.

The curtain raiser is between newcomers Alhaji FC and Yak Sports 1 FC at the main bowl of the sports facility at 3pm.

Alhaji are seriously being tipped for greatness despite their status as a new club, owing to the mix of very experienced FA cup campaigners and technically very gifted youngsters in their fold.

Players to watch out for in Alhaji’s team include midfield brothers Kester and Abaho Erhabor. 

While Kester is more of an attacking midfielder in the mold of Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta, Abaho has developed into a fantastic central midfielder.  He was part of the young BJ Foundation team that surprised many by winning the FA cup in 2015.

Yak Sports are said to have the backing of ex-Super Eagles attacker Yakubu Aiyegbeni and are coached by former Golden Eagles goalkeeper of Japan ’93 fame Emmanuel Okhenebor popularly called Maleke in Benin.

Yak play a thrilling possession-based style of football as coach Maleke gives his players the freedom and confidence to play.

Bendel Insurance would begin their title defence against dark horses Eagles Wings on Monday.

NPL side Insurance pride themselves as being rebranded owing to the infusion of more financial support for the club from the Edo government and the general psychological resolve to steer the team back to the top echelons of Nigerian football.

Dynamite Force, last year’s runners-up, have got a new status as a professional football club after they put up a strong and determined performance to qualify to the 1st Division of Nigerian football, away from the amateur ranks where they have been in the past few years.

With an experienced and focused owner Bernard Jomah, Dynamite are working hard to show the way in elite football management and marketing with the club's marketing department branding policy.

But it is on the field that the club will be judged.  And Benin City fans would get a taste of what Dynamite have go offer this season as they take to the field against Okhomu FC on Monday, April 30, by 4pm immediately after the Bendel Insurance vs Eagles Wings game.

Another very highly rated grassroots club is Shola FC of Benin City. The club, with a very rich history of grooming top players for Nigeria, is named after legendary grassroots coach Shola Akeem who owned the club but unfortunately passed away in 2016.

Now the team is under the management of two young and well-respected coaches Oshele and Ifeanyi.

Shola FC receives strong backing from one of the ex-players of the club Orji Okonkwo who is currently contracted to Italian Seria A side Bologna. 

Just last week Saturday, in a very thrilling friendly game against BJ Foundation, Shola FC came from two goals down to beat former Edo FA Cup champions BJ Foundation 3-2.

Shola have added great steel to their usual sweet football and have recruited well in attack which used to be an issue with the club in recent competitions.

The general consensus amongst those who watched the match with BJ was that Shola are a balanced side with young and energetic players who could run through a wall for their coaches.

Shola FC will come up against Morning Dew who have in their fold former Bendel Insurance captain and very respected skillful midfielder Gabriel Benson. 

Mountain Dew are no pushovers themselves having come close to winning the top football competitions in Edo State in the recent past. They are a very united group with a strong sense of purpose and play good football themselves.

Kick off time of the Shola vs Morning Dew match is 4pm on Friday, May 4, at the training pitch of the UNIBEN sports complex.

One of Nigeria’s top grassroots clubs in terms of achievement is BJ Foundation FC. They have an intimidating profile of having produced the likes of Ederson Echiejile, Victor Moses, Mikel Agu and Isaac Success, all stars of the Nigerian National team who are playing their club football in big European clubs.

BJ FC are up against Pealmag FC in what promises to be a cracker of a match kicking off by 2pm on Monday afternoon.

Pearlmag placed second in the Edo State League last year and have a bunch of rising youngsters who are considered amongst the best in Edo State.

Another top fixture is between Benin Warriors (Edo State League champions of 2016) and newcomers but heavily funded Rocksters FC on Wednesday, May 2, at the training pitch of the sports complex of UNIBEN.

As they say: “Let the ball roll!”

Source Daily Sports

Posted April 26, 2018

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