By Patrick Omorodion
Not many people will know that for the Lagos State Government which is footing the bills for the 2009 Federation Cup final (it used to be FA Cup before now), todayâ€™s epic match between former African Champions, Enyimba Football Club of Aba and Sharks Football Club of Port Harcourt could not have been possible, or better still would have been colourless.
As it is usual with the present Board of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) under Alhaji Sani Lulu, they had no plans for the competition after its former sponsor, Coca Cola pulled out. A last minute visit to Governor Babatunde Fashola, himself an ardent lover of football, changed the situation.
Lagos State did not only buy the idea of supporting the 2009 final, it asked the NFF to give it the right to host three subsequent editions after todayâ€™s final, but surprisingly the NFF turned down the request, Sunday Vanguard Sports gathered.
So after todayâ€™s final, the country may be forced to have an uneventful final next year and beyond, as the NFF may wait until the last minute before looking for another sponsor for the 2010 edition.
So when football fans troop to the Teslim Balogun stadium, donâ€™t be deceived that the carnival-like atmosphere they may see and savour was the handiwork of the NFF. The Lagos State government has budgeted about N6 million to make the final glamorous, like it used to be in the past. Fans are alsoÂ expected to win some prizes from the raffle expected to be drawn there.
Aside the entertainment, fans will be thrilled with scintillating soccer artistry from two sides that are not new to this competition. Enymba as former champions while Sharks have always gone so close but missing it on each occasion.
Todayâ€™s tie, apart from the fact that it would be a direct fight between players of both teams, it is a test of whoâ€™s a better tactician between Kadiri Ikhana, Sharks coach and Austin Eguavoen, Enyimbaâ€™s handler.
For experience, it could be said Ikhana would carry the day as he has won laurels with different clubs in the country, including his opponents today, Enyimba who he tinkered to their first Africa Champions League triumph.
But because football is not mathematics, as is fondly said, Eguavoen, who has seen it all at the national level, leading the Super Eagles to a bronze at the 2006 Africa Nations Cup in Egypt, may pull some tricks out of his bag to neutralise Ikhanaâ€™s tactics.
On the part of the players, the Aba Elephants are more motivated, so to speak, with the N500,000 cash promise from Abia Governor, Chief Theodore Orji if they bring the trophy tp Umuahia. Sharks are missing the benevolence of former governor, Dr. Peter Odili who could have doubled whatever the Abia government is offering Enyimba. Governor Rotimi Amaechi is not known to be a lavish spender.
Sharks need the trophy more to launch themselves into the continent for the Confederations CupÂ next year but Enyimba who have already picked a ticket for the same competition as third place finishers in the Globacom Premier league, want to be champions again.