Lobi Stars are the favourites to win a second Federation Cup today at the expense of fellow premier league side Akwa United, who are appearing at their first-ever cup final.
Lobi beat Sharks 2-0 in the 2003 final to clinch the country’s oldest football competition and were also beaten finalists in 2012, when they lost 2-1 to Heartland.
Last week, both teams clashed in a final league game with Akwa United winning by the odd goal to stay afloat in the country’s top flight.
Both teams battled against relegation in the just concluded season and will now end the season on a high by annexing a major piece of silverware.
It could well be the last hurrah on the big stage for Lobi’s vice-chairman Dominic Iorfa, who has been in charge of the club for more than a decade.
Akwa United and Lobi Stars have experienced coaches namely Zakary Baraje and Justin Tenger respectively on their benches with Tenger even previously in charge of the Uyo club.
The goalkeepers of Lobi Stars and Akwa United, Tekai Melai and Olufemi Kayode, are claiming victory ahead of today’s showdown.
Lobi’s Tekai Melai said triumph in the cup competition will return the Makurdi club to the top of Nigerian football.
“I am very excited and happy we are playing the Federation Cup final because it will go a long way to prove that Lobi Stars rightfully belong to the top as far as Nigerian football is concerned, we want to prove that by winning it,” said the penalty-scoring goalkeeper, whose team will be wearing commemorative jerseys specially for the final.
“We have been preparing for the game in the usual manner with our eyes fully fixed on the trophy. We want to win the cup for the government and good people of Benue State.”
In same vein, Akwa United safest hands Olufemi Kayode said they are set to hit the continent as Federation Cup winners.
“We are very focused on the Federation Cup final and we are going all out for victory to get a continental ticket,” said Kayode.
“We are not allowing the victory we have over them in the last game of the season get into our heads because it’s a different ball game, so we are focused on doing the job on today.”