As the mood of the 2022 Nigerian FA Cup – the Aiteo Cup – began to build up across the country starting with the States’ competitions for slots in the national finals, a 1990 finalist with Rangers International, Ikechukwu Nwimo, regrets that the once glamorous football showpiece has lost it’s attraction and needs revival, Completesports.com reports.
Nwimo, also a former Enyimba midfield maestro, recalls thatin his days playing in the Nigerian FA Cup, clubs had formidable teams and players were giving their best, passionately, on the field of play – also the players were given adequate training and discipline reigned supreme.
“When we were playing then with Rangers International in1990, every team in enugu had a formidable team. We were playing for name not money – teams like Rangers, Vasco, ASESA Warriors, Police, Railways, UNTH and so on,” Nwimo told Completesports.com in an exclusive interview.
“Now they are playing for money and not even being fit and they don’t train well these days. They lack discipline. They lack commitment”.
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Nwimo also recalls that the qualifying format Nigerian FA Cup at the States’ level then was different from what obtains now.
“The qualifying goes like, the winner then – that was the old Anambra State – will represent the State. And each zone had four teams from four different States. Then the overall winner from the zone will remain at the zone while the runners-up from other zones will come and meet the winner,” he explained.
Nwimo recalls with nostalgia, the 1990 Nigerian FA Cup final when his side Rangers International and Stationery Stores entertained Nigerians.
“The 1990 FA cup final between Rangers and Stationery Stores of Lagos – I played in the final. The match was played two times before it ended in a penalty shootout which I played the third penalty kick for Rangers. However, we lost 5- 4,” he said.
“The experience will still remain in my memory because the publicity was something else. Every news was about the match. From the quarter-finals, we were using flight sponsored by Mic Mac communication, to go to Lagos . And the match was live on NTA that has the right to air the matches then . Abdulsalami Abubakar was the guest of honor”.
Looking at the teams and players competing for the 2022 Neros Pharmaceuticals Anambra FA Cup title that goes with N2 million prize money , Nwimo insists they don’t have what it takes to command national attraction.
“The problem, I may say, is that I don’t even see quality players, and good funding for the clubsides because everybody wants to make money,” he remarked.
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“In Awka, for example, there are many clubs, but if they can come together and pick the best players I think they might do something. Thats why I don’t think any team from Anambra State has gone to National quarter-finals in recent time”.
Nwimo would also advise the organisers of Anambra State FA Cup to embrace fairness and shun selfishness.
“The organisers should be fair and stop in-house fighting. Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi, Ihiala, everybody wants their team to win by using the match officials. Before you know it, none of them will qualify.”
By Chigozie Chukwuleta, Awka
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