•Okara vows to win women’s title for Bayelsa fans

The Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, Delta State is the centre of attraction on Wednesday (today), as the winners of this year’s Federation Cup will be decided in the men and women’s final, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.

Six-time winners Enugu Rangers and three-time champions Bendel Insurance will lock horns in the men’s final after Nigeria Women’s Football League powerhouses Bayelsa Queens and Rivers Angels slug it out in the women’s final.

Insurance needed penalties to edge second-tier side Warri Wolves 3-2 in the semi-finals, while Enugu Rangers booked their place in the final after leaving it late to beat another NPFL side Plateau United 1-0.

Having met in the 1978 and 1981 finals, this year’s match-up will be the third FA Cup final meeting between both sides. Enugu Rangers have won six (1974, 1975, 1976, 1981, 1983 and 2018) while Insurance won three titles in 1972, 1978 and 1980.

In their previous two clashes in the final, Insurance won the 1978 edition 3-0, while Rangers avenged the loss with a 2-0 triumph three years later.

Aside from the title, a place in next season’s CAF Confederation Cup is also at stake in the men’s game, setting up a fight to finish between Rangers and Insurance, who came off the back of contrasting performances in the just-concluded 2022/23 Nigeria Professional Football League season.

After a remarkable run, which saw them go unbeaten in 21 games last season, Insurance fell short of a place on the continent in the NPFL, after finishing in a disappointing fifth position at the Super 6 playoffs.

On the other hand, Rangers managed to finish two points above the relegation zone during the NPFL regular season. However, they only lost one game in the second stanza of the season (against Abia Warriors in March) and have only conceded once in their run to the FA Cup final.

“Our opponents are a good side, they have shown character by not losing games easily. But we also don’t concede much in the FA Cup. With that, there is a lot of hope that the game will favour Rangers. I have won the FA Cup with Akwa United before, Rangers have also won it six times and winning it the seventh time for Rangers and a second title for myself will be special,” Rangers coach, Abdul Maikaba told our correspondent.

Maikaba also hopes to ride on the ‘Never Say Die’ spirit of the Flying Antelopes, who famously won the FA Cup at the same venue by beating Kano Pillars 4-3 on penalties after coming back from three goals down.

“With that win in 2019, I believe the Rangers family are psychologically thinking and prepared for victory. Imagine being able to come back from three goals down with 15 minutes to the end of the game. This same venue is hosting us against Insurance, I hope it will favour us like it did in 2018,” the coach said.

Bayelsa Queens vs Rivers Angels

With both missing out on the NWFL title in the just-concluded season, holders Bayelsa Queens and Rivers Angels will battle for supremacy before the men’s game.

Despite their credentials of representing the country in the first and second editions of the CAF Women’s Champions League, both clubs will only compete for the title after they were beaten to the NWF crown by Delta Queens.

Bayelsa Queens’ disappointing NWFL Super 6 run was made sour by the road accident that claimed the lives of four of their supporters and left others injured.

In a chat with our correspondent, Bayelsa Queens coach, Domo Okara, expressed his desire to win the FA Cup in honour of the fans.

“It was a pathetic situation; they were coming to support us before the accident and the least we can do is to win the FA Cup in their honour.

“At the same time, we lost our continental ticket to Delta Queens and we want to use this as a consolation,” Okara said.

Since winning the league in 2021, Rivers Angels have missed out on a podium finish in the NWFL for the second season running and their coach, Edwin Okon, also talked up the importance of winning the title.

The women’s game will kick-off by 2pm while the men’s final will follow at 5pm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *