It was a rainy morning but the rain suddenly gave way for a beautiful warm afternoon of Federation Cup at the new Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere Lagos.
I made it a point of duty to be among those who will savor all that the rechristened competition has got to offer. Today i will stay with the positives. It was a day Nigerian football league had it rosy from start to finish. Except for some very minor hitches that i prefer to talk about in the next piece, all was well.
The Lagos state Government most be given full credit for this one.
I arrived the stadium about1.30 pm and tried to purchase one VIP ticket but was told its all been bought. I guess i should have made it earlier. I needed a VIP ticket in order to stay away from the usual trouble of the popular side but as i later found out, there really wasn't a need for that as the entire event went smoothly.
I met the chief coach of the Super Eagles at the gate trying to identify himself. The Security man there will not grant Shuaibu Amodu entrance. His reason? He does not know Amodu. I was shocked really that despite his colleges and some of Amodu's entourage and even plea from Amodu himself, the gigantic creature at the gate still refused to allow the super Eagles coach inside the stadium. That is how tight security was! This is not hear say, i saw it with my own eyes.
Well i needed a ticket so i left them and struggled my way to the next gate reserved for ordinary Nigerians so i can't tell if he was later granted entrance. Like i said, i will leave my comment on this till the next post and reserve today for counting the positives.
It was my first time in the Stadium and immediately, after passing through three check points to get to my seat, I realised why Jack warner had eulogized it so much. The picth was perfect and unlike Wembly in England, did not tear off as players kick and tear on it.
The first game wasn't really what i expected but the electrying atmosphere at the stadium can easily make one forget the low standard of play. It was a mamorth crowd; something we have not seen in the league for quite a while. Some spectators were so carried away they started requesting the super Eagles should be brought back to Lagos for their remaining World Cup qualifying matches, as for them, Lagos was the Eagles natural home. The 3rd place match ended 1-3 in favor of Lobi stars. As a matter of fact, many were disappointed with Bayelsa united whom they queried how they managed to win the league with such an abysmal display on a day like this.
Thank God we didn't sleep off! Then it was 4 pm and the teams of the moment were sighted. To cut a long story short, a new order has been created in Nigerian football today. The reign or magic of Kadiri Ikhana refused to work over a more shrewed and purposeful Austin Eguavoen's Eyimba. From start to finish, Sharks displayed excellent skills but always seem lost at the final third, when it matters most. They dominated the play, worked very hard and went very close at about 4 minutes into the first half.
At the opposite end, it was the exact opposite, Eyimba didn't really get into game till in the second half. But whenever, they manage to get to the box of their opponent, they appear more likely to score. They were much more business-like in the box than sharks and i knew that was going to separate the two sides and it did. A single first half goal was all Eyimba needed to lift the Federation cup for the second time as well as leave Sharks of port Harcourt in their trophy drought.
The positives here was that, the standard of play was good enough, officiating was excellent, crowd control was good until the end, and the CROWD. No one could believe that Nigerians can turn out in such numbers to watch a football match that does not involve Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal etc. It shows that with proper organisation and publicity, our league can become very big despite the dearth of big names in the local league.
Thumbs up to the Lagos State Givernement, Super Sports and don't forget our own Brila for Reala.