This year's Federation Cup final will be full of drama and intrigues when Heartland and Lobi file out on Sunday in Lagos
Heartland are the defending champions after a 1-0 win over Enyimba from last year and are targeting another victory to add to the one they won in 1988. But they are very keen on adding the 2012 edition to their trophy cabinet to join the class of elite clubs that have successfully won the competition after serving as cup holders the earlier year.
Clubs in this category are Enugu Rangers (1974-1976), El Kanemi Warriors(1991,1992), BCC Lions (1993,1994), and Dolphins (2006,2007).
Heartland (then Iwuanyanwu Nationale) defeated Flash Flamingoes 3-0 to lift their first trophy in1988 while they lost in the following year's final to BCC Lions. It ended 1-0 in favour of the Gboko-based club.
Now re-christened Heartland, they waited for more than 20 years to win their second title when they beat their neighbours Enyimba 1-0 in Lagos last year.
On the part of Lobi too they have not been too fortunate in the Federation Cup competition as they have only managed two final appearances in 2003 and 2005. Lobi won in their very first final outing in 2003 when they beat Sharks of Port Harcourt 2-0 in the finals played at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium.
But they lost the other in 2005 to Enyimba who defeated them 6-5 on penalties after the game had ended 1-1 apiece.
Goal.com spoke with Heartland's skipper Chinedu Efugh who disclosed that the club are motivated by the zeal to defend the trophy after their rough road to the final this term.
"We are going to win in the final even though it won't be easy at all. We want to defend the trophy and this is our biggest motivation as we seek our third conquest. Lobi are no doubt a good side but we are banking on our form to do us a big favour on Sunday. Yes it is true we have gone through so many problems concerning finance, but the fact that we are in the finals means we are ready to retain the trophy.
"Not many clubs will pass through what we went through and still play to the finals of the Federation Cup. That will be the greatest motivation to beat Lobi Stars at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on Sunday ," Efugh, popularly called Chicago told Goal.com.
Lobi's ace, Jonah Abutu also told Goal.com about the chances of his club in the final on Sunday.
"We are not going to take any chances at all against Heartland. We are the favourites to lift the trophy after we overcame a difficult Kano Pillars' side. We will not underrate Heartland.
"When you look at the way we are playing, you will realise that we have forgotten how to lose matches. But I am confident that we are going to win the trophy against Heartland," Abutu boasted.
Both teams have the players to deliver the goods. Heartland have Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Julius Ubido, Daniel Akpeyi, Jolly Osas, Brendan Ogbu, Benjamin Francis,Osas Okoro and Chinedu Efugh.
These players can turn the table against a well oiled Lobi Stars although they will miss Kabiru Umar who was red carded in the match against Prime of Oshogbo in the semi-finals in Ilorin.
Lobi Stars can also boast of quality players that are capable of winning the trophy. They have Abutu, David Tyvkasse, Moses Orkuma, Ezekiel Sunday, Anthony Abaluwa, Tony Okpotu and inspirational keeper John Lawrence.
It is very difficult to predict a clear cut winner because both clubs are on equal footing ahead of the encounter but the team that takes its chances will emerge victorious. The thrid place game between Kano Pillars and Prime starts by 2pm before the finals.