Legendary footballer and former national team captain Christian Chukwu bares his mind on how to make the oldest football competition in the country more attractive
The Federation Cup no doubt used to be one of the biggest football tournaments in Nigeria. This competition was so big that Nigerians never hid their admiration for the excitement it brought as they would troop to the stadium to watch clubs like BBC Lions of Gboko, IICC Shooting stars of Ibadan, Iwuayanwu Nationale of Owerri, Julius Berger of Lagos, Rangers of Enugu and the likes as they battled for supremacy.
On match days, it was certain that hours before the kick off, streets would be empty; shops would close down as attention shifted to the oldest and most prestigious football tournament in Nigeria. Corporate sponsors would pull and push to associate their brands with it. Even football scouts from top European club sides were not left out as they never stopped parading match venues to pencil down great talents.
Today, the story has changed as the Federation Cup 9formerly known as the Challenge Cup) is now a shadow of its old self. Many have not stopped asking what has gone wrong with the tournament once labeled Nigeria's 'world cup'. Why has it lost the glamour, prestige and funfair associated with it? Why have the sponsors taken to their heels?
Christian Chukwu fondly known as ‘Chairman’ captained Enugu Rangers to glory in the FA Cup on five occasions, and he knows the trophy and what it should mean to Nigerians. Chukwu opened up to Goal on how to revive the lost glory of the Federation Cup
“The Federation cup is not the tournament we used to know. At times, people are not aware that the competition is being played. This is what our administrators need to re-address and bring it back to what it used to be. I am very much concerned and I wish it could be revived.”
“I think we don’t have the kind of quality players we used to have. Attention has now shifted to Chelsea, Arsenal and so on, so our football is not having those qualities it used to have.”
“You can hardly see any club that attracts crowd now except by name. During our own time clubs were identified by the names of the players. We say we are playing professional football and we hardly find players from other countries featuring in our league, these are some of those things that attract crowds instead the smaller countries are taking away our star players. These are some of the reasons why the competition has lost its glory.”
“Our clubs should hold firm to their players. When these small countries come for them, we allow them to go even when they are not mature enough to leave. Instead we should go abroad and buy quality players. I'm very sure if we have a star player in our league, you will be tempted to go to the stadium and watch him. This is what we need for our Federation Cup so that it will come back to what it used to be. With these, it will attract more sponsors.” Chukwu concluded.
The Federation Cup competition began in 1945 and this year's edition has now entered the round of 32. Defending champions Heartland of Owerri have won the last two editions.