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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Nigeria: Wednesday’s Aiteo Cup quarterfinal fiasco increases criticism of domestic football

Earlier this week when the Confederation of African Football (CAF) carried out its draw for the preliminary round of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup it caused issues in Nigerian domestic football due to the revelation that Kwara United was selected by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to represent the country in the Confederation Cup as opposed to the winner of the Aiteo Cup competition per usual protocol. The NFF had little choice in the matter due to the fact the Aiteo Cup was still ongoing with a club needing to be submitted by CAF’s deadline but the clubs still competing in the cup’s quarterfinal stage threatened to walk out on the competition.

As a result of the threats from the clubs Wednesday’s quarterfinal fixtures ended up being a disaster. Lobi Stars and Kano Pillars failed to show up for their matches which resulted in Niger Tornadoes and second tier side Kogi United advancing via walkover. Wikki Tourists and Nasarawa United did not play their fixture as well and their match has reportedly rescheduled for this weekend. The only match that was played was Heartland FC’s matchup against Katsina United which saw Heartland advance 4-1 in a penalty kick shootout after the teams played to a scoreless draw.

The Nigerian government’s Ministry of Youth and Sports Development condemned the the NFF’s handling of the situation with a press statement stating that “our league has never sunk this low. The Federal Government will be left with no choice than to act to save the crumbling system in place and bring about desired changes”. With the NFF scheduling the final of both the men’s and women’s editions of the Aiteo Cup for August 17 it will be a race to sort out the situation on schedule with clubs remaining in the dark.

Links to Nigerian media reports on the situation are below followed by highlights from Heartland FC and Katsina United match.

Heartland FC 0-0 Katsina United (Heartland advance 4-1 on penalties)