Stories By STEVE OMA-OFOZOR
LOBI Stars Football Club of Makurdi have boasted to dethrone Heartland in today’s Federation Cup final to keep alive their quest for the double this season.
Lobi are second on the Nigeria Premier League table with 63 points, a point behind leaders Kano Pillars, who they incidentally eliminated to reach Sunday’s final.
Lobi captain Ikpeen Terna in a chat with the press, said that Heartland will fall to the youthful Makurdi team, who have really taken Nigeria by storm this year.
“We are ready for the Federation Cup final against Heartland. This is a great opportunity for us to win the double, we are in good form and spirit to win the trophy. I see nothing special about them. If we could beat Kano Pillars and others, Heartland will go down too,” declared Terna.
However, victory for Lobi today would put them in the right frame for their final match of the NPL away to Kaduna United.
Lobi impressive showing in the league has been attributed to their invincibility at the sub-standard Katsina-Ala Stadium, but top official Dominic Iorfa has brushed aside such talk.
“Why is it that it is now that they are lamenting about our stadium? Before we went to Katsina Ala, we played all our home matches away from home,” said vice-chairman Iorfa, who also doubles as the club’s technical adviser.
“Everybody knows that Lobi are the best team this season in the league. We are now second on the table and we are in the final of the FA Cup and nobody is saying anything.
“Our players are not being looked at for national team assignments and nobody is saying anything.”
The last time a team won a league and cup was in 2006 when Dolphin defeated Bendel Insurance to add the FA Cup to the league title won that year.
However, Lobi, cup winners in 2003, will have their hands full against cup holders Heartland, who upstaged regional rivals Enyimba in last year’s final to put an end to their long wait for a major trophy.
Heartland, then known as Iwuanyanwu Nationale, won their last piece of silverware in 1988 and had to wait for 13 years before their victory over ‘Oriental’ rivals Enyimba last year.
Heartland general manager Fan Ndubuoke said they are prepared to keep that trophy for another year.
“We want to win this trophy again and get a ticket to represent Nigeria on the continent next season,” he said.
“After getting this far, I don’t see my boys not taking the cup back to Owerri. They are well motivated and battle ready for the task ahead. We fear no foes.
“Lobi are a good side, but they cannot stop our march to the trophy. We wish to make it a back-to-back victory.”
Interestingly, Dolphins were the last team to record a back-to-back victory in the cup competition, winning it in 2006 and 2007.
To get to the final, both sides defeated their opponents after penalty shootouts after goalless affairs in normal time.
Lobi edged past Kano Pillars 5-4 on penalties in Calabar, while Heartland put paid to the ambition of giant killers Prime FC of Osogbo in Ilorin 3-0, also on penalties.
The winners of the Federation Cup will represent Nigeria in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup.