Akwa United head coach Abdu Maikaba has voiced his concern over the choice of the tiny Agege Township Stadium for this Sunday’s AITEO Cup final but insists his side will be ready for the big day.
Maikaba’s side qualified for a second final in three years after a 3-2 aggregate victory over Sunshine Stars on Sunday and will face fellow top division side Niger Tornadoes in Sunday’s final in Lagos.
Agege Stadium is the home ground of Nigeria Professional Football League side MFM FC which has an AstroTurf pitch as well as a maximum capacity of just 4,000. Maikaba is obviously not comfortable with it.
“Not even the (synthetic) surface. In such a final, we need a natural turf that players can express themselves on and you know such surface is not good for players carrying little little injuries.
“But all the same we have been in the Nigerian league. Almost 80% of the centres have this type of pitch. Whether we like it or not, we must do it there and it’s just for a day, ninety minutes,” Maikaba told www.aclsports.com
Seeing that both football stadiums in Uyo – the Nest of Champions and the Old Uyo Stadium – have natural turfs, Maikaba is hoping to prepare his team for the final outside of the Akwa-Ibom state capital.
“I’ve made a proposal to the management so that we can leave very early to a venue where we can train at a synthetic pitch for at least four days. It will help a lot.”
United’s final opponents Niger Tornadoes have no such worries as their home ground in Lokoja also has an AstroTurf pitch. Winners of the Cup in 2000, Tornadoes have eliminated teams who play at home on natural surfaces in the last two rounds and Maikaba is not ready to underrate them.
“They are a very good side,” said the former Wikki Tourists coach.
“Any team that will reach this level, you can’t look down on that team. They must be good. They eliminated the league champions, they eliminated the cup holders so we have to be very careful and make sure that the last day is our day.”
Both former winners of the competition will jostle for the maiden final under its new name with the winner going home with a cash prize of 25 million Nigerian naira.