Football, soccer, the beautiful game, jogo bonito, footy, ball… it is known by many names. The sport is played by thousands and enjoyed by millions around the world. You would not be amiss to say that football is a powerful tool for entertainment, identity, and inspiration to all sorts of people. True to its role in making a passage through Ibadan medical school a little less drab, it is no wonder football is such a big deal in ABH.

Anyone who has watched football in ABH- particularly the ABH league can attest to just how heart-stopping matches can be. It is usually end-to-end stuff, with bone crunching tackles and flashes of footballing brilliance, accompanied by the roar of a crowd calling for blood. You could draw parallels to south American football. And like south American football, it is plagued by a lot of ills. The most recent of these being a case of match fixing.

ABH matches are heartstopping spectacles

The alleged match-fixing happened in a Dr Aire FA cup match between Skippo FC and Gladiators on the 10th of September 2022. The cup standings guaranteed qualification to the next round for both teams if they played a goalless draw, so it did not really surprise anyone that regular time ended without a goal from either side. The match then went to extra time, which the owners of both teams were reportedly not too happy about. They were both then said to agree- within earshot of the officiating linesman, to have the match end as it was. These instructions were then passed on to their players.

According to the ABH FA chairman, Mark Obeya, “The on-field performance was a pointer. Players were juggling the ball in a competitive match. A player got to right in front of the opposition keeper and kicked the ball all the way back to his keeper. A member of one of the teams even bragged to me before the extra time started that they had agreed to play 0-0.”

The FA unanimously ruled that the behaviour of the owners and players amounted to match fixing and promptly disqualified both teams from the cup. Mr Obeya went on to say, “The act brought disrepute to the competition and that is not something to be condoned for a competition that has earned its reputation over the years for fair and excellent contest”.

When reached out to, Skippo of Skippo FC accused the FA of targeting his team. “Who said I fixed a match with Gladiators? I don’t understand what the FA is talking about. A team that beat me before? They just don’t want me in the final. I was robbed.” Newman of Gladiators appealed to the competition’s  sponsor, Dr Aire, who upheld the FA’s decision. This came after his appeal to the FA was turned down. Newman however declined to speak to the press.

As a result of the ban, Blazers FC and D’Infernos progressed to the next round, despite losing their first games. The drama carried on to the next round of fixtures. Blazers FC shocked everyone by going two goals up against Stampede United. Eventually, Stampede got their act together and equalized. In the second leg, Blazers once again went two goals up. Stampede United would score eventually, but it would be too little, too late. They only managed to pull one goal, ensuring Blazers FC’s surprise place in the FA cup final.

Blazers FC celebrating their win against Stampede United.

Titans and D’Infernos played a five-goal thriller in the first leg with the Titans only just edging out D’Infernos. The second leg was poised to be a cracker, but with an outpouring from the heavens accompanied by the crack of thunder, the match was postponed till Wednesday, the 28th of September 2022.

So far, the FA cup has more than delivered what it promised. With two more games to go, everyone who knows what the arena of blood and sand has to offer are rubbing their hands in anticipation. Who will take the prize home? Let’s see, shall we?

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