Federation Cup action begins
The race for the 2012 Federation Cup has begun across the country.
Instituted in 1945 as the Governor's Cup, the competition is an annual football ritual that gives part-timers and amateurs an opportunity to rub shoulders with established top flight professional players in a knockout format, which begins from the states.
Owerri-based Nigeria Premier League side, Heartland, emerged champions of the 2011 edition after a 1-0 victory over 2005 and 2009 champions, Enyimba.
It was the first victory for Heartland, after winning the 1988 edition as Iwuanyanwu Nationale.
Sunshine Stars have moved to the next round of the competition in Ondo State following their victory over a non-league side on Tuesday, while rivals, Rising Stars, which is struggling in the top flight will
face another non-league side, on Saturday.
Speaking to SuperSport.com, Sunshine Stars' gaffer, Gbenga Ogunbote said: "We want to win every competition and the Federation Cup is no exception. However, we have to start the job from Ondo State."
Sunshine Stars have never played in the final of the competition.
Ilorin-based Premier League sides, Kwara United and ABS are favourites in Kwara State, but they have to contend with several ambitious non-league and amateur sides.
Kwara United have a date with Al-jazira, on Sunday, and rivals, ABS will begin their quest against Young Star, on Monday.
Amateur side, Offa United, have advanced to the next round. The team played a goalless draw against Igbo Traders Football Association, but edged the part-timers 3-2 on penalties.
However, surprise winners of the Kwara State edition last year, Kwara Football Academy are through to the next round without kicking a ball.
The race is also on in Ekiti State, where newly formed Rason FC eliminated Fountain B on penalties to move into the next stage.
Rason boss, John Ofulue expressed confidence that his wards will progress in Ekiti State.
"Rason is a new club, but our desire is to make an impact in the country through the Federation Cup," he said to SuperSport.com.
Chairman of Niger State Football Association, Ahmed Yusuf Fresh, told SuperSport.com that the competition will begin on April 16.
Preliminary matches will be played in other states in April and May.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Football Federation, has fixed July 29 for the final at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.