The last edition of the Wale Okediran football competition saw the Stalwarts roar and display their dominance and fierceness. The Stalwarts won the competition for the first time after defeating the Phoenix, who had never won it but had been to the final twice. The final was graced with the presence of the Grand patron and sponsor of the competition, Honorable Wale Okediran and his wife, Mrs Okediran, Prof Ajila, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (administration), Prof Benice Adegbehingbe (Former Dean Faculty of Clinical Sciences), Dr Eleruja and Prof Agbakwuru. The match was officiated by ‘Lolu Akinteye who was assisted by Timilehin Okunola, Sunday Osuntoye, and Temitayo Matthew.
The Stalwarts had a very smooth ride to the finals after bullying their two junior classes: Unicus Medicus and Exypnos Medicus 4-0 and 2-0, respectively, during the group stage. They went on to knock their immediate seniors, Excelsiors, who they’d be facing in the final tomorrow at a scoreline of 3 nil.
The Phoenix, on the other hand, happened to be playing their last competition. They had given their all, winning one of their group stage matches and drawing the remaining two. They progressed to the semis and shocked the Exypnos who were tipped to be favourites with a victory, coming from behind to grab a 4-2 win.
In the finals, however, the Phoenix lost their wings at the sight of the fierce and hungry Stalwart Lions. The game started with the Stalwarts very much in control, and they grabbed the lead almost halfway into the first half through a free-kick which Japheth converted beautifully. The Phoenix grabbed an equaliser a few minutes later following a horrible mistake from the Stalwarts shot-stopper, Paulo, who let the ball bounce right in front of him and get past his grasp, leaving Adedeji with the ball and the empty post. He made no mistake in nodding the ball in.
Towards the end of the first half, Hammed restored the Lions lead. The Phoenix was awarded a penalty kick early in the second half, which Obaro stepped up to take. However, Paulo showed why he deserved the award of the golden glove by saving the initial kick, and the rebound was sent inches above the crossbar. The Lions fully established their dominance a few seconds after the hour mark when Japheth grabbed his brace. Japheth ran the show well in the final. However, a red card late in the game was the only blemish to his beautiful performance.
The Stalwarts went home with all the awards. Hammed received the Golden Boot award after scoring four goals, Paulo, who conceded only one goal in the competition, went home with the golden glove. And Sheriff, a player whose influence on the pitch was undeniable, went home with the golden ball. Coach Folarin, who managed the champions, went home with the award of the best Manager.
Tomorrow, the Lions will be faced with a stronger test as they set out to defend their title against the strong and fierce side, Excelsiors.
Who will be the next Champions?
It will be a rekindling of old rivalries as the Stalwart Lions will be hoping to defend their title against the hungry and energetic Excelsiors. Both teams have fought so hard to progress this far in the competition, which kicked off three weeks ago.
The Excelsiors kicked off their campaign with a win in a keenly contested game against the Exypnos Medicos, who were also tipped to be favourites. The game ended one-nil in the favour of the Excelsiors despite the strong fight the Exypnos Medicos pulled off.
The Badru-led team went on to knock out their old rivals, Eximus Grandis, and hand them their very first defeat in the competition within the 90th minute in the semis. It came with a fine play from the Excelsior captain, Noni, who snatched a late winner following a beautiful combination between him and his centre back pairing, Sasuke.
The defending champions have also had an impressive campaign, thrashing the Unicus Medicus three-nil in their opener. Stalwarts, however, met with a bit of a test after the soon-to-be doctors, Novitalis, forced them into a shootout. The Stalwarts won 6-5 following a 1-1 draw in normal time. The stalwarts, who are yet to lose a Wale Okediran Cup game since 2018, are known to be a high scoring side and have only conceded two goals in two games in their last six games of the competition.
Both teams have met three times with the Excelsiors, winning twice and the Stalwarts winning their last encounter. Their meetings have produced 12 goals in total. The final, to kick off the IFUMSA health week, promises to be an entertaining blockbuster tie tipped to be filled with plenty of talking points and possibly lots of goals.