The hopes of Nigeria returning to the summit of African football maybe not be realized this season following the defeats suffered by three out of the four clubs representing the country at the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup, The SportsBay writes
Enyimba remains the only club in Nigeria with the enviable record of winning the CAF Champions League twice and back to back and it appears it will be a mountain to climb for another club, including the current crop of Enyimba players to match or beat the record.
These poor performances at the continental level have given Nigeria’s top football administrators some huge concern about the growth of the game in the country.
The president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, who has shown his disappointment has urged the clubs to redeem their images following the string of poor results recorded in their first-leg games.
According to Pinnick, even though there is a delay in the commencement of the Nigeria Professional Football League, it is not enough reason to justify the poor results posted by most of the country’s flagbearers on the continent.
He said: “I am very disappointed. In as much as we can point to the fact that the League has not started, there is something called the ‘Nigeria spirit’ and we expect teams flying Nigeria’s colours to have that in them.
“I am at a loss as to how Kano Pillars could be playing away from home, and they led their hosts, only to collapse to a 3-1 defeat.
“Nigerian teams should be made of sterner stuff. I commend Enyimba FC that won away against their opponents in Ouagadougou; that is the way to do it.” Pinnick added.
Last weekend, Plateau United, Rivers United and Kano Pillars lost the first legs of the preliminary stage and the trio will have an uphill task in overturning the deficits this weekend.
It will be recalled that Plateau United lost one-nil in Jos against Tanzanian premier league Champions, Simba Sports Club.
Rivers United lost 2-1 to an Equatoguinean football club, Futuro Kings FC while Kano Pillars lost 3-1 to a Senegalese football club, Jaraaf FC.
With the return legs scheduled for this weekend, the trio are condemned to win their games or kiss their continental hunt for glory goodbye.
To ensure their qualification to the next round, the 4-time Nigeria champions must not concede a goal and must end the game with a 2-0 victory at least. Pillars who are playing in the Confed Cup for the first time will qualify on away goals with a 2-0 scoreline.
Pillars continental sojourn in CAF Champions League in which they featured in five times has not been impressive in the last few years.
2009 remains the best year for the Sai Masu Gida where they ended their sojourn in the semi-finals. In 2011, 2013 and 2015, they were dumped out in the first round while exiting the competition in the preliminary round in 2014.
The players through the legendary captain, Rabiu Alii have been talking tough ahead of the match at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna.
According to Rabi’u, they have put the loss at the back of their minds and their target to ensure they qualify to the second round in the competition.
Rabi’u Ali said they have confidence and ever ready to score the goals that would give smiles to the faces of good people of the state and their fans across the globe today.
“We know our fans are not happy with our result in the first leg were we lost 3-1 against ASC Jaraaf Fc last Saturday but let them be patients that is football you can win, draw or loss but by God grace the second leg will be different,” he said.
However, Jaraaf manager, Malik Daf, has said they will complete the job in Nigeria
“It was necessary to play with the ball, try to eliminate, to create the surplus, to make calls. That’s what we did. And they scored three goals.
“We didn’t even have the chance to score more goals, but I’m not going to blame them too much. We will try to correct all this in order to start the second leg well.
“Qualification will be played in Nigeria and it won’t be easy, but we have the means to do it,” he told CAF media.
The 2017 Nigerian champions have a tougher task of upturning the 1-0 home loss they suffered in Jos when they take Simba FC in their second leg tie in Dar es Salam.
Plateau United will need at least a two-goal victory without conceding any to overturn the result and qualify for the second round of the preliminary fixtures where the winner of the tie over two legs will face either Platinum Stars of South Africa or Costa Du Sol of Angola.
Coach Abdul Maikaba who blamed his players for losing concentration remains optimistic his side can turn the result around because Simba aren’t “invincible” in a tweet.
“Good game against @SimbaSCTanzania they play good football, but they are not invincible, they are just few inches ahead of us because they’ve played 11 league games before now.
“We have done it before, I believe we can do it again winning away from home. We only need your support,” he tweeted.
High spending Rivers United will have the chance to redeem their image when they take on Futuro Kings at Adokiye Amiesimaka International stadium in Port Harcourt tomorrow.
‘The Pride of Rivers’ will have to equally score with at least a 2-goal margin and qualify to the next round on away goals.
The oil-rich club during the transfer season splashed huge sums of money to sign experienced players such as Theophilus Afelokhai and Ifeanyi Anaemena
Coach Eguma during his post-match interview partly blamed the loss to injuries and the prolificacy of the players in front of goal but he is optimistic that the deficit will be overturned in Port Harcourt.
“The result of the game isn’t a reflection of our work and there are some other issues that affected us, the players tried their best but an avalanche of goals that we missed later affected the team psychologically.
“Within 15 – 20 minutes, we should have scored at least two goals, in fact before the end of the first half, we should have been three or four goals up, but the attackers were so wasteful in front of goal and you can’t afford to waste chances in the match of this magnitudes.
“Generally, we should have come out with a win, but that’s football. I believe we can beat them here (Port Harcourt), if we get our strategy right. They are beatable,” he said.
Failure of these teams to secure qualification to the next round will not augur well for the growth of the game. Nigeria will continue to lose its respect as African football giants and the fear factor the other African clubs had will equally fade away.
As such, Plateau United, Rivers United and Kano Pillars are ‘condemned’ to win their games and redeem their own images, thus saving the country some humiliation on the continent.