CAF CONFEDERATION CUP
- Pinnick commends Ikpeazu, Monimichelle over Aba Stadium
Chairman of Enyimba FC, Felix Anyasi-Agwu, Thursday attributed the qualification of the Aba team for the quarter final of this year’s CAF Confederation Cup to hard work.
Speaking with THISDAY, several hours after the People’s Elephant snatched an added time lone goal victory against Congo’s CARA Brazzaville at the newly refurbished Aba Stadium on Wednesday night, Anyasi-Agwu insisted that Enyimba didn’t play like a team whose league has been on recess long before the World Cup in Russia.
“We knew the opposition we were going to face in the CAF Confederation Cup and so had to ensure that our players were engaged meaningfully all through the period before the NPFL returns.
“Enyimba didn’t feel the absence of the league because of our good preparation. We knew the opposition to expect and used friendly matches to put our players in shape,” observed the club chairman ho is also a board member of the NFF.
Despite the boast by Anyasi-Awgu that he had the premonition of Enyimba’s victory, the Aba Elephant chief executive was worried that the lightings of the refurbished arena could make his wards miss progress into the knockout stage of the second tier best competition in the continent.
“As you are aware, the stadium has just been refurbished, the flood lights have not been fully installed as the contractor handling the project took deliveries of the lights from Europe this week. They were been transported from Lagos to Aba here. What we had for the match was a temporary arrangement. We did not want anything to happen to the light to warrant any force majoure,” recalled Anyasi-Agwu.
But the visitors from Congo who knew that a draw was good enough to see them through to the quarterfinals sat back and soaked all the pressure from Enyimba forward and did occasional foray into Thomas Afelokhai’s goal area.
CARA players were certain that so long as Ivory Coast club Williamsville did not get a win against Mali’s Djoliba in Abidjan, the Congolese were ready to play in the dark to ensure they progress to the next round.
However, substitute Wasiu Alalade latched on an Andrew Abalogu rebound free kick to grab the game-deciding goal.
And of course, Aba fans who have been starved of quality football since Enyimba began playing home matches ‘away’ in Calabar and Port Harcourt, there was no better ways to show their love for their darling team but to dance Shaku Shaku away long into the night after the final whistle. And of course, the Congolese were not left out of the celebration as the game in Abidjan ended in a draw. That ensured that they finished the Group C as runners up going into the quarterfinals.
The contractor handling the project arrived Aba Thursday with the floodlights and is expected to complete the installation next week.
Enyimba is not expected to return for the next stage until in a fortnight by which the lights would have been installed, tested and certified okay for night games.
Speaking on the feat in Aba, President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Melvin Pinnick praised the never-say-die spirit of Enyimba FC in getting the last-gasp winner against CARA Brazzaville.
“I commend the spirit of Enyimba FC, the way they approached the game and their determination not to give up even after being unable to make hay from several opportunities. They gave joy to the government and the good people of Abia State in particular, and football enthusiasts in Nigeria as a whole, and they deserve our applause.
“They showed through their approach, and on the evidence of their win in Bamako on Match-day 5, that they are capable of going all the way. I urge them to take each match in the knockout stages one after the other, and go all the way to make Nigeria proud.”
Pinnick, also the 1st Vice President of CAF, watched the very interesting encounter from the State Box at the eye-catching Enyimba International Stadium, and thanked the Government of Abia State for renovating the facility to true international standard.
“The Government of Abia State has done very well for the youth of the State, and the NFF is using this opportunity to call on other State Governments who don’t have facilities like this to consider investing in such for the benefit of the youth of this country.”
The NFF boss also gave kudos to the contractor that handled the Enyimba project, Monimichelle for doing a good job.
“With what Monimichelle, an indigenous firm has done here in Aba, there is hope for our country. The pitch is a good advertisement for Nigerian football and it shows that Nigerians have the expertise to do a good job.”
Two –time CAF Champions League winners Enyimba FC is the only Nigerian club side left in the hunt for continental honour this season. The Draw for the quarter finals will be held at the CAF headquarters in Cairo next Monday.