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Why Nigerian clubs should not aim too high on the continent

Rivers United FC and other Nigerian clubs should not aim too high in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup when it kicks of in September 2022.

If they do this, then they will be putting undue pressure on themselves.

They should just do their best to enjoy the moment while it last, and the reasons are not far fetched.

Player Swap

As usual in Nigerian football, there will be lots of player movement by these clubs that are supposed to be Nigeria’s top clubs.

There are a group of Nigerian footballers, known as continental players and their jobs are to move to these clubs in the continent. Quite a few of them are formerly foreign based players out of contract, out injured or just generally clubless and agents will pitch them to these clubs.

Then apart from this group, the usual practice in Nigeria is that of clubs clearing out half their team for a new set of players and then the coaches will blame blending when good results do not come their way at the start of either the CAF Champions League of Confederation Cup.

Coaching Swap

Apart from Rivers United that has had the same coach for the past fourteen years, and Plateau United who seem set to retain Fidelis Illechukwu, the other two clubs, Remo Stars and Kwara United will have new coaches in their dugout.

Gbenga Ogunbote and Daniel Ogunmodede

Remo stars former coach Gbenga Ogunbote and new coach Daniel Ogunmodede

Remo Stars over- achieved last season, finishing in 3rd place and it came as a rude shock that Gbenga Ogunbote who had spent just one season at Ikenne would announce his departure and the same for Kwara United.

Abdulahi Biffo left Kwara United about ten games before the season ended and Lukman Ijaiya finished the job for him. It now seems like the club will announce Azeez Mohammed, formerly of Katsina United to lead the team next season.

Coaching changes may not really matter that much if these were clubs in Europe, South America or North Africa, but in Nigeria it is a problem.

Here the clubs have no recognised playing style, no philosophy and no structure. If all these were in place, then any new coach will just come in and continue from where his predecessor stopped. So, you see that Kwara United and Remo Stars are walking a tight rope.

Almost Total Inexperience

Aside from Rivers United who have played in Africa, first as Eagle Cement FC in 1998 and 2002, then as Dolphins in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2015, and then as Rivers United two seasons ago, the other clubs are basically in uncharted territory.

While Remo Stars will be playing in Africa for the first time and have experienced only two seasons in Nigeria’s top flight league, Kwara United have only ever played on the continent twice. In 1999/ 2000, they got to the quarterfinal, where they were knocked out by Zamalek. They won the first leg 2-1 and lost 4-0 away. Then in in 2007, when they got to the group stage, but did not make it to the final.

Plateau United Fc Squad

Photo Credit David King

Plateau United are not also exactly new comers to the CAF Champions League or Confederation Cup, but there appearances have been few and far between.

Their recent appearances in the CAF Champions League were in 2018 and 2020, and both times it ended in tears for them.

In 2018, they played against USM Algiers in the CAF Confederation Cup play-offs and lost 5-2 on aggregate. This was after winning the CAF Champions League first round 3-1 against Eding Sports of Cameroon before losing to Etoile Du Sahel in the 2nd round. In 2020, Plateau United lost 1-0 at home to Simba and drew 0-0 in Tanzania.

No precedence of recent triumph

Since Enyimba won the CAF Champions League in 2004, no Nigerian club has done it.

The Nigerian media speak so much about Enyimba’s feat, forgetting that 2004 was a whole eighteen years ago. Yet we still revel in that glory.

This is what Rivers United and Plateau United have against them- the fact that Nigerian clubs are not good enough to win the CAF Champions League

The same applies for Kwara United and Remo Stars in the CAF Confederation Cup.

Nigerian clubs do not have pedigree in Africa, and this is a fact.

Since Enyimba won the CAF Champions League, in 2004, Nigeria’s best outing at the competition has been in 2009 when Heartland and Kano Pillars played in the semi-final and then Heartland played in the final. Then Enyimba again, got to the semi-final in 2018.

In the CAF Confederation Cup, Nigeria’s best performance since Dolphins FC got to the final in 2005 has been Sunshine Stars playing in the semi-finals in 2011.

Incidentally, that Sunshine Stars team was coached by Gbenga Ogunbote, the same coach that was just let go off by Remo Stars FC.

Should Nigerian clubs aim high? Should they set targets to win their respective Cup competitions? No, they should not. They should just enjoy the cruise and hope for the best. From the draws, no Nigerian club will be in the group stage of the tournaments they qualified for. It is what it is. Our clubs are simply not good enough.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sodiq Suara

    It is so sad the state of Nigerian football, we can only pray for it to get better

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