We love continental competitions. As fans, it’s always intriguing to see teams from different countries square off against each other. It’s a way of knowing how good different leagues are and which country you can find the best players. For players though, continental football offers a stage for them to show how good they are, and maybe earn moves abroad. Either way, it’s fun to watch.
If you think I’m talking about UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League, then that would be very narrow-minded. I mean, we have 5 club continental competitions that take place every year. Asia, North America, South America, Europe and Africa all have their versions of a Club Continental competition. My focus today however, is on the CAF Competitions; CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederations Cup.
As it stands, 4 Nigerian clubs could make it into the group stages of both the Champions League and the Confederations Cup. While MFM FC and Plateau United battle to reach the Champions’ League group stage, Akwa United and Enyimba are looking to earn their place at the Confederations Cup group stage as well. It is also possible that none of these clubs will make it so let’s keep our fingers crossed. For Akwa United and Plateau United, it’s really shaky having lost the 1st leg in their recent qualifiers by at least 2 goals. They’ll need Herculean efforts to win their respective ties while Enyimba and (most especially) MFM FC have to be super careful to earn their group stage slots. Enyimba have done well to win their 1st leg match against Energie, which was an away leg as well, but MFM FC have a single goal lead to defend against MC Algier FC. In fact, it took an abnormal goal from Monsuru Bashiru to get ahead in the tie. Add the fact that the 2nd leg is away (plus their dodgy away form) and you’ll see how tricky this is.
But Nigeria has this problem every year; teams barely get past the qualifiers and we’re left with few clubs to compete, let alone win the tournament. Enyimba’s back-to-back Champions League victories is now sounding like an old war story from the 1400s. Yet Al Ahly were picking up the same trophy year in year out, before losing out to Wydad at the last final. At least they made the final. When is a Nigerian club going to make the final?
I don’t expect Plateau United to make it past Etoile Du Sahel after getting overwhelmed in the 1st leg or Akwa United to pull off something special in Uyo against Al Masry (although I expect both teams to give it huge go). I seriously doubt MFM FC’s ability to see their tie out but I’m hoping Enyimba can finish the job in Aba.
But that leaves Enyimba as Nigeria’s only likely continental contestant. It’s not good enough. These clubs should be doing better, especially away from home. We’ve seen our teams suffer away from home on the continent and this affects our ability to not just compete but to win these tournaments. Clearly, a miracle will be needed to have at least 3 Nigerian teams playing on the continent this year. If there ever was a time to one to happen, it is this year.