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CAF Champions League: Owolabi, others lament Nigerian teams’ elimination

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Ex-international, Felix Owolabi, and other football stakeholders on Tuesday rued the elimination of Nigerian football clubs from the preliminary stage of 2023/2024 CAF Champions League.

Owolabi and others spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the failure of the two Nigerian football clubs, Enyimba International FC of Aba and Remo Stars FC of Ikenne, to go beyond the preliminary round of the CAF Champions League.

NAN reports that nine-time league winners, Enyimba FC, on Sunday played a goalless draw against Al-Ahly Benghazi of Libya to put the aggregate score at 3-4, and got eliminated from the competition.

Also, Remo Stars FC failed to make it beyond the preliminary round for the second time after playing 1-1 draw against Medeama FC of Ghana. The Sky Blue Stars later lost 3-4 on penalty.

Owolabi who was not impressed with the outcome of the matches advised stakeholders to look inwards for solutions to the problem.

“The present day football has gone from where we think it is in Nigeria. It is now so bad that our clubsides are eliminated from continental football within a twinkle of an eye.

“Unfortunately, we have not been able to sit down to take a proper look and have an overall assessment of why we are in this bad situation.

“During our time, we exceeded peoples’ expectations and we were a force to reckon with in club competition in Africa. But right now, our football is not growing,” he said.

Owolabi noted that football in Nigeria was in a bad shape, hence some of the home-based players were not considered fit for national team call up.

“Looking at our senior national team, there is no representation of home-based players which shows that there is a problem with the Nigerian league,” he said.

Owolabi also pointed out that the various stakeholders, such as coaches, referees, players and administrators had failed to upgrade themselves in the art of modern football.

Another ex-international, Felix Nwosu, told NAN that the exit of Enyimba and Remo Stars from continental football left a bad taste in the mouth.

“Enyimba’s loss to Al-Ahly Benghazi of Libya is unforgivable. I didn’t even know what went wrong because for a club that scored three goals away and not to score at home is unbelievable.

“I still wonder what could have happened, maybe they lacked tactical approach because they used same players that got a bit of result away at home, yet they failed to get just a goal at home.

“I know they have a new management now, but these people are also experienced hands in their right, having played football at the highest level,” he said.

He added that another reason could be that the players were not well motivated, psychologically prepared or underestimated their opponents.

Nwosu said: “Someone failed to tell the players that they needed at least two goals to qualify, because they should have put their opponents under pressure; at least get a foul that will lead to a penalty.”

On Remo Stars’ elimination, Nwosu said the club really disappointed most of its fans.

“For me, I had expected Remo Stars to beat the Ghanian opposition like 3-0 in Ikenne. The team should not have waited for penalty, which is nobody’s game.

“Remo Stars should have nailed the match in the first half. Remo Stars of today is one of the most organised club sides in Nigeria.

“Remo Stars is well respected in Africa because they have structure, stadium, airline and good fan base.

“The way our clubs failed to perform at this year’s CAF Champions League may affect our ranking next year,” he said.

According to Nwosu, the solution to the poor performance of Nigerian teams in continental football is to ensure the local league starts early and at the same time with football clubs in Africa and Europe.

“Playing friendly matches is not the same as competitive matches, especially in the area of tactical approach to high profile competitions like champions league.

“Our coaches should be ready to tweak their formation and be attack-minded by using three defenders and more of offensive midfielders.

“Our traditional 4-4-2 is now too predictable. Lastly, I don’t think Enyimba players are motivated enough by the government. The team deserves more financial compensation for winning the league for a record time,” he said.

Another pundit, Olawale Qudus said Enyimba was not well prepared for the continental football.

“Judging from the friendly matches they played, they were not convincing enough. They sold the bulk of the players that won the league, so, its like starting all over.

“How can a team that just won a league dispose some of their reliable legs knowing fully well that they have major competitions and a continental competition ahead in few weeks.

“It is sad that Enyimba also let go of their highest goal scorer, that is a suicide mission,” he said. (NAN)

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