CAFCL: Anyansi-Agwu Assures Enyimba Won’t Underrate Al Hilal; Apologises For Empty Stadium Match Vs Rahimo
Enyimba chairman Felix Anyansi-Agwu says the People’s Elephant will not underrate any opponent in their spirited bid to win the CAF Champions League for a third time, Completesports.com reports.
Anyansi-Agwu, also an executive committee member of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), speaks on the backdrop of their 5-0 thrashing of Rahimo of Burkina Faso, in the reverse fixture of their Preliminary Round fixture, a result that saw them progress to the Second Qualifying Round on 5-1 aggregate, setting up a clash with Sudanese giants, Al Hilal.
Enyimba will host Al Hilal in the first leg on the weekend of September 13/14/15 in Aba, while the reverse fixture will take place in Omdurman two weeks later.
“We can never, ever underrate any team no matter their pedigree, not even All Hilal,” the Enyimba boss said.
“We are not going to underrate any team, whoever they may be. We will take them one by one. We believe that if we are able to get to the group stage, that’s when our real character will begin to show.
“We will keep doing things that will make the team succeed. We will keep working hard, doing all that are ex
pected of us. Al Hilal are no small team, even the club that we’ve just played, Rahimo, are not a small team. Though they paraded younger players, they gave a very good account of themselves.
“We only pray the Nigerian league starts , that will also give us more opportunity to expose the players so that they can be on the same page with every other member of the team.”
Anyansi-Agwu took over the mantle of leadership of Enyimba in 2000 – a year after serving as vice-chairman, and has led the Aba side to become Nigeria’s most successful club.
Regarded as the longest serving club chairman on the domestic scene, he has steered the People’s Elephant to eight league title wins, two CAF Champions League title wins, and two CAF Super Cup titles.
Overall, Enyimba have won 28 trophies both on the continent and on the domestic scene during the reins of Anyansi-Agwu so far.
Meanwhile, fans and supporters of Enyimba were unhappy when they were denied the opportunity of watching the match against Rahimo in Aba. The gates of the Enyimba Stadium were shut in compliance with CAF sanction.
CAF gave Enyimba the option to take the match to either Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu or Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo, and have their fans on the stands or play in an empty stadium in Aba.
Enyimba took the option of playing in Aba behind closed-door. Anyansi-Agwu gives a lucid explanation for that decision.
“Let me first of all start by tendering my sincere apology to our fans, supporters and indeed all Nigerians who would have loved to turn out in their numbers to watch the match and support us too,” he stated
“It was not that we did anything wrong but it was just because of the situation we found ourselves. Sometimes, you face a situation whereby you would have to take a decision, not minding how hard it is.
“You know that the (NPFL) league is not on yet. You are also aware that we, as a club, did quite a number of new recruitments during the transfer window. And it is our candid believe that the team needed to settle down in Aba because our situation is a temporary one.
“We still have a situation that we will have to play here in Aba and our fans and supporters will get the opportunity to come and watch the team play. So that informed our decision – that it is better to play at home without the fans than to play in someone else’s home because, no matter what, home is home.
“It doesn’t matter how beautiful your home is, after all, it is said that, East or West, home is still the best. When you are at home, you feel at home. So I think it really paid off because when you are at home, you are sure (that) you are really at home.
“It doesn’t mean that when people talk about home advantage, home advantage is not just about the fans, it is also about the facilities that you are already used to. Our players are used to the pitch here.
“If the team had moved Enugu, they would need some days to adjust to the weather. If they had moved to Uyo or Calabar, they would equally need some days to acclimatize. And all these, as well as the time spent in traveling, will affect the training schedule because of shortness of time before the match. They have been playing on this pitch, they are already used to it and I think it is an advantage.
“Home advantage is not about referees decisions or anything else. However, we sincerely apologise for all these things that happened within this short period, they happened so fast but were on top of it”.
He assures that things won’t remain the same longer than now as the club’s hierarchy is working hard to ensure that the logjam is resolved early enough so that in subsequent games, the fans will gain access to the stadium to watch and support the team.
“We will engage CAF, probably, in the next match, it might not be a closed-door game. People will wonder why a closed door. Coming into this stadium, you see how it is, and I don’t think it is too bad for watching matches. It is not only about floodlights, there are some other issues that CAF want us to tidy up.
“And we are on top of it. All these issues have been brought to the attention of the government and so they are working on it. Within a short period, our fans will have the opportunity of watching us here at home. We know what it is, football is sweeter with fans around watching.
“You saw the match, (against Rahimo), five goals in one single game. No matter how good it is, it was like a training session because the stands were empty. But when you have your fans behind you, it becomes a football match and people will enjoy it, everyone will feel good.
“That’s what we want to do. We want the excitement to come back to Aba. And we know what it is. It is not just the fans coming to watch”.
Anyansi-Agwu added: “It is also about the economy of the state. You know the number of people who would be coming from far and wide for the matches. There is no way one goes back without spending between N5000—N10, 000 here in the state. People will eat, drink, pay hotel accommodation bills and so on. It all goes all the way to the woman in the market. So it is a big opportunity for all.
“When you have a moment like this, you seize it. You know this is Champions League. It is not a small competition. We should be able to take that opportunity. We appreciate you journalists for coming to support us. It shows your love and support for Enyimba football club. We really appreciate your coming and we thank you so much.”
By Sab Osuji
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