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Editorial: Exit of Nigerian Football Clubs From Continental Competitions

Last week was an embarrassing one for Nigeria’s football, especially for her   club sides competing in Africa’s most prized soccer competition, the Confederation of African Football, CAF, Champions League as the nation’s two representatives in the competition were eliminated from  the competition. This  is  not  a good story for  millions of  the country’s football followers ,especially for a country  which prides itself as a powerhouse in regional and global football.  The country  once again failed to produce a team in the lucrative  Champions’ League group stage after its two  flag bears, Plateau United of Jos and Mountain of Fire and Miracles, MFM MC  Lagos were knocked out by their opponents from .North Africa: Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia  and MC Alger  of Algeria respectively.

MFM FC were particularly outclassed, as they were beaten  6-0 in Algeria by an MC Alger side, which according to reports,   exposed their inexperience at this level. MFM ‘s 2-1 win in the first leg in Lagos  was not enough to see them to the lucrative stage of the competition as they were eliminated on 7-2 goals  aggregate.  Plateau United, on other hand, could not live up to the expectation as the Nigerian League  Champions were  knocked out of the competition despite recording a 1-0 win against Tunisian side  Etoile du Sahel at Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano.

In  the Kano  encounter, the reigning Nigeria Premier  Football League, NPFL , champions needed two goals to eliminate  their visitors and progress to the money-spinning group stage of the championship, but as  they could only score one goal , they were shoved aside   on 4-3 goals aggregate having lost 2-4 in the first leg played in Tunisia.

The club sides’ defeats have great repercussion for the country’s football. There is a growing concern that  the defeats of both Plateau United and MFM FC will take its toll  on the allocation of slots by CAF  for Nigerian clubs in subsequent years.

Nigeria currently ranks very low  with only 12 points on the CAF-competition five-year ranking list, and is also   holding onto the last place that will afford her  two qualification spots. If Nigeria’s woeful showings continue, the country will join the list of nations  that will produce only one clubside, instead of two  slots they now enjoy every season. This will no doubt  dampen the morale of officials and players in the country’s Premier League as the contest for just one position will become fiercer .More worrying is the sad fact that ever since Enyimba International of Aba won the CAF Champions League back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, beating Ismaily of Egypt and Tunisia’s Étoile du Sahel in the finals respectively, no other Nigerian club sides have  been able to make it to the final stage of the completion till date. The earlier the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, and its affiliate, the Nigeria Premier Football League, NPFL  braced up to the reality of the situation the better for the country’s football. It is a sad commentary that  the Nigerian club sides are losing their high ratings and esteem in the continent as a result of their woeful  showings. That is why the NFF  and NPFL should address some of the lapses in the league like corruption among officials and players; poor officiating, poor welfare of the players and their officials, and infrastructure’, without delay.

It came to the nation as a great embarrassment that Plateau United FC were denied the comfort of playing their return leg match against  Etoile du Sahel in Jos  as a result of complaint by the Tunisians to CAF that the new Jos Stadium was not suitable for international matches. Their game had to be shifted to Kano at the last minute, causing the Nigerians the opportunity and the advantage of playing on their natural ground. This sort of negligence and lapse on the part of NFF which greatly contributed to the exit of the country’s champions should never be allowed to repeat itself in future. 

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