• Peoples Elephant host CARA Brazzaville in final group match
Enyimba is Nigeria’s only surviving club in this year’s African inter-club competitions, but the journey has not been easy for the Peoples Elephant. For over four years, the 2003 and 2004 CAF Champions League kings have been moving from one venue to another to play their home matches because the Aba Stadium was not good enough for top games.
Apart from the toll on the club’s finances, playing away from home also denied them the massive support that hitherto propelled them over every obstacle, including the best sides from across the continent. It is, therefore, no surprise that since the team began its nomadic existence, the most decorated Nigerian team have won neither the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) crown nor any CAF competition.
But that is about to end, according to Enyimba coach, Usman Abdallah.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu at the weekend commissioned the newly refurbished Aba stadium in time for today’s CAF Confederation Cup decider between Enyimba and Cara of Congo and Abdallah is brimming with confidence that his wards will trample on the East Africans in their first game back on home soil.
Coming just days after Enyimba’s 1-0 away win against Djoliba of Mali, Abdallah knows Enyimba supporters will not accept anything other than victory on their hallowed ground.
Victory will assure Enyimba’s qualification for the semifinal of the competition, while a draw could knock them out of it.
CARA, Enyimba and Cote d’Ivoire’s Williamsville have equal chances of picking any of the two tickets on offer in the group as they all have six points apiece. They are separated by goals difference and pundits believe Williamsville have the best chance of success as they are hosting whipping boys, Djoliba also today. That means the pressure is on Enyimba to get the win they need for survival.
Abdallah, who became Enyimba’s coach following the departure of Paul Aigbogun, says Enyimba fans have nothing to fear.
The former Kano Pillars coach told CAFonline that his side’s victory in Mali has kept them in good position for the home game against CARA Brazzaville.
He added, “playing in Aba is a positive development for us because it would be better playing at our home ground, though it will be the first time for some of the new players in the team.
“We will not be under pressure against CARA especially after the important away victory against Djoliba last week. I am optimistic of a positive result in Aba.”
Abdallah acknowledged that CARA are a big side with strong players, adding, however, that his players are more cohesive now than they were in the first leg. “We conceded three goals in the opening six minutes in that away match against CARA Brazzaville and thereafter we were able to pluck against some of the mistakes we made in the match. At this stage, we must be able to take any chance that comes our way.
“We have to avoid taking any unnecessary risk. We will approach the match with the seriousness it deserves and work out a winning strategy just as we did against Djoliba.”
He added that Enyimba is still “a work in progress because I actually started with the team at the beginning of the season whereby we prepared the team together for both the domestic league and the continental competition. There has been no vacuum since the departure of (Paul) Aigbogun rather it has been a continuous process. We started the season together and it is not as if I came to take over after he left. I’m not really under any pressure because I have been managing the team when he was away on national duty with the Flying Eagles (national U-20).”
The match will kick off by 4.00 p.m.