The CAF Confederation Cup second round second leg tie between Rivers United and Enyimba is much more than a game at the Adokie Aimiesimaka Stadium. It is a match that will decide so many things, including whether Rivers United and not Enyimba should have represented Nigeria in this year’s CAF Champions League.
At the end of the 2019/2020 season, which was halted abruptly due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the League Management Company (LMC) adopted the Points Per Game system to decide placements on the final league table. And through that system, Rivers United, who were ahead of Enyimba on the log, lost the right to play in the Champions League to the Peoples Elephant based on the calculations. Thus, Enyimba played in the Champions League while Rivers United got the less glamorous Confederation Cup slot.
Again, at the beginning of the season, Rivers United invaded Enyimba’s camp and lured some of their finest players to Port Harcourt. Enyimba supporters still see the move as an affront aimed at crippling the club.
Ahead of the first leg of the tie in Aba, supporters of Rivers United United, including the state’s governor, Nyesom Wike, promised to reward the team handsomely if they defeated Enyimba in Aba. The governor promised the players and their officials N20 million for victory in Aba, while the state’s former PDP Chairman, Bro. Felix Obuah, pledged N2 million for a win. The Stanley Eguma boys lost these huge sums to a 1-0 defeat in the game. And so today in Port Harcourt, the teams will meet to settle scores.
Enyimba need only a draw to scale through to the lucrative phase of the CAF competition.
Speaking on today’s game, Enyimba’s coach, Fatai Osho, said he expects a tough clash from an equally matched team, adding that he is optimistic his team will triumph at the end of the duel.
“Tomorrow’s game is not going to be an easy task because we are quite aware of the team we are facing, looking at the quality of our opponents.
“Considering what happened in the first leg, neither of the two teams is sure of getting the ticket to the group stage because we look equally matched; we have to be honest with ourselves.
“And coming in here for the second leg, it won’t be an easy task. But we want to be optimistic that we will scale this hurdle,” he said.
Osho rued the forced absence of Tosin Omoyele, who got a red card in the first leg.
“He is a player that is in the best shape of his life. We would have loved to have him in the team, but he won’t and this is quite unfortunate,” he said.
Also speaking on his team’s other danger man, Anayo Iwuala, who has been a torn in the flesh of defenders in the NPFL, Coach Osho said, “He has been a handful to many clubs that we played against of recent in the NPFL. Any team will be looking at his direction in trying to tame him and that is something that is expected.
“We have been talking to him on that and he knows there could be attention on him. He is a good player and he is doing very well right now. What he is experiencing is what top class players do experience.”