After drawing 0-0 away from home against AS Real Bamako in the first leg preliminary round of the 2017 CAF Champions League on Sunday, Rivers United captain, Festus Austine described his team as being in a ‘very dangerous situation’.
According to Austine, he and his teammates need to do more in the return leg in Port Harcourt to get opportunity to qualify for the next stage.
“We did well not to concede but this is a very dangerous situation because if they score once in the return leg, we will have to score twice at least (to progress). AS Real Bamako is a good team and they proved it on Saturday.
“We are also a very good side and I want to assure Nigerians that we will qualify for the first round by beating AS Real Bamako at home,” Austine said.
Just like Rivers United, Nigerian Champions, Enugu Rangers played out a 1-1 draw away to Algerian side JS Souara in the first leg of their CAF Champions League qualifier and must need take the advice of their compatriot if they hope to qualify for the group stages at home.
The Rivers United captain’s assertion will not come as a surprise for many Nigerian fans who have become used to the country’s clubs failing to make the grade when it comes to continental championships.
Last time out, three out of the four clubs that qualified to represent Nigeria in the CAF organized club competitions crashed out of their continental engagements at the first hurdle. It was only Enyimba that carried the torch for the country a bit far but the team also suffer the same fate at the knockout stages.
There is already the notion by Nigerians that the much talked about changes in the Nigeria Premier League being orchestrated by the Shehu Dikko led League Management Company has failed to address the perennial failure of Nigerian clubs in the continent. Nigerians are already pointing at a weak league as the primary reason for the failure of the clubs.
Apparently there is something wrong with the league if a team that played 38 matches in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), got the right results and were crowned champions find it difficult to replicate such class amongst the best in Africa.
Nigerian clubs have struggled in both the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup since 2013 and it looked like it might continue if the clubs, and even the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), fail to do a proper evaluation.
Down the years, the teams representing Nigeria in various CAF competitions have always reeled out series of beautiful excuses as to why they failed to perform but they have failed to correct those mistakes that left them in that embarrassing situation. It looks like none of the clubs at this time have been sincere enough to come out publicly with a plan going forward.
Nigerian clubs now struggle to perform on the continent. Since 2011 when Sunshine Stars got to the semi final stage in the CAF Confederation Cup no Nigerian team has made it to the group stages.
The last Nigerian team to win a continental competition of any kind was Enyimba in 2004.
It was widely expected that with a more competitive league as witnessed during the past season, the four continental clubs would at least perform better to prove that the NPFL can now compete favourably with the other African leagues.
Fingers crossed as it remains to be seen if the likes of Enugu Rangers and Rivers United will change the story this term.