By Jacob Ajom
Chief coach of CAF Champions League finalists, Heartland of Owerri, Kelechi Emetoele, has described as painful the manner his wards lost out in the second leg of the competition to TP Mazembe in Lubumbashi on Saturday.
Heartland lost 1-0 in the second leg that was watched by a capacity crowd led by the Zairean President, Joseph Kabila.
Before the Saturday defeat, Heartland took a slim 2-1 advantage from the first leg played penultimate weekend in Owerri.
Soon after the encounter, Heartland coach, Emetoele, said, â€œit is a very very hard way to lose out. My happiness is that we were not disgraced.â€
Although he believes the players were relatively inexperienced, the coach at a point felt the trophy was Owerri bound as his boys refused to give in to the series of attacks from their opponents.
Heartland were unlucky not to have taken an early lead when the opportunity offered itself. On the 14th minute, striker Emeka Nwanna shot wide from within the box. On the 45th minute King Osanga missed a one-on-one against TP goal keeper.
It was a 73rd minute header by Camerounian striker, Narcisse Ekanga that broke the deadlock, givingÂ Mazembe the only goal of the match. With the result, Heartland lost the trophy, a $1.5 million cashÂ prize and a chance to represent Africa at the end-of-year FIFA Club World Cup in Dubai, U.A.E., where they would have earned $3 million.
â€œThis was our first experience of this competition,â€ Emetoele said, expressing hope that the team will return to the continent next season to relaunch their bid for the coveted trophy.
He also observed that the match was an eloquent testimony of the advancement of African football.
â€œThe match was tough. It was a very good final for Africa as we have been able to show that African football is progressing.â€