PRESIDENT of Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, has called on players of Enyimba FC to dig their feet into the ground and throw out Tunisian giants Etoile Sportive du Sahel from this year’s CAF Champions League competition when both teams clash in Tunisia tomorrow.
A potentially –explosive contest of end-to-end action is at hand when Nigerian champions Enyimba FC tackle Etoile Sportive du Sahel of Tunisia in a third round, second leg encounter in Sousse on Wednesday.
Both teams are likely to recreate their ‘final battle’ of 2004, in which the People’s Elephant edged the Mediterranean Stars on penalties at the National Stadium, Abuja for their second successive title.
“We have immense confidence in Enyimba to go all the way. They have won the title twice before and are by far the most experienced Nigeria club in Africa. The NFF is giving them the support they need to triumph,” Pinnick told thenff.com.
The Nigerian champions overwhelmed their visitors 3-0 in the first leg at the Adokiye Amiesieamaka Stadium in Port Harcourt penultimate weekend, but they would be the first to agree that they have a mountain to surmount at the Stade Olympique in Tunisia’s second city on Wednesday evening.
“We know what North African teams are capable of. They are usually very strong and determined at home and also throw a lot of antics into the arrangements. But we are very, very ready. We expect hostility on and off the field. We have trained under floodlights and on artificial turf, and we will give as much as we get,” said Felix Anyansi-Agwu, chairman of Enyimba FC.
Anyansi-Agwu, a Board member of the Nigeria Football Federation, is one of the most experienced football administrators in Africa. He steered Enyimba to their successive CAF Champions League triumphs in 2003 and 2004 and has scooped a boardroom of trophies in his 16 –year stint with the Elephants.
On Monday, the NFF dispatched its Acting Director of Competitions, the bilingual Bola Oyeyode, to Tunisia to help the cause of Enyimba FC. Oyeyode flew through Istanbul to get to Tunis.
Enyimba officials confirmed to thenff.com on Tuesday that officials of the Embassy of Nigeria in Tunis have been working at mobilizing members of the Nigerian community in Tunisia to move to Sousse (a distance of 150 kilometres from Tunis) to support the Nigerian champions.
In their two –legged CAF Champions League final in 2004, Etoile won the first leg 2-1 at the Stade Olympique, and Enyimba returned the compliment at the National Stadium, Abuja before winning the ensuing penalty shoot –out. Etoile Sportive du Sahel are the reigning CAF Confederation Cup champions.
By pedigree and street wisdom, Enyimba should pull through, to make the group stage of the dollar –spangled Champions League. The loser on aggregate will drop down to the CAF Confederation Cup.
The Confederation of African Football has appointed Moroccan referee Noureddine El Jaafari to take charge of proceedings, to be assisted by compatriots Hicham Abbou and Youssef Mabrouk.
Ivorian Sinko Zeli will be the match commissioner.