8 February 2018

Africa: Trio Upbeat As Continental Action Begins

Nigeria champions, Plateau United, are hopeful of a good outing as they kick-start their continental cup campaign against Eding Sport of Cameroon in one of this weekend's Total CAF Champions League preliminary round-first leg fixtures.

Previously known as Nigeria Standard FC, the Jos-based club in North Central Nigeria, had not won the league title since its formation in 1975 and the closest they got was second behind Iwuayanwu Nationale (now Heartland FC) at the birth of Nigeria Professional League in 1990.

But last September, Plateau United, finally won their Holy Grail under the guidance of former Nigerian international, Kennedy Boboye; that gave them a return to the continent since 2000 when they were narrowly edged out on the away-goal rule by Etoile du Congo in the first round of the defunct CAF Cup Winners' Cup.

The 44-year-old Boboye, who masterminded Plateau's title success in only his first season, said the club has acquired much experience coupled with strength in depth, and are desirous of making a great impact on the continent.

"We won the league last year by dint of hard work, and the players played to instructions," Boboye told CAFOnline.com

"This year, we have been working hard and it is also good that the season started early enough which has given us good match practice ahead of our Total CAF Champions League match against Eding Sport."

Speaking further, Boboye said Plateau is well-armed to face Eding Sport following his recent espionage on the Cameroonian champions. "I went to watch Eding Sport and I know they are a very good side that play compact football but we shall be ready for them.

"We are not worried about playing the first leg at home, the most important thing is to be able to showcase ourselves whether at home or away. We just need to play well and score some goals before going to Cameroon for the second leg.

"Last season, nobody gave Plateau United a chance in the league, but we were able to carry ourselves as a team; only few people are giving us the chance to do well in the Total CAF Champions League but I'm satisfied with the quality of players we have and we are going to give a good account of ourselves.

"As a coach, I want to win laurels and at the same time, I want my team to play good football. Of course, you can't win it all; there are some days you win, draw or lose but mine is to play good football anytime, any day," added Boboye.

Elsewhere, Nigeria's other representative in the premier continental club championship, Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM) FC are equally upbeat despite travelling to Bamako as guest of AS Real.

The 'Olukoya' Boys as the team is fondly refereed to, remarkably claimed second spot behind Plateau but Coach Fidelis Ilechukwu believes they are well equipped on their debut at the continental level.

"I believe we are going to do our best in the Total CAF Champions League as we usually do in all that concerns us and we hope God crowns our little effort with his unconditional favour and love for our team," stated Ilechukwu.

Formed five years ago, the Lagos-based side is owned by a Pentecostal Christian Organization, Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries and Ilechukwu said they would gird their loins against their Malian hosts.

"I have not really watched them (AS Real Bamako) play but with little information we have gathered, we would have to put up our best effort against them; football is not like magic and we will put in our best at every level of the game."

Meanwhile, Akwa United, who won Nigeria's national cup to secure the ticket to the Total CAF Confederation Cup, has vowed to do better than their last outing two years ago in the same competition.

After a pulsating 1-1 aggregate score line against Vita Club Mokanda of Congo in 2016, Akwa United were sent packing in the preliminary round following a 6-5 penalty shootout loss in Pointe-Noire. This term, they will start in the preliminary round at their favourite Akwa Ibom International Stadium against Banjul Hawks that incidentally lost 3-2 on aggregate to Nigerian side, Dolphins (now Rivers United) in the second-tier competition in 2007.

"Our ambition is to do well than we did last season; we want to finish at least in the first two top positions in the league and in the Total CAF Confederation Cup, we need to start well by winning our first round match against Banjul Hawks," noted coach Abdu Maikaba, who led the 'Promise Keepers' to their second national cup victory, and fourh place finish in the domestic league.

"Our Confederation Cup target in the meantime, is to ensure we qualify first for the mini-league group stage and after that, we can set another target for ourselves. We are taking one step at a time and our major concern now is the first round match against Banjul Hawks."

Nigeria's other representative, Enyimba, have drawn a bye at the prelims and will face the winner of Energie (Benin) versus Hafia (Guinea) at the 1/16th round.

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