Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Home Africa/NPFL Rivers United’s failure extends Nigerian club malaise

Rivers United’s failure extends Nigerian club malaise

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After Rivers United FC lost to Tunisia’s Club Africain in the CAF Confederations Cup this week, the Nigerian club sits bottom of Group A, with only the tiniest of chances of reaching the knock out stage.

So brace yourselves, Nigerian football fans, because you are about to read some very grim numbers about the country’s club football in recent history.

Since Enyimba won the CAF Champions League title in 2004, only one Nigerian club has reached the final of that competition.

That was Heartland in 2009, who did so by beating another Nigerian club, Kano Pillars, in the semifinals. But they then lost to winners TP Mazembe by virtue of the away goals rule after a 2-2 aggregate score over two legs.

Between 2005 and 2017, Nigerian clubs only reached the semifinals four times. Two of those were by Enyimba. They, though, have missed the group stages five times out of 12.

For the CAF Confederation Cup, the story is even more dismal. Nigeria have never won that version of CAF’s secondary competition.

Rivers United – in their previous incarnation as Dolphins FC – came closest when they lost the 2005 title to FAR Rabat. Since then, no Nigerian club has reached the final.

Bayelsa United and Sunshine Stars came closest to matching that achievement, reaching the semifinals in 2009 and 2011 respectively.

From then, however, things get even more woeful. Between 2006 and 2017, Nigerian clubs failed to reach the group stage of the Confederation Cup a disappointing eight times out of 12.

Attempting to unpack the numbers any further leads to more frustration for the fan, especially the number of times Nigerian clubs have failed to go beyond the preliminary rounds, and the teams to which they lost.

For example, 2015 Federation Cup winners Akwa United lost out to Vita Club Mokanda, who had finished sixth in the Congo Premier League.

Meanwhile, Wikki Tourists were eliminated by RSLAF FC, who had barely kicked a ball in anger for months and were then promptly hammered 9-1 by Club Africain in the very next round.

This year, out of four Nigerian clubs in continental competition, Rivers United were the only side to make it to the group stages. They face FUS Rabat this weekend, both sides on six points though Rabat have the superior goal difference.