Enyimba International Football Club debuted in CAF Club competitions in 2002,and have since amassed over a century of matches. A feat that has seen the Peoples Elephant lock tusks with virtually every traditional club or power house in African club football in the last 16 years.
The history of the club is replete with documented encounters against African clubsides of different weight categories. Hence when faced with a familiar foe, files of yesteryears are reopened to refresh the memories of the teeming fans of the Aba giants, on previous duels and the main protagonists.
Enyimba FC and Raja Casablanca of Morocco will rekindle rivalry in Aba,in the first of a two-legged semi final in the 2018 CAF Confederations cup on wednesday, October 3.
The 7-time Nigerian Champions will be aiming to get another one over their Moroccan rival and further shade it after four previous meetings stand at- 2 wins,1 draw and 1 loss. The two victories were achieved at home, in Aba with two identical scorelines – 2-0 win apiece in the group stages of 2005 and 2011 CAF Champions league seasons.
In 2005, the then reigning African champions were aiming to win a record 3rd consecutive CAF Champions league title,in the wake of a mass exodus of the bulk of players that won two CAF premier club crowns on a bounce.Coach Okey Emordi’s feat of winning the Club’s second African title earned him a new contract and a two-pronged mandate- Rebuild the squad and win a third title.Enyimba got drawn in group A alongside -Raja Casablanca, Al Ahly of Egypt and Ajax Cape Town of South Africa,after dispatching Simba FC of Tanzania and Red Arrows of Zambia in earlier rounds.
But had a struggling start to the group stage, culminating in taking a solitary point from a possible nine in the first three matches- including a 1-0 loss to the Raja in Casablanca in Matchday three. Enyimba fought back with a 2-0 win over the Moroccans in Aba, with top striker- Joetex Frimpong netting a brace in either side of half time to put the two-time African Champions back in the hunt. Emordi rebuilt the team around a spine of six survivors from the all conquering squad of the last two seasons. Goalkeeper Dele Aiyenugba was named captain and restored to first choice after two seasons of playing second fiddle to former shot stopper-Vincent Enyeama.Yusuf Mohammed continued his forays from right back in his fourth season at the club.
The attacking trio- Muri Ogunbiyi, David Tyavkase and Joetex Frimpong led the charge for goals,while elegant defensive midfielder – Musa Aliyu screened the new central defence partnership of Odey Ogar and Nojeem Raji. Other starters were exciting left back- Mutiu Adegoke- who provided balance and width to team play, while Chidozie Johnson’s tireless running and industry complemented Mohammed ‘Pele” Lawal’s creative ability in midfield. Young prospects- Atanda Sakibu & Sunday Mba came off the bench to add pace in attack and guile in midfield respectively.The same scoreline was replicated against South African side- Ajax CT. But a 1-0 loss to Al Ahly in Egypt on the final group match ended Enyimba’s campaign and got them dethroned. Al Ahly would go on to win the title.
In 2011, Enyimba FC and Raja Casablanca were pitched in the same group with Al Hilal of Sudan and Coton sports of Cameroun. This time, Okey Emordi in the second season of his second stint at the club had his work well cut out. With two survivors – Captain Chidozie Johnson and experienced striker, David Tyavkase remaining from the previous match up, 6 years ago.
The bulk of the team were key cogs in the preceding season’s league title triumph. Veteran goalkeeper Chijioke Ejiogu got defensive protection from Markson Ojobo, Chinedu Udoji, Samuel Tswanya and John Agbawu – who deputised for regular left back, Valentine Nwabili. Two first half goals by prolific striker, Uche Kalu and Chidozie Johnson secured a 2-0 victory and the maximum points, ahead of a trip to Casablanca, where a creditable goalless draw put Enyimba in firm control in the group to ultimately emerge as group winners with an unbeaten run in tact.
The first leg of the semi final against Raja’s city and bitter rivals- Wydad had us visit Casablanca again but ironically, Raja fans supported Enyimba against Wydad. Hence returning an odd favour after Wydad fans supported Enyimba against them in the group stage. Sadly the Peoples Elephant conceded a debatable goal in the 89th minute after standing tall for large parts. A 1-0 loss that stubbornly stood unchanged on final aggregate score, after a heartbreaking goalless draw in Aba.
This month’s semi-final tie is evenly poised. The stakes are higher, in view of the ticket to the final of the 2018 Total CAF Confederation Cup. Coach Usman Abdallah and his charges stand on the threshold of history. I urge them to go for it, deepen our club’s history and ink their names in Enyimba football folklore.
Perhaps another 2-0 win in Aba and the support of Wydad fans in Casablanca would be enough to earn Enyimba FC a place in another continental cup final.
Let’s do this boys!
Nnanna O Kalu has been an Enyimba fan for a long long time. You can follow him on twitter via @NnannaOKalu