Corner-kick: Could have been Enyimba not Lobi

Being that, at this point, no one seems to be too eager about our league resuming, perhaps it is best to simply tell a story today.

This past season we, of course, played in the Confederation Cup, reaching the semi-final. But it was a close shave, and we almost did not make it out of the group. One of the results which landed us in the soup was our 3-0 loss away at CARA Brazzaville.

We all saw the game on TV, and wondered what the hell was going on. What we did not see, though, was what was taking place behind the scenes.

Then, we still had Coach Paul in charge of the team, but he was combining that with the Under-20 job, and having to fly in and out for matches. So we would often end up with a situation where Coach Abdallah would be the one preparing the team for the most part, before Paul would arrive the day before the match and if possible take the final session.

The team got to Brazzaville quite early, and all arrangements were made for the team to have multiple trainings on the pitch. Coach Paul arrived later on, bringing with him our two under-20 stars: Ikouwem Utin and Wasiu Alalade. They were coming from an away qualifier, and it was a surprise to see them there. Imagine, then how much of a surprise it was that they ended up starting the match. Alalade ended up missing the best chances, while Ikouwem was slow to react on the first goal conceded.

It was clear, on the day, that the team was shocked by CARA’s approach and playing style. This was in spite of the fact that the coaching crew had clips of their previous matches, which showed clearly that they were a technical team that liked to pass the ball.

That said, was it really so surprising, when we had a part-time coach? Interestingly, one of the first and obvious questions when Coach Paul got the Under-20 appointment was how he would cope, and what effect it would have on Enyimba.

In the end, Coach Abdallah was the one doing all the work, while his boss would come a day or two before matches to stand on the sideline.

I may be in the minority, but I am convinced that keeping Paul last season was one of the worst decisions the club has made in recent times. Not only in terms of how if affected the performance in the field, but also the financial cost of flying him in and out of base time and again.

There is no lesson here to learn. But it is tempting to wonder what might have been if the club had had a coach who really wanted to be here from the beginning. It might have been us, and not Lobi Stars, representing Nigeria in the CAF Champions League.


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