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NPFL clubs struggle for continental relevance as Wydad eliminate Enyimba from African Football League

NPFL clubs struggle for continental relevance as Wydad eliminate Enyimba from African Football League

Enyimba were dumped out of the African Football League by Wydad AC on Thursday night.

After the Moroccan side claimed a 1-0 away win in the first leg, this was a foregone conclusion.

It is always a herculean task playing in North African stadiums, so the Aba club were embarking on what could be best described as ‘a mission impossible.’

Any pipe dream was quickly extinguished as Wydad raced into a three-goal lead in the first half, thanks to Ayoub El Amloud, Jamal Harkass and Yahia Attiyat Allah.

There were no goals in the second half, as the hosts progressed with a 4-0 aggregate.

“It was to be expected, really,” Solace Chukwu, the Chief Editor for Pulse Sports, tells FLYINGEZE BLOG.

“For all the financial incentives laid out, Enyimba never rose to the challenge of presenting as a prestigious African side.

“Their administrative process continues to be as opaque and haphazard as ever, even under new management, and their recruitment in the off-season was underwhelming.

“That’s before even coming to the strength of their opponents, Wydad. I cannot see how anybody, whether within the club or outside of it, could have expected any better.”

In August, Enyimba crashed out of the CAF Champions League following a 0-0 draw against Al Ahli Benghazi of Libya.

The People’s Elephants needed a one-goal advantage to advance to the next round of the competition after losing 3-4 in the first leg of the game.

But they failed to score the decisive goal.

This is the first time since 2015 that the Nigerian champions would be eliminated in the preliminary round of the tournament; they have won twice – the only club side from the country to have done so.

Their back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004 were achieved during a spell of North African dominance.

Since then, not only Enyimba, but NPFL clubs have continued to struggle for continental relevance.

“We are just not good enough. Talent pool has decreased, the coaching pool is way smaller and the structures (league, club management, et al) are getting worse.

“It’s no surprise the privately-owned clubs are looking better.

“Give them time and they will be the ‘new’ big clubs,” Temisan Okomi, a sport journalist/presenter with Classic FM and Lagos Talks913, tells FLYINGEZE BLOG.

In the past, some Nigerians have clamoured for former footballers to be involved in football administration in the country.

Okomi notes Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha’s stint as the Delta FA chairman as proof that the idea will not solve anything.

“The doubters have been vindicated. From Jay-Jay at Delta (horrible); our ex-pros aren’t up to scratch. Administration isn’t the midfield,” Okomi replies pointedly.

Chukwu, on his part, suggests a feasible way forward.

“I’ve never really understood the idea that ex-pros being involved was some sort of magic bullet.

“The way forward is to rip it all up. Root and branch reform. Define what we are aiming for and prioritize a working structure over unruffled feathers.

“Create proper football clubs with ties to their home communities (as opposed to political vehicles) and untether them from government, prize professionalism, invest in the new generation of coaches while also creating a proper pipeline in that respect,” Chukwu adds.

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