By Olawale Ayeni, Abuja
Enyimba International FC will today battle fellow Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) side, Rivers United, in the first leg of the second preliminary round of the CAF Confederations Cup in Aba.
For Enyimba FC of Aba, two- time African Champions League winners and Rivers United of Port Harcourt, there has been a good dose of rivalry for the past two decades during which they consistently played in Nigeria’s top flight league.
Both Enyimba and Rivers United are in their best of form going into the Sunday encounter having defeated their opponents Plateau United and Nasarawa United respectively in their last NPFL outing as the People’s Elephants are leaders of the NPFL table followed strongly by the Pride of Rivers in second spot.
Speaking ahead of the clash, Enyimba head coach, Fatai Osho, sees Sunday’s game as a celebra- tion of Nigeria’s top flight teams, and believes the stakes are higher than a regular domestic clash be- tween both sides and the players know this.
“The players will see it a bit different because the setting is actually different. What is at stake is actually different from what is obtainable at the level of the NPFL and we are going to see a situation whereby both sides will come out because they know what it means to play at the group stage of the competitions”Osho told npfl.ng.
“It is a platform that they can use to express themselves and let people know what they can do. Nobody wants to lose that kind of opportunity and I foresee a situation where both sides will want to come out for each other but I see it as
more of a celebration of the NPFL on Sunday.
According to Ifeanyi Anaemena, a former vice-captain of Enyimba who left the club at the end of last season after five productive sea- sons with the People’s Elephants to pitch tent with Rivers United seems fully aware of the pedigree of his former club in matches like this.
“To be honest, it is going to be an emotional game for me, knowing that I have played in Enyimba for a very long time and it’s a club that have a good pedigree when it comes to the continent and even in the NPFL,” Anaemena told npfl.ng.
Recall that the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike had promised N20m reward for players and officials of Rivers United if they beat the Enyimba.
The 15 winners of the play-off round will advance to the group stage to join RS Berkane, who advanced directly to the group stage as the winners of the first round with the best CAF five-year ranking following the withdrawal of FC Gazelle of Chad from the competition after being transferred from the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Liberia Football Association secretary-general, Isaac Montgomery will serve as match commissioner.
Montgomery, a FIFA-badged referee-emeritus, will be assisted by Gambia’s Omar Sallah (referee), Omar Darboe (assistant referee #1), Sulayman Sosseh (assistant referee #2) and Lamin N. Jammeh (fourth official) and Nigeria’s Ozi Salami Adbulrahim Onimisi.
The second leg tie between will take place at the Adokiye Amiesimaka International Stadium in Port Harcourt on 21 February.