Theophilus Afelokhai: Enyimba will take back pound of flesh from Raja Casablanca
How disappointed are you by the performance of Enyimba in the 0-1 defeat against Raja Casablanca of Morocco? To be honest with you, I am highly disappointed because we didn’t get the result we worked for. We wanted to get a good result that will take off the pressure on us going into the return leg. So we all are feeling so disappointed. Well in football things like this happen. However, many people don’t know what we are passing through in Enyimba.
No, no how can anyone say that about Enyimba? It is not possible. We only suffered a temporary setback. Something like this happened to me when I was with Kano Pillars. This club from Egypt, Al Ahly came and played 1-1 with us in Kano and everybody said it was over for us. I was the captain of Kano Pillars so I spoke to my team mates that it was not over. In the end, we made it against the highly rated Al Ahly. Let me tell you something. If Raja can beat us in Nigeria, we can also beat them in Morocco. It is not over until it is all over. They had a good day in Nigeria. It may be our turn in Morocco. I want you to know that luck plays a big role in football. We were unlucky against Raja.
Thank you for this question. Now I am not talking about Enyimba alone. I am talking to all Nigerian clubs. If they have this opportunity that Enyimba are having now, they must handle it with care and utmost seriousness. We have played too many matches recently and most of the players are tired. There is too much fatigue. It may interest you to know that when we returned from Kigali where we played against Rayon Sports, we went straight to Nnewi for our Aiteo Cup fixture. After the match, we again travelled by road back to Aba to play the return leg against Rayon Sports. The following day, we travelled by road to Gombe for Aiteo Cup group matches. As a matter of fact, before we reached Gombe, we had to sleep in Jos. In Gombe, we played three straight matches against very tough opponents. We again left Gombe by road to Aba to honour our semi-final match with Raja Casablanca. We arrived Aba two days to the match. Meanwhile, our opponents flew into Nigeria in a chartered plane. They had enough rest before they faced us on Wednesday. Now how do you expect us to perform miracles? Let us tell ourselves the truth, football is not run this way. Raja Casablanca is not an ordinary club. They know what they want. People who prepare well get what they want. We have come this far by the grace of God. However, you cannot over stretch your luck. I don’t think it was all about pressure. Most of us in Enyimba have continental experience. We are used to different types of pressure. Truth be told, we were tired. We forced ourselves but the fatigue was much. We had a penalty but we missed, that was as a result of mental exhaustion. We tried to push but nothing was moving. As a matter of fact, my injury was caused by fatigue.
Enyimba have another chance against Raja Casablanca later this month. How much support do you need to surmount the hurdle?
Enyimba need more motivation. Imagine early this morning (Thursday), the team travelled by road to Gombe to face Kano Pillars in the Aiteo Cup quarter-final. Meanwhile, Pillars are already on ground. Look at teams that are not even in the continent are flying to play away matches. Clubs like Akwa United and Rangers of Enugu flew into Kano to honour their Aiteo Cup fixture. They suppose to fly these boys to Gombe for them to rest well before their match against Kano Pillars. Unfortunately, they left this morning by road. Enyimba need to bring out money to motivate the players. Sincere promises should be made to boost the players’ morale. It is rather unfortunate that even the NFF didn’t help matters. In the midst of tough continental challenges, we are still facing congested fixtures in Aiteo Cup. One thing I know is that we are determined to reach the final of the Confederation Cup. I am also hoping to recover in time for the return leg. If I am picked to keep and I get the necessary support from my defenders, I will do everything to help take Enyimba to the final.
I also heard it and I was truly humbled by his show of concern for me. Maybe a prophet is lacking honour in his country. Well, the truth of the matter is that whether I am in the national team or not, today I am happy because people are speaking for me. I want to keep doing my best for those who are speaking for me. God’s time is the best so I won’t rest on my oars.
My message to our fans is that they should believe in us. They have to support us for without them we can’t do anything. All hope is not lost. If Raja can beat us here, our fans should believe that we also can go to Morocco and beat our opponents. They should continue to pray for us. Anything can happen in football.
Minister of sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung