SPORTSFLAKES: Finidi, not yet Uhuru




I belong to the Finidi George Supporters Club, no apologies for that. While I congratulate the gaffer for a job well done, there is more hard work ahead. Beating Diambars FC de Saly is energy to the soul of Enyimba, Nigeria’s best team away from home, in Africa.

This is the first time Enyimba will win a match in Senegal and in their fourth attempt. In 2003, they forced Jeanne d’Arc to a goalless draw in Dakar. A year later, it was a 2-0 loss to Diaraf. In 2006, there was an improvement. Diaraf were held to a barren outing.

I commend the Aba Ngwa Boys for overcoming the Senegalese 1-0 at the Stade Lat- Dior, Thies. Diambar means Lion in Jolof. The stadium is named after Jor Ngone Latin Diop. He was Damel (King) of Cayor, a Wolof State in the South Central part of Senegal.

Apparently,Diambars, founded by Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira and friends in 2003 did not know who would lead Enyimba until Finidi appeared on the sidelines. And he showed them the huge difference between Elephant and Lion.

Finidi’s first continental medal was at the Senegal ’92 African Nations Cup where he won a bronze with the Super Eagles. In the opening game, Nigeria defeated Senegal 2-1. The Enyimba coach wore jersey number 7 in Dakar.

It should be safe to say that as player and again as coach, Finito knows how to kill Senegal. I am sure Lat- Dior would not be Resting in Peace over the Enyimba victory. The man fought the battle of Rip on November 30, 1865.

I advise Finidi George not to be carried away. Enyimba have a very good away record against sub Saharan African teams. What should worry him is North Africa. That is where to rate him.

Enyimba’s 6-1 drubbing of Red Arrows Zambia in the 2005 CAF Champions League is the best continental away record by a Nigerian club. The Zambians drew first blood in Lusaka through Abraham Mwamba in the fourth minute.

That wounded the Elephants and they began to blow their big trumpet. Prince Olomu responded. Solomon David Abwo got a brace then Ifeanyi Obadiah, Joetex Frimpong and Muri Ogunbiyi all went goal crazy to bring aggregate scores to 9-1.

When Enyimba lifted the CAF Champions League for the first time in 2003, they won two matches away from home. In Conakry, Satellite got hammered 5-2. ASEC Mimosas lost 2-0 in Abidjan.

In 2004, the Nigerians became the first to defend the trophy successfully. Enyimba hit ASEC 3-0 in Cote D’Ivoire. It was followed in 2005 by the humiliation of Red Arrows.

It continued in 2006. FC Lupopo of Congo fell 1-0. For the first time in 24 years, Hearts of Oaks lost at home in Obuasi. Enyimba defeated them 2-0. It was such a bad day that after Ekene Emigo put the visitors ahead, Hearts conceded an own goal. Skipper Dele Aiyenugba saved a penalty for the victors.

Diables Noire lost 3-2 in Brazzaville in 2008. Simba slumped 3-1in Tanzania. In both games Stephen Worgu scored four goals. Uche Kalu got lucky twice.

Enyimba’s Confederation Cup debut in 2010 was dismal at away. They were shamed by Academica Petroleas do Lobito Soyo, AS Vita and Zanaco respectively.In 2018 they returned to winning ways thrashing Energy 2-0 in Benin and Djoliba 1-0 in Mali.

The very best came in the 2011 CAF Champions League. St. Michael de Ounze succumbed 1-0 in Congo. Cotton Sport lost 3-2 in Cameroon. Enyimba did not lose at away until the semi finals in Casablanca, Morocco.

Coach Okey Emordi who won the trophy in 2004 had an 11- match unbeaten record in 2011. Wydad Athletic Casablanca (WAC) punctured that and advanced to win the trophy.

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Enyimba defeated Real Bamako 1-0 the 2014 Champions League. In 2019, TS Galaxy lost 2-1 in the Confederation Cup. Winning outside Nigeria is an Enyimba advantage.

Unfortunately, the Elephants have not won a match in North Africa. And to be reckoned with in Africa, you must find a way round teams from the Maghreb.

The same Enyimba lifted the CAF Champions League twice, overcoming North African opposition but they neither won in Ismailia, Egypt against Ismaili in 2003 nor in Tunis, Tunisia against Etoile in 2004.

This is where Finidi should put in more effort. He was a member of the Tunisia ’94 cup winning Super Eagles. He also qualified for the USA ’94 World Cup with Nigeria in Algeria. The coach played soccer in Spain, not very far from Morocco.

Finidi won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in 1995. He is presently, the most decorated Nigerian player handling a team in the local league. I want him to succeed.

Enyimba is a stepping stone. I see Finidi and Emmanuel Amuneke taking the Super Eagles to the sky someday.