Nigeria flagbearer, Enyimba have virtually won available trophies on the continent but are desirous of annexing the Total CAF Confederation Cup that is yet to grace their impressive trophy cabinet.
Indeed there is a renewed expectation after the two-time African champions drowned Rayon Sports of Rwanda with goals in the quarter-finals, finishing with an impressive 5-1 aggregate to set up an exciting semi-final tie against former African Champions, Raja Casablanca of Morocco.
The first leg of this eagerly awaited tie is slated for Enyimba International FC Stadium in Aba on Wednesday while the reverse fixture will be held at Complexe Mohammed V in Casablanca on 24 October.
Meanwhile, the transformation of Enyimba from a provincial club to continental superpower always elicit interest even more so when they are the only remaining Nigerian club still in the hunt for continental honour this year.
Formed 42 years ago, Enyimba were the first Nigerian club to win the CAF Champions League trophy in 2003 after 39 years of failure by several clubs including Rangers International of Enugu and Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan to win Africa’s top club competition and they successfully defended the crown in 2004.
“As far as Enyimba is concerned, we have a very rich history both in Nigeria and Africa because we have won everything winnable,” Felix Anyansi-Agwu who is almost two-decades in charge of Enyimba as chairman told CAFOnline.com
“Between 2000 and now that I’ve been chairman, we have won the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) title seven times and the Federation Cup four times aside many other trophies and even in years we failed to win something we had finished in second or third position in the league.
“In Africa, we won the CAF Champions League in 2003 and 2004; we have also won the CAF Super Cup twice in 2004 and 2005 and the only trophy left for us to win on the continent is the CAF Confederation Cup.
“We know that Nigerians want us to win this elusive CAF Confederation Cup. This is possible through hard work and commitment and God’s willing, we shall win this important trophy this year.”
Enyimba have relied on their pedigree in the race this season by dispatching Beninese side Energie FC 5-2 on aggregate in the First Round; before edging out Bidvest Wits of South Africa in the Second Round on the away goal rule after they both stalled at 1-1 over two legged encounters.
In the mini-league group stage, the People’s Elephant were pitched against CARA Brazzaville of Congo, AC Djoliba of Bamako and AC Williamsville of Abidjan.
In this motley crowd, Enyimba had to dig further on their experience coupled with inspired results including a hard-fought away win in Bamako in the penultimate match as well as the last home win against CARA-which incidentally was their first continental match since 2015 at their fortress following the renovation of their Aba stadium-to finish top of Group C.
Enyimba have indeed grown in stature since Anyansi-Agwu’s ascendancy as chairman in 2000 yet he has a sense of Deja vu feeling as they face another strong Moroccan side in a continental cup’s semi-finals.
Since their last continental conquest in 2004, Enyimba’s best effort so far was 2011 but they were edged out in the semi-finals by Wydad Casablanca of Morocco after losing 1-0 away and drew goalless at home.
“Of course football can be funny but I don’t want to dwell on what happened to us in the past against Wydad Casablanca,” stated Anyansi-Agwu who recently celebrated his 53rd birthday on August 8.
“We have respect for Raja because of their pedigree because they have achieved so much over the years both in Morocco and in Africa and I believe they’ll have the same respect for us as such this upcoming match between us is difficult to predict.
“But we are confident in our own abilities and I know we are a very difficult team to beat when we are on fire ; our performance in Aba against Rayon Sport has given us so much self-belief and I know our players would rise up to the occasion.”
Now in its 15th edition, this is Enyimba’s second campaign in the CAF Confederation Cup after they were eliminated by Zanaco of Zambia in the round preceding the group stage in 2010; but the new generation of players in the fold of the West African side are not oblivious about the challenges before them.
“We are very happy to reach the semi-final stage and this has been possible due to hard work and determination because we want to write our own history with Enyimba by winning the CAF Confederation Cup,” defender Ifeanyi Anaemena who joined Enyimba in 2014 told CAFOnline.com
“But we know we have to cross the semi-final hurdle against Raja Casablanca and we are not going to underrate them; our objective as a team is to win with good margin in Aba before travelling for the second leg away match.
“It has been a long time since Enyimba won the CAF Champions League in 2003 and 2004 and it would be a joyful moment for our generation of players to scale through the semi-final hurdle against Raja to boost our chance of winning the Confederation Cup this year; we have really enjoyed the support of the management and supporters of the club and we don’t want to disappoint them,” added the 26-year-old Anaemena who was in the team that won the Nigerian league title in 2015.
Undoubtedly, the People’s Elephant will enjoy massive support against Raja in Aba on 3 October not least with assurance from Kalu Ogbonnanya who has been a die-hard follower of Enyimba since 1999.
He said: “ Watching Enyimba play gives me immense joy despite my present condition because I’m on a wheel chair and I was not happy when they were playing the home matches in Calabar and Port Harcourt.
“But since they are back in Aba, I have been offering my maximum support like every other supporter of the club so that they can win the CAF Confederation Cup which is the only trophy we are yet to win in Africa.
“ I can’t predict the score line against Raja Casablanca in Aba but from the way we beat Rayon Sports last time, I’m confident about the chances of Enyimba reaching the final at the end of the day,” the 45-year-old Ogbonnanya told CAFOnline.com