FOR ENYIMBA, NO EASY DRAW IN CAF CONFEDERATION CUP

BY MUYIWA AKINTUNDE

Enyimba have been given what many fans regarded as the easiest pairing in this season’s CAF Confederation Cup quarterfinals. But that is only a misconception if the performances of the other three group winners and their pedigree in the continent are taken into consideration.

Unlike Egypt’s Pyramids FC (Group A winners), RS Berkane (Group C winners) and Hassania Agadir (Group D winners), who all qualified straight for the continent’s second tier club competition, Horoya won their domestic league last season and therefore started their continental campaign in the elite CAF Champions League.

Horoya beat Mali’s Stade Malien at the preliminary stage of the Champions League but were unlucky against Algerian side JS Kabylie in the first round, and therefore dropped into the Confederation Cup.

In the just concluded group stage of the Confederation Cup, Horoya produced an unbeaten record, winning four of their six matches and sharing honours in the remaining two to garner 14 points.

They were only bettered on points by debutante Pyramids FC of Egypt, who won five games and lost one to pull 15 points.

Morocco’s pair of RS Berkane and Hassania Agadir topped their respective groups with just 11 points.

Again, the trio of Hassania Agadir, RS Berkane and Pyramids FC, all of whom Enyimba will miss in the quarterfinals, have no record that can match that of Horoya in Africa.

Hassania Agadir’s best performance was quarterfinal exit in this tournament last season, while they crashed out in the second round in 2003 and 2004.

RS Berkane qualified for a continental competition for the first time last season and travelled all the way to the final but were beaten by Zamalek via penalties, while Pyramids FC are having their first experience of continental tournament.

Horoya have been among Africa’s big boys in over four decades and won the then African Cup Winners Cup in 1978, in addition to semifinal showings in the same competition in 1979 and 1983.

In recent years, Horoya were quarterfinalists in the last two editions of the Champions League, in which they have posted nine appearances.

Enyimba have no doubt suffered a dip in form since the early 2000s when they were a force in the continent. Winners of the CAF Champions League in 2003 and 2004, the most decorated Nigerian club exited at the group stage in the next two editions but advanced to the semifinal in 2008 and 2011.

When they returned to that competition three years later, Enyimba were stopped in the first round and got eliminated at the group stage in 2016.

The People’s Elephant have not done well in the Confederation Cup. Semifinalists in 2018, their only other showing was a Round of 16 exit in 2010. 

Horoya are not new to Nigerian clubs. Among their victims in their 1978 triumph in the African Cup Winners Cup were 1976 winners Shooting Stars, who they eliminated 3-4 aggregate in the first round.

Horoya however got beaten by Leventis United in the 1985 edition of the African Cup Winners Cup on away goal rule. That was after they had been walked over in the first round of the same competition by Rangers the previous year. 

Enyimba will host Horoya in the first leg at the Enyimba International Stadium in Aba on March 1 with the reverse fixtures a week later.

If they pull through, Enyimba have either Al-Masry SC of Egypt) or Morocco’s RS Berkane to contend with in the last four.

The other quarterfinal pairing in the Confederation Cup are Zanaco FC (Zambia) versus Pyramids FC (Egypt) and Al-Nasr SC (Libya) versus Hassania Agadir (Morocco).

The draw for the Champions League quarterfinals have title holders Espérance being challenged by Zamalek with the Egyptian side hosting the first leg.

Others are: Al-Ahly (Egypt) versus Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa), Raja Casablanca (Morocco) versus TP Mazembe (DR Congo), Wydad Casablanca (Morocco) versus Étoile du Sahel (Tunisia).