NIGERIAN CLUB SIDES IN AFRICAN INTER CLUB COMPETITIONS… By Jerry Udoh

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Since the commencement of continental club football in 1964, talking about the African club champions cup (now CAF champions league), Nigerian club sides have held their own and made their fair representation in all the inter club competitions.

Stationery Stores football club of Lagos (later known as Super Stores) became the first Nigerian side to play in Africa, this was in 1970, as at this time, there wasn’t league football in Nigeria, so Stores represented Nigeria in the champions league in their capacity as the 1969 Nigerian FA or Aiteo (national) cup winners. For the records, Stories won four FA cups (1967,69,82 & 90) and their only league title was in 1992.

The Nigerian Aiteo cup which has bore many nomenclatures (names) such as, War Premier challenge (1942), Governor’s cup (1945), Challenge cup (1960), FA cup (1972), Coca Cola FA cup (1989), Federation cup(2012), Aiteo cup (2015), and just like the English FA cup is the oldest football competition in Nigeria, Zik Athletic Club of Lagos emerged first winners in 1942, Lagos Railways are however, the most successful side with 7 titles, followed by Rangers of Enugu with 6 titles.

The Nigerian league started in 1972 as Mighty Jets football club of Jos were crowned the first Nigerian league champions, this qualified them to fly the country’s flag in the 1973 champions league. However, in 1975, Rangers international became the first Nigerian side to reach a continental club final, that is the CAF champions league, losing to Hafia of Guinea.

It wasn’t until 1976 that Nigeria’s first continental success arrived through Ibadan based IICC Shooting Stars (Industrial investment and credit company, first known as WNDC on formation in 1957). They became the first Nigerian club to hoist (lift) a continental trophy, which was the second tier African cup winners cup (the Mandela’s cup) and they are also the second Nigerian team to win a title in Africa (after the Green Eagles’ all African games gold winning feat of Lagos 73′). Stars for the records have won 5 league titles (1977, 79, 81,95 & 98) and four FA cup titles (1971, 75, 80 & 98).

On their way to winning the trophy, Stars eliminated such sides as Breweries of Kenya, Pokona (Nkana Red Devils) of Zambia and won a tricky semi final tie against giants, Zamalek of Egypt, both ties had ended 2:2 on aggregate with Shooting progressing on penalties to the title game against defending champions, Tonnere Kalala of Cameroon (who won the maiden edition in 1975). Kalala were highly favoured with their “superstar ” Roger Albert Milla (who scored 3 goals to eliminate Mighty Jets from the 1973 champions league on technical ground as Sule Kekere also scored 3 goals for Jets).

In the first leg final at the Surulere national stadium Sports City in Lagos (where all continental games held then) on the 22nd November 1976, Stars against all odds shocked Kalala 4:1 and lost the return leg 0:1 in Yaoundé (at the Ahmadu Ahijou Omnisports stadium) on December 12th, with Moses Otolorin (their top scorer) scoring 8 goals and Segun Odegbami had 7 goals with Muda Timiyudeen Lawal scoring the other of the 16 goals of that campaign.

Others in that famous team were Dauda Adepoju (Mutiu’s uncle), Sam Ojegbode (captain), Best Ogedengbe, Moses Effiong (both goalkeepers and nations cup winners in 1980), Joe Appiah, Olakunle Awesu ( Africa’s best left winger in 1977), it was British missionary, Alan Hawkees that tinkered that great and historic team and was assisted by Joseph Ladipo (Jossy Lad, their first FA cup winning captain in 1971), there were also Niyi Akande ( he captained them to win their first league title in 1974) and Amusa Adisa on the technical bench.

Rangers international could not bear to see their arch rivals win in Africa and vowed to do everything within their power, including shedding blood to win the next edition, and they actually did shed blood on their way to conquest in 1977. Rangers, for the benefit of hindsight won the Nigerian league 6 times ((1974, 75, 76, 80 ,82 & 2016) only bettered by Enyimba international, they are also 5 times FA cup winners (1974,76,77,79 & 84), and they finally went a step better than 1975 by winning in Africa this time around, though they actually won the less fancied Mandela’s cup, not the Sekou Toure’s cup.

They defeated Ethiopia Coffee, FC Tripoli (Libya) and then came that explosive quarter final clash with Police FC (Senegal), the first leg in Lagos ended goalless, so Rangers knew they were in for a war at the Leopold Sedan Senghor stadium in Dakar in the return leg, Rangers also adopted a defensive 4-4-2 formation like the Senegalese did away, and with a mamoth crowd behind the host, Rangers drew the first blood after a goalless first half through “super sub” Emeka Ifeanyi’s rebound shoot, scored by Aloysius “blockbuster” Atuegbu, Ifeanyi then danced his way through Police’s defence to make it 2:0, it was a shock to the home fans that had boasted they will thrash Rangers, the arena was a graveyard silence.

The fans began to throw stones on the pitch forcing the Ifeanyis (Emeka & Onyedika) to move infield from the flanks, and though a debatable penalty was awarded Police and they reduced the arrears, Rangers held sway and advanced, the fans descended the pitch and beat up all beatable, before police personnels could rescue Rangers, the damage was meted already, Nigerian president then (Gen Obasanjo) sent an air force jet to evacuate Rangers even if president Leopold Senghor had promised to fly them, some players returned home with blood wounds to a cheering and sympathetic Lagos crowd.

Rangers met defending champions, Shooting in an all Nigeria semis and advanced on penalties after both legs ended scoreless in Lagos, Emmanuel Okala bested Best Ogendengbe in the shootouts to emerge hero. And in the first leg final in Lagos, Rangers thrashed Canon Yaoundé of Cameroon 4:1 (on 27th November) and drew 1:1 away (on 16th December) to win the trophy again for Nigeria, parading the likes of Christian “Chairman” Chukwu, Sylvanus “quick Silva” Okpalla, Mathias Obianuku etc, coach Godwin Achebe (their first captain, in 1970) thus achieved what he couldn’t manage as a player, win trophies both at home and in Africa.

Then came unheralded BCC Lions of Gboko, founded in 1982 and bankrolled by then Benue cement company, they flew Nigeria’s flag in the Mandela’s cup in 1990 and triumphed (the same year Mandela was freed), Lions had won the 1989 FA cup to qualify, they also won the FA cup in 1993, 94 & 97 with their only league title arriving in 1994. They weathered the cloudy storms to reach the final, beating the likes of ES Setif (Algeria), Diable Noire (Congo), Ousdame (Senegal) and Derpotivo FC (Mozambique) to set up a December 4 final in Lagos against Club Africain of Tunisia, Lions won 3:0 and drew the return 1:1 at the El Mensah in Rades on the 12th of December.

Later to be Super Eagles coach, Shuaibu Amodu tinkered that wonderful squad that paraded Victor Aningo, Samuel Adingi, Aluma Aule, Amir Angwe, Edema Fuludu, Terfa Kparkor, Moses Kparkor ( both brothers), John Agwum, Benedict Ugwu to mention a few. They reached the 1991 final but lost to Power Dynamo of Zambia. Also the likes of Leventis United (85), Ranchers Bees (88), Bendel United (89), Julius Berger (2005) and Dolphins (2015) were losing finalist in the Mandela’s cup, though Berger and Dolphins actually lost the Confederation cup.

The Sekou Toure’s cup (champions league) continued to be elusive to Nigerian clubs, after Rangers final defeat in 1975, Shooting Stars lost the 1984 final to Zamalek, Heartland, then known as Iwuanyanwu Nationale, also lost in the 1988 final to ES Setif, off course Shooting again lost the 1996 final via penalties to Zamalek, and just when many were thinking we were jinx from winning this glamorous trophy, cometh Enyimba like a bolt from outer space.

The peoples’ elephant, founded as Falcons of Aba in 1975 are without doubt Nigeria’s greatest and most successful club side, with 8 league titles, 4 FA cups, 3 super cups, 2 champions league and 2 CAF super cups, they are without doubt Nigeria’s Alfa dogs and numero uno, unlucky to have missed the FIFA club world cup as African champions (the tournament was suspended then), they are a force to reckon with and one of the most feared side in Africa.

To win the title in 2003, they thrashed Satellite of Guinea (8:2 aggregate), ASC Jean d’ Arc of Senegal (4:0) in the first and second round. And in the group stage, it was 3:0 against Simba (Tanzania), they lost 1:6 to Ismaily (Egypt), 3:1 versus African Sports ,(Ivory Coast), 1:0 also against African Sports, 1:1 versus Simba and 4:2 against Ismaily in the group stage to come out behind Ismaily, in the semis, they played ES Setif 1:1 & 1:0 aggregate to make the final and beat Ismaily 2:1 (2:0 & 0:1 aggregate) to lift Nigeria’s first champions league trophy, the final were played on 4th and 11th December respectively.

While in 2004, they pipped ASC Diaraf of Senegal (3:1), Petro Athletico of Angola (3:2) to make the group stage, here, they pummelled Bakili Bullets of Malawi (5:0), Asec Mimosas, Ivory Coast (1:0), Etoile du Sahel, Tunisia (0:1) & 1:1 as well as 1:1 versus Bakili and 3:2 against Asec and advanced behind Etoile, in the semis, it was 1:1 home and away versus Esperance Sportive of Tunisia, they won on penalties to book a successive final against another group foe, it was 1:2 & 2:1 against Etoile and they won again on penalties to win the title and the 2004 & 2005 super cup back to back both legs of the final were on the 5th and 12th December.

Kadiri Ikhana tinkered the 2003 team while Okey Enordi handled the 2004 side, they had the likes of Muri Ogunbiyi, Musa Aliyu, Damian Udeh, Obinna Nwaneri, Romanus Ojinta, Ekene Ezenwa, Ndidi Anunmunu, Emeka Nwanna, Jotex Frimpong, Victor Ezeji, Ahmed Garba, Vincent Enyeama, Dele Aiyenugba, Seyi Ogunsanya and the likes, off course Heartland came close again for Nigeria, beating compatriots, Kano pillars in the semis to reach the 2009 final but lost on the away goals after a 2:2 draw with TP Mazembe. Meanwhile, Shooting Stars has also won the CAF cup (1992) and also Bendel Insurance (1995), while New Nigeria bank (NNB,1983 &
84), Ranchers Bees (1989), Insurance (1993,, 94 & 95), Shooting (1998) & Sharks (2010) have also won the sub regional WAFU cup for teams in West Africa.

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