President of Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, has charged players and officials of Enyimba FC not to drop their heads or lose focus following Sunday’s CAF Champions League defeat by visiting Egyptian side, Zamalek FC.
Nigeria’s flag –bearers in Africa’s most prestigious club competition fell by a lone goal against the Egyptians, who scored through Bassem Morsy in the first half at a waterlogged Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt.
Teams playing in the group stage know every match counts not only for the money but also for the points. Defeat in the very first game of the lucrative pool stage could have the tendency of demoralizing the group, but Pinnick told the team on Monday that they could still go all the way.
“What matters is not the beginning, but how well you cope along the way and how strongly you finish. Nothing is lost. You are not nicknamed ‘People’s Elephant’ for nothing. I remember that it was not all smooth –sailing in the group stage when you won the trophy for Nigeria for the first time in 2003, and even when you went ahead to retain it the following year.
“Your spirit matters, and I know that you do not lack the winning mentality. The important thing now is to forget the loss to Zamalek and re –strategise, and believe you would not only top your group at the end, but go ahead to win the CAF Champions League trophy,” the NFF President said.
In their group stage campaign in 2003, the People’s Elephant were pole –axed 6-1 by Ismaily of Egypt in the group stage, only to beat the same team over two legs in the final to win the trophy.
In 2004, they lost 0-1 in Nigeria to Africa Sports of Cote d’Ivoire and got only one point from two clashes with Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia in the group stage, but defeated the Tunisian club on penalties in the final to lift the trophy.
The Nigerian representatives next face Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa in Pretoria, in a competition that rewards winners of every match with $10,000 and pays $1,000 for every goal scored.