Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
The progress of two Nigerian teams into the group phase of the African Champions League defies the supposed impact of the continuing exodus of the country’s top talent to almost every distant footballing corner of the world.
Kano Pillars caused a major upset last month with their shock win over defending champions Al Ahly, albeit on the away goal rule, while Heartland FC eliminated last year’s runners-up Coton Sport of Cameroon at the same stage of the competition. Both results plunged the established order into disarray and offer now the Nigerians a chance to prove their immense resources.
Nigerian club football has had steady representation in the Champions League over the last 13 years but besides Enyimba, the state sponsored team from Aba State, no club has ever displayed title winning potential.
Much of that has to do with the flight of players from the country, off in search of better earnings and opportunity on foreign football fields. There are more than 200 Nigerian footballers playing across the globe, from the top leagues in England, Germany, Italy and Spain to lesser footballing markets like India, Vietnam and even in Albania.
The pivotal marketing position when South Africa were still bidding for the 2010 World Cup was the assertion it would be a tournament for all of the continent. ‘Africa’s bid’ was the pay-off line used throughout the successful campaign.
Using famous footballing personalities from around the continent, South Africa garnered widespread support with its all-inclusive approach against their Arab rivals in the race to win the right to host the event.
There was a familiar feel to the African Champions League again last weekend as holders Al Ahli of Egypt made their entrée into this year’s competition.
It was yet another rudimentary win for the Cairo club in their first game in defence of their title; a 3-0 triumph over Tanzanian opponents Young Africans achieved with several high profile stars rested and the minimum of fuss.
Al Ahli had a bye in last month’s first round, along with several other leading contenders, but while many of the other top north African clubs struggled in their first games, the Egyptians again glided through.
Al Ahli will travel to Dar-es-Salaam for the second leg of the tie on April 4, confident of again brushing aside the early preliminaries and making sure of their place in the lucrative league phase, which starts in July.