After having their first experience of continental competition, Nigeria Federation Cup Champions, FC Ifeanyiubah have been left with a bitter taste in the mouth. In the video above (courtesy @SupportTheNPFL), the proprietor of the club, Dr. Ifeanyi Ubah, narrates part of their bitter experience when they travelled to Egypt to play against Al Masry in the second leg of their CAF Confederation Cup (CAFCC) preliminary round fixture. The club had won the first leg 1-0 in Nigeria the week before, taking the slender advantage to Egypt for the return match on 19th February, 2017.
As narrated by Dr. Ubah in addition to reports from other members of the team’s contingent to Egypt, FC Ifeanyiubah endured ill-treatment, including being deliberately delayed on the team bus for over an hour before the match, limited access to training, hostility from home fans (including the use of green laser beams shone of players’ faces) and even poor sportsmanship from officials of the home team. Al Masry went on to win 1-0 and draw the tie level on aggregate, before knocking the Nigerian team out of the competition via a 3-0 victory in the penalty shoot-out.
It is bad enough that travel within the African continent is still a complex challenge for clubs to deal with; one certainly feels that professional football clubs should at least show each other some level of professional courtesy and hospitality. Football has huge tourism and economic potential, which is still largely untapped in Africa, so it would be wise to cease the opportunity of a continental competition to promote African tourism and hospitality.
One of the sour points during the Al Masry v. FC Ifeanyiubah match was in the penalty shoot-out. After FC Ifeanyiubah had missed their first penalty kick, as their goalkeeper, Ikehukwu Ezenwa was preparing to defend the first penalty kick from Al Masry, an official of the Egyptian club encroached onto the field and into the goal post to remove the catholic rosary that the goal-keeper had placed in goal. Despite the goalkeeper’s efforts to retrieve it, the Al Masry club official made away with the rosary and lifted it triumphantly towards the home crowd. FC Ifeanyiubah then went on to miss their other two penalty kicks while Al Masry converted all three of theirs.
It did not end there as several media outlets reported that the Manager of the Egyptian club, African football legend Hossam Hassan, accused the Nigerian club of using sorcery (juju), in apparent reference to the rosary incident. Whereas expressions of religion have no place in professional football, such statements would indeed be insensitive to say the least.
It is high time CAF stepped up to ensure that hostile treatment of away teams becomes a thing of the past. The role of General Coordinators in CAF inter-club matches could be helpful in this regard. Their primary tasks include ensuring compliance with the rules of the reception and the residence of the teams and the officials; but these appointments are currently limited to the group stage of the competition only, as provided for in the CAFCC Regulations.
The ideals of fair play and sportsmanship must be observed and promoted both on and off the field. This will not only serve to improve teams’ experiences on the continent and ensure improved competitiveness, but will also boost the commercial allure of the CAF inter-club competitions.
OFF THE PITCH!
— Adepoju Tobi Samuel (@OgaNlaMedia) February 18, 2017