Plateau United coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu, has bemoaned the inadequacies of the Nigerian football structure, which he says has continually hampered performances of teams in CAF inter-club competitions.
This is coming in the wake of the losses suffered by Plateau United, Rivers United and Kwara United in the second leg of the final preliminary rounds of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup, which led to their ouster from the continental competitions.
NPFL champions Rivers United failed to make the CAF Champions League group stage after suffering a humiliating 6-0 defeat against Wydad Casablanca, crashing out to the champions 7-2 on aggregate.
Plateau United were undone by a contentious penalty against Esperance of Tunisia, falling out on the away-goal rule, after ending both legs 2-2 on aggregate, while Kwara United were eliminated by RS Berkane in Morocco.
Before the second leg, Ilechukwu had hoped for a fruitful outing for his side Plateau United and other Nigerian teams, but the results have again left Nigerians with hard pills to swallow.
“It’s going to be a thing of joy for me, for my team, for Nigeria fans if we qualified. But at the same time, we have to start looking at solutions, why we hardly get to group stage of CAF competitions,” Ilechukwu said.
“There are so many amendments we need in the structure of Nigerian football. We have to focus on areas we are lacking. We have to make sure we invest in Nigerian football. How many times do Nigerian teams keep their best players for two or three seasons, with a target to win the CAF Champions League or CAF Confederation Cup? No team has done that. Every season you lose 10 to 15 players. But these North African teams keep their players and put a certain amount of money into their structure.
“Trust me, Rivers United, Plateau United and Kwara United showed character, we showed the Nigerian spirit, that is what is working for us. Look at the structure and character of their opponents; Esperance came here with a chartered flight; can we do that here? That is why I thank Remo Stars for doing that. We have to travel, sometimes transit five to eight hours and when you get there, you have to face their (North African) antics. How much do we pay the highest paid players in Nigeria? How much do we pay coaches? We can’t keep blaming ourselves; we just have to do the right thing.