Rivers United inched closer to clinching the 2021/2022 NPFL title as as runaway champions with an away draw against Enugu Rangers International at the Awka City Stadium on Saturday.
In this interview with Completsports.com after the tension soaked match, the Head Coach of the CAF Champions League bound team, Stanley Eguma, says his team is looking to represent Nigeria better in next CAF Chamipions League, but presently not done with gathering points in the NPFL title chase despite the seeming unassailable 71 points already in the club’s kitty from 34 matches, just four rounds of fixtures remaining to end the campaign.
While commending the League Management Company, LMC, over what for an improved officiating in the NPFL, Eguma advises that television should come into the league to make it more attractive and available also to the grassroots audience.
Interview by CHIGOZIE CHUKWULETA, in Awka.
Coach, congratulations. How would you appraise Rivers United game against Rangers, and what’s the importance of the result to your title chase?
Eguma: It was a very technical game, Rangers are a good side, they showed a lot of strength in today’s game and I am not surprised at the position where they are, chasing the intercontinental ticket.
The players they did very well, they put us under severe pressure. We were trying to absorb the pressure and change our tactics in the second half, but we were unlucky not to get a goal. Early in the game we would have gone ahead, the chance that Akuneto missed would have made the difference. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a goal till the game ended.
I commend Rangers, they gave us a very good fight today and I commend my players too for putting up a very good effort, it showed good character in this game. Ordinarily, one would have seen Rangers take the three points, but my players stood their ground and showed a high sense of maturity. The outcome is good for our journey in the title chase.
As it is now, you are in the continent and it is not your first time in the continental berth, the CAF Champions League. What are you looking forward to this time around?
We are looking to better our performances. In the past, we’ve gone there, tried and we couldn’t succeed and came back. So this time around, I think with good planning and good motivation, Rivers United would do better than we have done in the past. Nigeria needs to have more squads in the continental competitions. We have to put in our best for us to bring that glory to Nigeria.
How has the 2021/2022 NPFL campaign been for Rivers United?
It has not been easy. It’s been very tough and very energy sapping. I give kudos to the players. The wears and tears from of the league matches have been affecting us, but we never relented. We know that yes, it is the end that justifies the means. So we will keep working and working and ensuring that we gather points not only at home but also in away matches, and the mercy of God has also been helpful to us.
I believe that it is not over until it is over. I commend the players’ efforts and I also want to commend my management for taking the players’ welfare as priority, that has really helped us.
How would you describe the pitch of Awka City Stadium that Rivers United played on against Rangers?
The pitch is lush green . I think if well maintained, it is a good place to play any of the NPFL games any day any time.
There were protests over some decisions of the referee. What is your take on that?
Well I don’t know, I am not the referee. I don’t talk about the referees because they decide the matches. So I don’t know about that, the referees did well in today’s game.
Having earned 71 points from with 34 matches so far, are you looking to create records with Rivers United at the end of the remaining four games of the season?
Well the season is still on, we are still on, still fighting. What I said is that we will keep working hard. The matches are not over, so we will continue to gather points here and there. At the end of the day, we calculate how many points we were able to gather. I think we are still optimistic, we can get more points.
Your name is synonymous with the Nigerian Professional Football League. Have you seen any improvements this season that benefitted Rivers United?
There is a remarkable improvement in the league, l must say. I think teams are free to play at any ground now. You know, free to play and get points. In this season, you can see that so many teams have garnered points from away, not only at home. In the past, it used to be win at home syndrome. But now, you can go away and win. Rivers United have won more than four games away. I think it is a good development. And so many other things too.
In the area of officiating, there has been improvement. And we need some facilities too to make it better. We need facilities and TV coverage. TV should come into our league so that it could be disseminated to the grassroots, everywhere. We also need NPFL management to monitor the games if it’s on TV. I think that’s the only place we are lacking. That aside, l give them 100 percent.