The Nigeria Football Federation have hailed Nigeria Professional Football League champions Enyimba for reaching the group stage of the CAF Champions League, but have vowed to lodge a strong protest to the Confederation of African Football over the conduct of Etoile du Sahel’s supporters in Sousse on Wednesday night.
There were reports of intimidating tactics and unsporting behaviour from the Tunisians as they sought to stop the Nigerians by all means.
NFF President Amaju Pinnick said in a press release made available to Completesportsnigeria.com on Thursday: “What happened around the Stade Olympique in Sousse on Wednesday bordered on extreme intimidation of the opposition. This is not football. Football is about peace, about love and about friendship.
“When Etoile du Sahel came to Nigeria, we provided everything for them, including a friendly football arena. We will lodge a strong protest to CAF on this matter.”
Pinnick said he was willing to personally deliver the protest at the CAF headquarters in Cairo, if he had to do so.
“We will wait for the team to return from Tunisia so that we can get the full details of what transpired," he added.
“However, we are delighted at Enyimba’s qualification. They have shown that they are truly very much experienced on the road. They withstood everything thrown at them and scaled through. That is the stuff of champions.”
Pinnick also pledged that the NFF will continue to give Enyimba all the backing as they go for a third CAF Champions League title. “The NFF Board made the decision at its last meeting to give Enyimba FC full support to go for the African title. Nothing has changed.”
NFF’s Acting Director of Competitions, Bola Oyeyode, told thenff.com from Sousse on Wednesday night that a tense and intimidating atmosphere prevailed throughout the match, with Nigerian players and officials serially pelted with various objects.
Hamza Lahmar scored with three minutes left in the first half through a free-kick, and Diego Acosta hit a brace in the 61st and 71st minutes to cancel out Enyimba’s first leg advantage.
Enyimba’s Mfon Udoh, who scored all of People’s Elephants’ goals in the first leg in Port Harcourt, and forward Christian Pyagbara missed the Nigerians’ first two kicks in the shoot-out.
But goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai turned hero after he saved three successive kicks in the shoot-out to see Enyimba through to the group stage on 4-3.
Co-incidentally, Enyimba also defeated Etoile on penalties in the CAF Champions League final in 2004 after both legs ended 3-3 on aggregate.