Why Nigerian teams have failed to win the Caf Champions League – Samson Unuanel


Coach Samson Unuanel has opened up on why Nigeria Professional Football League teams have struggled in vain trying to win the Caf Champions League.

After a 40-year hiatus, Enyimba became the first club in Nigeria to win the annual continental club football competition in 2003. The following year, they retained their title after defeating Etoile du Sahel in the final.

Since then, no Nigerian team has emerged as African champions – although Heartland came close to winning in 2009 – albeit, they lost to TP Mazembe on the away goals rule.

As Al Ahly square up against Kaizer Chiefs in Casablanca to determine the 2021 kings, the former Sunshine Stars, Enyimba, Ocean Boys and Niger Tornadoes tactician reveals why this is so.

"It is just one single reason and every other reason is attached to it – and that is a lack of planning," Unuanel told Goal.

"In football, there is what we call periodization - which means planning within a period. We have two years for the Africa Cup of Nations, four years for the Fifa World Cup, and whoever wants to win the Caf Champions League must be able to give a four-year periodization.

"If you are not ready to give it, you cannot have a good result. Planning means a lot of things but we shy away from this part of the world.

"Also, a technical crew should be employed and not just a coach. When I was at Enyimba in 2009, five coaches formed the technical crew and everybody has his own role(s) with coach Okey Emordi the overall supervisor.

“Today, I doubt if we have anything like that again.”

Samson Unuanel

Famous for leading Prime FC to the Nigerian top-flight, coach Unuanel talks about the quality of players and coaches that had hindered the country’s chances on the continent.

"Our recruitment system is also poor. At the end of the season, you send the coach packing; employ a new coach who would come with his own players. There is no sincerity of purpose and everything keeps going backward,” he continued.

"What are the ages of the players used to prosecute the Caf Champions League? If you don't have players between the ages of 22 to 25 years, then they can never get to their level of hyper compensation - the level where you do everything like magic. How many of our players are on that level?

"To win a championship of this magnitude, you need a consistent performer on and off the field."

Pitiful as this could be, the current Calabar Rover handler suggests what NPFL teams must do if they ever want to win the Caf Champions League again.

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"Very simple, there are a lot of clubs that can give what I have said as a thought. Go around and scout for good players, employ coaches that can play without looking for the help of referees," he added.

"Majority of us in this country cannot win matches if we don't get external help. In Nigeria, we call it PR. That alone is killing our football. We will win at all costs at home and go away and lose.

"Any team having this kind of mindset can never win the Caf Champions League.”

Plateau United and Enyimba represented Nigeria in the ongoing edition. While the Peace Boys crashed out in the preliminary round, the People’s Elephant did not make it past the First Round.