Enyimba chairman, Chief Felix Anyansi Agwu tells Completesportsnigeria.com‘s SAB OSUJI at the Murtala Mohammed Airport Lagos on Friday when his team was traveling to Egypt for Sunday’s CAF Champions League return leg match against Smouah they will return with victory. He says Enyimba have experience and know Egyptian football well. Anyansi, an NFF executive committee member says his team will play an attacking football and that his hosts cannot afford to sit back. Excerpts… Complete Sports: chairman, Enyimba hold a slim 1-0 advantage going into Sunday’s crucial return leg match in Alexandria against Smouah, what do you want Nigerians to expect from the team?
: victory, we’re going there for nothing except winning and qualifying for the next stage of the competition. At this point, the most important thing is to qualify, it doesn’t matter how the game went. The most essential thing, as far as we’re concerned is to move to the next stage. And we must do that. Yes, we must qualify, I’m very confident about that.
You speak with so much confidence. Having played Smouah in Aba in the first leg, were you able to assess them and how optimistic are you that Enyimba will get the expected goals?
The (Smouah) team that I saw in Aba was good. We’ve taken time to study them again and we noticed that they are a very compact team. A very good side I must confess. What they did was to come and defend in Aba. They played more midfielders and defenders and the whole of their area was packed and compact. But in Alexandria on Sunday, they cannot afford to do that, they cannot afford to pack the bus. So they must come out for the goals and that will be their greatest undoing. Because having played so much defensive game in Aba, they were not exposed. But now they will come out to play to win. And our own side, we’re not going out there to defend. We’ll go all out to attack until we get the needed goal to make sure we’re back home with the qualification (ticket). Our objective is to qualify, wether the scoreline was going to be 1-1, 2-2, or 3-2, we don’t care so far as we qualified and go to the next round.
Enyimba have played in Alexandria or Cairo several times, will your team’s familiarity with the terrain be a factor for you to make things easier for your team on Sunday?
Actually we’ve played in Egypt several times. That includes Alexandria but most especially in Cairo. But experience is crucial, you can’t buy it, you can’t sacrifice it. Enyimba has experience in administration, and we have experienced coach too, a lot of people who are working for Enyimba are all exposed to continental competition and of course, this count too. Obviously, we’re not going to a lower team, though they appear to be a smaller team but the way they have risen in Egyptian football shows they are a team to be reckoned with. We’re taking them very seriously like every other team we could meet in the competition like Ismaily, Al Ahly or any other big team. One thing they shouldn’t take away from us is respect, if you don’t give Enyimba the respect you pay the price. Knowing that we are two time African champions, surely we’ve paid our dues in this competition. We have been involved in this competition for long, won the cup twice and reached the semi final four or five times. So we know the experience must always come to bear.
Going into this crucial match, how well have you motivated your players?
Obviously, the players have been motivated. You saw them here going to board their flight, their team spirit is good, and this is very important. The team is well motivated, everybody knows what’s going on in Nigeria but the (Abia state) government has made it a point of duty to ensure that the players are well motivated and ensured whatever that was needed to achieve success was provided. So our team relaxed, you saw the boys smiling. If they had any problem, surely it would show. They are committed, they know what’s at stake, everybody wants to continue with the competition. Of course, this is for their own interest too to remain in the competition and for us this counts a lot. As two time African champions, we can’t just come and go. We must get to the group stage, we must be in the big league, we must equally be counted among the champions. There are a whole lot of things bringing motivation to the team which I believe qualification is something we cannot toy with.
Before I let you go, I want to know if you did take time to study the weather condition in Egypt at the moment and how you intend to cope or overcome it?
We talked about experience, so these are parts of things that go with experience. For over one or two weeks now we’ve been on ground in Alexandria. Anything that needed to be done has been done. We’ve made our own hotel reservation long time ago. From the start, we know what the weather situation will be and we factored that into our planning. But I want to tell you that at the moment, the weather is not that sever in Egypt. We’re prepared all round including in equipment. All the equipments that are needed or required for the kind of weather we expect to meet in Egypt we have procured them well ahead of time. When you talk about experience there are a whole lot of things it stands for and this is just part of it.
Thank you very much and this is wishing you all the best in Alexandria.