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Africa’s greatest club sides of all

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Goal, in collaboration with African Football HQ, remember the greatest club sides in the continent’s sporting history

Guest Feature | Lotfi Wada

Goal in collaboration with African Football HQ , are delighted to present the latest instalment of our series celebrating the greatest club sides in the history of the continent’s game.

In this feature, we present the history-making Enyimba side who broke new ground for Nigerian clubs in Africa.

Follow the team at African Football HQ for some of the finest news and stats related to the continental game.

Enyimba’s standing began to change in 1999, when Orji Uzor Kalu was elected Governor of Abia State.

The newly elected chief ensured generous funding for the local team, and Felix Anyansi Agwu was appointed as the chairman of the club. The goal was clear: grow the baby elephant into a fierce and unstoppable elephant.

Previous failures (particularly in 2002) didn’t hold back the growing Nigerian elephant in their quest for the African grail.

A year later, propelled by a fabulous generation made of Vincent Enyeama, Obinna Nwaneri, Yusuf Mohamed, Mouritala Ogunbiyi, Emeka Nwanna and Onyekachi Okonkwo (who would all later garnish the ranks of foreign clubs), the baby elephant became the first Nigerian club to win the Caf Champions League.

Following a decent group stage campaign, they downed USM Alger before being pitted against a star-studded Ismaily team who had smashed them 6-0 just weeks earlier during the group stages. With the psychological factor in favour of the Egyptians, Enyimba took a 2-0 advantage in the first leg before the deciding half in Ismailia.

Being 1-0 down after a Hosny Abd Rabo penalty, Enyimba stood firm to write their name in the history of Nigerian football by becoming the first ever Nigerian club to win the ultimate gong, finally making up for the failures of Shooting Stars (1993,1996), Enugu Rangers (1975) and Iwuanyanwu Nationale (1988).

After winning the Caf Super Cup against Etoile du Sahel, Enyimba had now on target the ultimate objective on sight: retaining the new Caf Champions League.

Retaining the majority of their squad, Enyimba made their way with difficulty to the final, after a mild group stage campaign and a nerve-wracking semi-final penalty shootout against Esperance.

However, a part of the objective was reached: having a shot to complete a historic double.

In the final they faced Etoile du Sahel again following three clashes between both clubs over the preceding weeks.

Enyimba surprised the locals in the first leg through Nwanna, but the hosts turned the tables to secure a slight advantage before the return leg.

With one goal enough to write history in Abuja, Enyimba took the lead from the spot courtesy of unlikely designated penalty-taker Enyeama two minutes before the break.

The People’s Elephant were en route to a historic success.

Ogunbiyi’s goal early in the second half gave Enyimba the advantage, but Kais Zouaghi responded for ESS 10 minutes later to revert the scoreline, and ultimately sent the final to penalties.

Full-back Yusuf Mohamed couldn’t miss the opportunity to write history and convert the most important kick of his life after Enyeama had denied the visitors, and the Nigerian heavyweights had retained their title.

They had done what nobody had for over three decades; retain the biggest club prize in the African game.

Chairman Anyansi-Agwu & Governor Kalu’s bet paid off, the baby elephants had conquered the continent.

Enyimba bagged a second Caf Super Cup against Accra Hearts of Oak to cap the first ever double in the history of the new Champions League before the curtain came down on an exceptional generation.

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