The CAF Champions League, founded in 1964, is the biggest football club competition in Africa. The tournament pitches clubs from different African countries against each other and is not only popular as the continent’s biggest football event at the club level but has also produced several football stars with notable examples such as Vincent Enyeama of Nigeria, and Mohamed Aboutrika of Egypt.
Prior to 2003, football fans in Nigeria watched the competition on TV and at stadiums, with great optimism that a Nigerian club would emerge champions in the continental showpiece. The dream of having a Nigerian team win the CAF Champions League was made a reality by Enyimba FC of Aba on December 12, 2003.
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Enyimba at CAF 2013
A 3-2 aggregate score against USM Algeria after two legs in the semifinal of the competition on November 8, 2003, meant Enyimba had gifted themselves and Nigeria a chance of winning the prestigious trophy for the first time against Egyptian league giants, Ismaili, in the two-leg final.
The first-leg match in Aba on November 30, 2003, saw Enyimba emerge victorious after goals from Emeka Nwanna and Ndidi Anumunu gifted the Peoples’ Elephant a 2-0 advantage ahead of the second-leg on December 12, 2003. The coach Kadiri Ikhana tutored side knew they had a huge task ahead if they were to bring continental glory to Nigeria at the club level for the first time in history.
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A controversial penalty awarded to Ismaily in the second-leg meant the North Africans took the lead in the 27th minute from the spot. Several attempts from the host to get a second goal and drag the game into extra-time or to defeat the Aba-based club proved futile as Enyimba’s goalkeeper, Enyeama, and a solid defense line held sway until the final whistle. Enyimba became the first Nigerian team to win the CAF Champions League and ended Nigeria’s 39-year wait for the trophy.
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