Home Football MFM FC struggles with the strain of continental campaign

MFM FC struggles with the strain of continental campaign

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MFM FC in action against Djoliba of Bamako during the CAF Confederation Cup elimination match at Agege Stadium

By Olanrewaju Akojede

With the 0-1 loss to Djoliba FC of Mali at their Soccer Temple, Agege Stadium on Sunday, Lagos-based MFM may have bungled the opportunity to advance to the group stage of the continental championship, CAF Confederation Cup.

The club, which their fans thought was ready to prove its readiness on the continental stage, faltered against the visitors, leaving the fans in utter dismay.

But the Olukoya Boys still could salvage the situation by getting the maximum points away to Djiolba AC de Bamako of Mali.

The Fidelis Ilechukwu tutored-team must step up its game and prove beyond the 6-0 debacle recorded in Algiers against MC Algiers in the CAF Champions League, a consequence for playing in the CAF Confederation Cup.

For MFM FC, going back to Mali might turn out to be a mixed feeling, having recorded an unexpected draw against the same Bamako-based club, AS Real Bamako whom they played out 1-1 during the CAF Champions League.

Another chance to play in the same city should not have been a problem, but MFM must have it at the back of their minds the 0-1 loss which may turn out to be a different ball game entirely.

To many observers, MFM has the easiest draw in the CAF Confederation Cup, yet the team of recent, looks like a team not ready for continental football as feelers from within and outside the club shows that all is not well.

From the team’s management to the coach and the players, there are some traces of discordant tunes as the campaign hots up.

The management of MFM must wake up to its responsibility and come to the realisation that they need to either rewrite the constitution of the club to the present day reality or amend some contentious laws.

It is true that the club is mission-based with a responsibility of giving opportunities to young Nigerians and getting them off the street by engaging them in football.

This, of course, is a laudable vision, but yet, the present day reality is that the nomenclature of that mission has greatly transformed from a grassroots support team to a continental playing club.

From the look of things, MFM though debutant in continental football, should have done better in the second round of the CAF Champions League if they had the right players – a situation which the coach also refers to.

The management of the team, led by Emmanuel Akinyemi, looks handicapped to have a firm grip on what goes on within the team as they were unable to get the coach the players he needed.

It will be recalled that after the sale of its ace striker, Stephen Odey to a Swedish club, the team should have had a good replacement, but that was not the case, instead the team opted for players in the feeder team.

The coach at several fora complained of not having a team formidable enough to prosecute continental football and has not hidden his displeasure over the matter.

Ilechukwu in an interview openly fired salvos at the management for scuttling his plans to recruit players of his choice to bolster the team.

An inside source in the club, however, said the coach was unimpressed with the handling of the recruitment of two players he had indicated interest in, Salisu Ochefu and Victor Mboama of Remo Stars.

Mboama travelled with the team to Kano where they played the Super 6 championships won by the home-based Eagles with the hope of signing for the team, but things got twisted at the negotiation table.

The Remo Stars highest goal scorer, however, settled for the team that met his financial need, Akwa-United FC of Uyo to the surprise of many.

Ilechukwu at another forum said that he would let the media know when he had a team he wanted.

“This is not the team I wanted, and there is no two ways about this, the media can go ahead to write whatever they like, but it is me that knows the team.

“Whenever I have the team that I want, I will let the media to know, that is my position,’’ he said.

From all indications, Ilechukwu is not impressed with the dealings within the club’s hierarchy, he needs tested players that can prosecute continental football not the inexperienced ones from the feeder team.

Continental football, no doubt, is for the experienced footballer because it has history.

Another noticeable fault in MFM prosecution of the continental football is the absence of the regulars for the championships.

Ace players like Sikiru Olatunbosun, Shola Brossa and Waheed Akanni among others were not registered to the consternation of many.

The failure to register these regulars has, no doubt, impacted negatively on the cohesion in the team as they struggled to gel during the home match against Djoliba in Agege Stadium.

On the part of the players, one of them said he was not happy with the salary structure of the club.

“After spending about three seasons I expect that we should have improved contract aside the ones we signed as amateur players, he said.

The main problem of MFM is that of the inability to recruit experienced players for the continental football campaigns coupled with the fact that some of their competent legs were also left unregistered for the continental championships.

MFM should have it at the back of their minds that rookies may not be able to take them far in their campaign because when the chips are down, only the experienced footballers can stand up to the task.

The team should also know that they need to wake up from their slumber of being the club that Lagos has to the club that Lagos need.

Lagos is in dire need of a club that will be consistent and not a club that will fade away when the chips are down.

It is pertinent to say at this point that MFM should go into the second leg of the CAF Confederation Cup elimination stage with the mind to retaliate the defeat by Djoliba in Bamako.