El Merreikh is dangerous, but beatable
Warri Wolves’ fan recalls past encounter with Bendel United
In 1989, El Merreikh FC of Sudan sent millions of Nigerian soccer fans to early bed on a day they were looking forward in celebrating victory at the Ogbe Stadium in Benin City.
Then, Nigeria’s flag bearer in the old African Cup Winners’ Cup, Bendel United FC, was the toast of many fans going by the way, they demolish their opponents from the preliminary stage to the final of the competition.
After bashing ASF Bobo 5-1 in the second round, Bendel United went on to hit AS Kalamu 3-0 in the quarterfinal before eliminating FC BFV 4-1 in the semifinal.
Many Nigerian fans were so sure that United would win the trophy, especially when they were playing the second leg at home after their narrow 1-0 defeat in first leg in Sudan. It turned out to be a mission impossible for Bendel United.
On the day of the return leg at the Ogbe Stadium in Benin City, United fans came from far and near with the flag-and-banner-waving supporters singing and dancing along major streets in Benin.
One of the fans that came from Oghara to cheer Bendel United in that final was Charity Efeferoro, now a coach of Oghara United FC and die-hard supporter of Warri Wolves.
The support from the fans notwithstanding, Bendel United failed to over come the visiting El- Merreikh. The game ended 0-0 and the Sudanese won the trophy on 1-0 goal aggregate. It remains one of the saddest moments for Charity Efeferoro till date.
This weekend, another Nigerian club side, Warri Wolves will play host to El-Merreikh of Sudan, this time in the prestigious CAF Champions League second round, first leg match and Efeferoro is worried.
“I have been following El-Merreikh games since 1989 when they won the African Cup Winners’ Cup against Bendel United, and I can say that team is very good,” Efeferoro told The Guardian on phone from his base in Oghara, Delta State yesterday.
“El-Merreikh like to operate mostly from the wings and they get fast counter attacks. If you give them space, they will destroy you. They always like to make long crosses from the middle. I am a coach and I know what I am talking about.
“My advice is that our boys (Warri Wolves) must not give El-Merreikh that space to make their long crosses. They must hold the midfield and also keep their eyes on the wings. I know that Warri Wolves have some quality players who are capable of beating El-Merreikh, but they must be very careful. Warri Wolves must not play to the gallery. This is the first leg and Warri Wolves must try and score as many goals as possible,” Efeferoro said.
Chairman of Delta Sports Commission, Tony Okowa said yesterday that the government had given Warri Wolves enough motivation to beat the visiting Sudanese.
Also, the chairman of Warri Wolves, Moses Etu, stated that the boys are ready to make Nigeria proud, adding that the technical crew was working round the clock to ensure victory on Sunday.
A 31-man delegation of El-Merreikh is expected to arrive Nigeria later today,
The match billed for Warri City Stadium on Sunday will see a Burkinabe referees, Juste Ephrem Zio in the centre, with Seydou Tiama, Kouka Christian Ouedraogo and Boureima Sanogo as assistant 1, assistant 2 and reserve referees respectively.
Former Ghana FA boss, M. D. Jawula will be match commissioner.
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