Plateau United’s coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu, has said his team is determined to qualify for the CAF Champions League group stage despite the pedigree of their opponents, Esperance of Tunisia.
Plateau United will meet Esperance in the first leg of the second preliminary round of the championship at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja on October 7.
Plateau United qualified for this stage of the competition by beating Gabon’s AS Stade Mandji 3-2 on aggregate.
Speaking yesterday, Ilechukwu said although the North Africans have been tipped to qualify ahead of them due to their exploits on the continent, his players would battle to pick the group stage ticket
“I am happy with what the boys did in qualifying for this round of the competition and I also want to commend the effort of the management.
In football, it is only when you tell yourself the truth that you will get it right. The kind of structure and the financial muscle our opponents from the north of Africa have can’t be compared with what we have here.
“I have been following Tunisia’s league and I have discovered that at the end of every league season, these clubs try to retain the majority of their best legs.
“This does not happen in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), where we lose at least six of our best players and even some of our best to some of these big clubs on the continent.
“One thing that is certain is the Nigerian mentality of never say die. This, we will bring to bear in the fight for the ticket, as we cannot say because we are facing Esperance, then it means we have lost the game already,” he said.
Ilechukwu is banking on the comfort of the MKO Abuja Stadium to win the home game, saying: “In our last match against the Gabonese team, we only spent about six hours training before the match. I only hope that the management of the stadium will allow us to train well on the pitch before the game against Esperance top familiarise ourselves with the pitch.
“My players have promised to win the match to show that our qualification from the first round of the championship was not a fluke,” he said.