“No Quality Match Balls In NPFL” – Anthony Okpotu Reveals Why Nigerian Clubs Fail In CAF Competitions

Anthony Okpotu claims Nigerian clubs perform badly in CAF inter-club competitions because the Nigerian Professional Football League lacks “quality match balls” and natural grass playing surfaces.

The former Lobi Stars striker made the claims on Lagos Talks’ Sports Zone on Thursday.

Nigerian clubs have struggled to make a mark in both the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup since Enyimba’s triumph in the former in 2003 and 2004.

No Nigerian club side has made the final in either competition since Heartland in the 2009 CAF Champions League where they lost to Congolese side TP Mazembe.

Enyimba were the last NPFL team to make a continental semifinal falling to eventual champions Raja Casablanca in the last four of the Confederation Cup in 2018.

In between those sparse successes, NPFL club sides have routinely fallen in the qualifiers and group stages.

And the 26-year-old Okpotu who was NPFL top scorer in 2017 believes the fault lies with the inferior match balls and facilities in Nigeria which always leaves NPFL clubs facing an uphill task on the continent.

“[Nigerians] always criticise [NPFL] teams that play on the continent, but teams only train for a week with CAF balls,” Okpotu who has banged in 10 goals in 16 appearances this season for US Monastir said.

“There are no quality match balls in the NPFL,” he continued. “The match balls are not good and that is one of the factors responsible for the poor performance on the continent.

“Even the pitches too are a problem. We have mostly synthetic grass which is different from natural grass you mostly see in other countries and this makes it difficult to control the ball when you play on natural grass.

“These things can make you lose a football match from the very first minute.”

Nigerian clubs poor run on the continent continued this season with Enyimba eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Confederation Cup while Enugu Rangers failed to progress past the group stage of the same competition for the second straight season.

Meanwhile, Kano Pillars and Niger Tornadoes both crashed out at the first hurdle in the CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively.