Nigeria’s Heartland are confident that with fair officiating they will be crowned African champions ahead of TP Mazembe of DR Congo on November 15.
This year’s CAF Champions League will be a rematch after both teams had cancelled out each other in the group phase of the competition. Mazembe won 2-0 at home only for Heartland to avenge this defeat by also winning 2-0 in Owerri.
“I only hope that all the top CAF officials will attend both legs of the final to ensure a level playing field in terms of officiating and then I can assure Nigerians that the CAF Champions League trophy will come back home,” said Heartland chairman, Ignatius Okeahialam, whose team host the first leg final on November 1.
“I am not surprised we are in the final because it was always our target to win the Champions League. The players realised this right from our first match and the result of this commitment is there for all to see now.”
“We expect to give the Congolese side all the respect they deserve. They are a tough side but not unbeatable. We have all it takes to win this trophy for Nigeria a third time,” said coach Kelechi Emeteole.
Heartland are next-door neighbours to Enyimba, the only Nigerian team to have won the Champions League, in 2003 and 2004.
Skipper ThankGod Ike, who has been ever-present for Heartland in this competition said: “We will not leave anything to chance to bring this trophy back to Nigeria. TP Mazembe will be very tough, but we are more than determined to win the cup, just Enyimba did a few years ago.”
Emeka Nwanna, two-goal hero in the semi-final against fellow Nigerian club, Kano Pillars, as well as former youth international John Owoeri featured for Enyimba in the Champions League before switching allegiance to the ‘Naze Millionaires’.
Owoeri, in particular, was a thorn in the flesh of Mazembe in their Group B reverse fixture at the Dan Anyiam Stadium in Owerri last month, scoring a goal and creating the other as a 10-man Heartland defeated the Congolese champions.
He missed the semi-final against Kano Pillars as a result of suspension, but is now eligible for the final.
The winner of this year’s competition will pocket a million US dollars as well as represent Africa at the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates in December.