After various years of dire displays in the CAF competitions by Nigerian teams the four slots enjoyed by the NPFL was reduced to two, then due to administrative crises, the League provided Lobi Stars as its representative in the Champions League and Enugu Rangers on its own part merited by winning the CAF Confederations Cup.
However, a string of impressive performances from both teams saw them make the group stages of the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederations Cup a feat which saw Nigeria’s four slots returned.
Despite being behind the schedule for 2018/19 season, the LMC adopted an abridged league format which ended with a PLAY-OFF competition which produced three CAF competitions representatives with Champions Enyimba, runner-up Kano Pillars taking the Champions League spots and Enugu Rangers snatching one confederation cup ticket.
The last Confederations Cup ticket was placed atop The Aiteo Cup for eventual winners, however, with Kano Pillars getting to the finals alongside Niger Tornadoes, the final ticket was automatically picked by Tornadoes. Here we look at a rough sketch of the Nigeria four CAF representatives for the 2019/20 season
CAF Champions League
Last Appearance: 2016(group stage)
Best finish: Winners x2
The Aba Elephants lifted the NPFL trophy after winning 4 games out of 5. The Usman Abd’Allah led team are no strangers to the CAF Champions League as they remain Nigeria’s sole winners in the history of the competition.
The team last participated in the Champions League in 2016 where they failed to move to the next round but tasted Continental football in 2018 after getting to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup losing to Wydad Casablanca on aggregate.
They hold Nigeria’s biggest hope in Winning any Continental title due to their pedigree and history in the competition.
CAF Champions League
Last Appearance: 2015 (group stage)
Best Finish: Semi-final 2009
Kano Pillars is one Nigerian team whose all CAF competition appearances have been only in the CAF Champions league, the Sai Masu Gida have not played in the Confederations Cup despite qualifying a Continental spot 5 times previously.
However, the last time the Kano based team played in the Champions League was in 2015, an agonising second-place finish at the NPFL Championship playoffs see them returned to the continent and the team could still end the season on a high with the Aiteo Cup final date with Niger Tornadoes on the horizon
CAF Confederations Cup
Last Appearance: 2019 (Group Stage)
Best Finish: Group Stage
The only team in the NPFL who are yet to be relegated are also Nigeria’s most experienced team on the continent having been playing on the continent since the 1970s which accumulated to 7 African Cup of Champions Clubs appearances from 1971 to 1985 and 3 appearances in CAF Champions League from 2006 to 2017.
They are also a one-time winner of the defunct cup Winners Cup and also played in the CAF Confederations Cups severally, a competition they will hope to go into its final stages as opposed to a group stage finish in the past season.
CAF Confederations Cup
Last Appearance: NIL
Best finish: Debut
Proper research into the archives may reveal past participants in CAF competitions but a very minimal number of them would have done so as a 2nd division club side but Tornadoes do this on their debut appearance.
Niger Tornadoes though formerly played in the CAF cup Winners Cup in 2001 but the quarter-final appearance in the now-defunct competition is the furthest they have gone. It must be stated though that the team have never played in the Champions League or its second tier.
It is now left to be seen how the team will shuffle it’s Nigeria National League campaign and a journey into Africa in a quest for glory and a return to the top flight. They may learn valuable lessons from Atlanta and Cardiff who played in the Uefa Cup Winners Cup in 1987 and 1960s respectively, as lower tier teams.
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