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The management of Dolphins Football Club has raised objection over the circumstances surrounding its ouster from the 2014-2015 CAF Confederations Cup championship in Tunis last Saturday, March 14.
The Port Harcourt-based club in a statement released through its media manager, China Acheru alleged foul-play in its ill-fated trip to Tunisia. According to Acheru, Dolphins contingent arrived in Tunisia at 1pm on Saturday, March 14, 2015 and were scheduled to play a CAF Confederation Cup game against Club Africain at 3pm, same day. But its request for a 24 hours shift in the match time-table on the ground of its travel challenges was flatly rejected.
“On our arrival at 1pm it took the chancery up to two hours before our visas were processed and passports issued to the delegation (note that Tunisian visa to Nigerians from Nigeria are issued at point of entry). And this was already the kick off time. On conclusion of immigration formalities with the assistance of two Nigerian embassy officials led by M. K. Yusuf we exited the airport building at 3pm. There was no bus to convey the delegation to the stadium. It was at this point a certain Mr. Mahmoud Ouaddeni of the Tunisian Federation showed up.”
He went further: “Our Federation had already written to CAF, had written to the Tunisian Federation, notifying them of our arrival time, but after more than 20 minutes of waiting, the bus finally came and we departed for the stadium at about 3.20 pm.”
According to the Dolphins spokesperson, knowing that the team could take the option to play when they finally arrived the venue, the management of Club Africain employed all tricks to ensure they were eliminated without kicking a ball. His words: “On our way to the stadium we sensed that the movement was being stage managed when a Nigerian, Mr. Nnamdi Osuji who lives in Tunis asked the driver why was the bus going round and round the streets of Tunis rather than taking a straight route to the stadium? The Federation official, Mr. Mahmoud Ouaddeni told us that the supporters would stone us if we went straight to the stadium. We arrived the stadium at exactly 4pm and were told we had been walked over by the home team.”
The drama didn’t end there. According to Acheru, their North African opponent had solid plans to frustrate their Nigerian counterpart in their desperate bid to advance to the next round of the competition at the expense of Dolphins.
Acheru said: “After this purported walk over, we noticed that there was no hotel reservations made for us as it is the duty of the host club to make those provisions. Instead the host team directed that we should be taken back to the airport from the stadium. It took the intervention of our ambassador in Tunis, who pressed for them to obey the rule which allows us reasonable time in the country.”
He submitted that “from these, it is obvious that the walk over was not only calculated to undermine the efforts of Dolphins FC and Nigeria by extension but done in bad faith by the match officials in collusion with both the host club and the Tunisian Federation.”
“It is not true that Dolphins did not travel for the game as is being speculated in some sections of the media. It is also not true that Dolphins were stranded in Dubai and thus didn’t make it to Tunisia. The team arrived late in Tunisia but in good time to play the game if not for the antics and shenanigans of the home team and Federation.”
By Olisemeka Obeche