Afelokhai rues Nigeria’s failure to qualify for 2020 CHAN
Home-based Super Eagles goalkeeper, Theophilus Afelokhai, is yet to get over Nigeria’s ouster from next year’s African Nations Championship (CHAN) in Cameroon after been edged out 3-4 on aggregate by the Sparrow Hawks of Togo in the second leg of qualifier played in Lagos last weekend.
Coach Imama Amapakabo had used virtually the U-23 Olympics team to face the Togolese team made up of their senior players in the first leg of the qualifier in Lome. But the decision by Amapakabo not to rely on the senior players due to the inactivity of the league, backfired as Togo eventually picked the ticket to Cameroon.
Speaking with The Guardian yesterday, Afelokhai stated that if the team that beat Togo in Lagos was the same that played in Lome, that the CHAN Eagles would have been celebrating qualification over the Sparrow Hawks.
“I still feel pained over our narrow loss to the Togolese team. My teammates and I are yet to get over the shock. I felt so bad because qualifying for the CHAN would have provided me the opportunity to prove myself at the continental championship.
“But God knows why it happened that way,” he said, adding despite the 1-4 loss the Eagles suffered in Lome, that the team had several chances to seal up qualification for Cameroun, but luck ran against them.
“Despite the loss in the first leg, we had a lot of chances to bury the Togolese and win the game. Also, if the referee had allowed the goal we scored to stand, we would have been singing victory songs up till now,” he said.
Afelokhai, who is Enyimba FC number one goalkeeper, however, added that a better preparation for the team was needed if the country wants to see the best of the home-based players.
“I believe a better plan for the team will allow us to perform better for the country if given another opportunity. Most of the players that went to Togo were all NPFL’s players, but were not the senior players with experience in the league even though they too had opportunity.
“I think next time we are going for such qualifiers meant for the home-based players, we should rely on the experienced ones, because inexperience in the first leg cost us qualification for CHAN in Cameroon,” he stated.