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Delayed NPFL kickoff hurting Nigerian clubs, says Maikaba

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Plateau United of Jos Coach, Abdul Maikaba, has blamed the delay in the kickoff of the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) for the poor performance of the country’s clubs in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) inter-club competitions.

Plateau United on Sunday lost 0-1 in Jos to visiting Simba FC of Tanzania in the CAF Champions League, while Kano Pillars and Rivers United fell to Jaraaf of Senegal 1-3 in Dakar and Futoro FC of Equatorial Guinea 1-2 respectively.

Speaking after Plateau United’s loss at home on Sunday, Maikaba said his boys, just like other Nigerian teams in the continent, paid the prize for the delay in the kickoff of the NPFL.

The Nigerian league has been off since it was suspended in March following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Maikaba said it has had a telling effect on his team.

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The coach told The Guardian that he was impressed by the performance of his boys, who controlled much of the game, adding, however, that they lacked the killer instinct that only comes in match situations after many games.

He promised to build on the lessons of Sunday’s game to assemble a team that can win the second leg of the tie in Dar-es-Salaam.

“My players worked hard in the game, but you will understand that not playing in the NPFL since March affected their match fitness.

“Our opponents have been playing in their league and other championships, which gave them the advantage over Plateau United. But this is not an excuse for the defeat.

“My players played well in the first half, but when Simba scored in the 54th minute through Clatous Chama, my players lost focus.

“The experience we got from this first leg has taught us a lesson that will be useful for the second leg. We will go to Tanzania for victory. I know it would be a tough task, but it is not impossible,” he said.

Maikaba said Plateau United are still focused on qualifying for the group stage of the CAF Champions League, adding that they have discovered how to beat Simba in Tanzania.

“Simba FC is built around Chama because all the passes goes to him. We will work out the pattern to neutralise him and get victory in Tanzania. Nigerians should not lose hope in Plateau United. The team will do better in the return leg,” he added.

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