As the drama of the CAF Confederation Cup unfolds, Rivers United, one of Nigeria's key players, finds itself grappling with an unexpected challenge. The team's Chairman, Okey Kpalukwu, recently voiced his concerns about the squad's ability to perform optimally due to an imposed change of home ground. For two consecutive seasons, Rivers United has had to swap the familiarity of their cherished Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt for the Godswill Akpabio Stadium in Uyo, a decision mandated by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Ground Approval Process Under Scrutiny
The switch in stadiums was not a voluntary choice by Rivers United. The Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium was not authorized by the CAF, forcing the team to relocate its home games. This situation has led Kpalukwu to question the CAF's grounds approval process. After a recent 2-1 defeat to Ghana's Dreams FC, the chairman pointed out that the pitch in Kumasi, where the game was held, was not superior to the one in Port Harcourt.
The Impact on Fans and Performance
The change in venue has not just affected the players but has also created a barrier for the dedicated fans of Rivers United, who now face travel difficulties to support their team. The inability to play in their home city adds an unanticipated level of stress for fans, diminishing the home-field advantage typically provided by enthusiastic local support. The team, which suffered a quarter-final elimination last season, has so far registered one win and one loss in the current season.
Appeal for Intervention
Unwilling to let the issue rest, Kpalukwu plans to approach the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for assistance. The chairman hopes that the NFF can intervene with CAF to secure clearance for Rivers United to return to their home stadium in Port Harcourt for future matches. The Vice Chairman of the Club Owners Association of Nigeria has also expressed support for Rivers United's cause, emphasizing the need for Nigeria to assert itself at the CAF's level.