Glo Premier League club, Dolphins FC are headed for Tunisia with an injury-depleted squad on the backdrop of the financial crisis which threatens to make them outright walkover at the expense of Club Africain in the Caf Confederation Cup.
The 2005 finalists are bidding to continue their impressive run in the round of 32 of the continent’s second-tier club competition but must overcome several obstacles (logistics) ahead of Saturday’s first leg at the Stade El Menzah.
The 2014 Federation Cup losing finalists have never been eliminated in the first round of the Confederation Cup, including a group stage berth in 2007 and a play-off berth in 2008.
No salary no game
Dolphins missed an Emirates Airlines flight due to take off at 9pm from the Murtala Mohammed International airport, Lagos, to Tunis en route Dubai on Thursday after a long tussle in Port-Harcourt between players and management.
The Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) side’s departure from Port-Harcourt was delayed for five hours as players refused to board a bus to the airport, whence they would set out for Lagos.
They said they were owed six months’ salary and other allowances aside sign on fees for last season. They insisted on boycotting their Confederation Cup first round first leg tie away in Tunisia if they don’t receive payment for those arrears.
The players only agreed to travel after intense negotiations and settled for the last flight out of Port-Harcourt at 8pm- at which time they had already missed the Emirates flight from Lagos, which was to have a brief stopover in Dubai this (Friday) morning before leaving for Tunis.
With no money for emergency hotel accommodation, players and officials reportedly put up at the Murtala Mohammed airport overnight and are now expected to take the Emirates flight leaving Lagos by 3pm today. All being equal, they should reach Tunis by 1pm on Saturday, two hours before kickoff.
Officials are understandably nursing two options; first, making an alternative travel arrangement and, possibly, returning back to Port-Harcourt.
15 squad members instead of 18
Dolphins striker Ifeanyi Egwim is ruled out of Saturday’s Confederation Cup round of 32 clash with Club Africain.
Egwim picked up a groin injury during last Saturday’s Glo Premier League opening day draw at home to Kwara United.
This means Omo Johnson and Chigozie Ihunda, who came on for the injured Egwim at the Liberation Stadium last weekend, are the only attacking player in the three-time Nigerian champions’ squad.
The other registered striker Tasiu Lawal has fallen out with coach Stanley Eguma and was axed permanently from the team.
New signing Rufus Ebue has yet to take his bow after pulling his hamstring just before the start of the 2015 Super 4 pre-season tournament. Defender Ayobami Asekunowo is suspended for the game at Club Africain after picking up two yellow cards.