Legendary coach, Kadiri Ikhana says guiding Enyimba to a first-ever CAF Champions League title in 2003 is an achievement he will ‘never forget’ in his lifetime.

On 12 December, 2003, exactly 20 years ago today, the ex-international led Enyimba to a 2-1 aggregate win against Egyptian outfit Ismaily, as a result, becoming the first Nigerian team, till date, to win the competition.

Rangers International (1975), Iwuanyanwu Nationale (1988) and Shooting Stars (1984 and 1996) were all losing finalists in the competition, which started in 1965 as  African Cup of Champions Clubs, before Enyimba broke the jinx two decades ago.

“The memory is evergreen – I can never forget it in my life,” the 71-year-old former Super Falcons gaffer said. “It’s like being on top of the world. For the first time a Nigerian team won the CAF Champions League and I was the coach, how can I forget such occasion.

“I woke up this morning, I had to pray and thank the Almighty God for that victory. It is something I can never forget.”

The People’s Elephant had won the first leg of the final 2-0 in Aba on 30 November, 2003 before losing the decider 1-0, and ultimately triumphed 2-1 on aggregate to etch their name in history.

Ikhana recalls the team couldn’t even sleep on that historic night in Egypt 20 years ago.

“There was nothing like sleep that night,” he recalls. “We were all waiting to get back to Nigeria. I’m sure nobody slept in the hotel that night. 

“We returned later that night via a chartered flight. The memory can never skip my mind in my life.”

The 1980 AFCON winner reckons that leading Enyimba to the CAF Champions League remains the peak of his achievements in his entire career as a player and coach.

“That is the highest award I’ve ever had as far as football is concerned,” he stated. “I know I have a National award – Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), while playing for the Green Eagles in 1980, but then, winning that Champions League for the first time by a Nigerian team, and as a coach, I think I’m privileged.”

Enyimba under Ikhana was replete with great stars such as former Super Eagles players Vincent Enyeama, Dele Aiyenugba, Obinna Nwaneri and Onyekachi Okonkwo, as well as Emeka Nwanna, Ndidi Anumunu, Muri Ogunbiyi and Ajibade Omolade, to mention but a few.

Asked what was the key to Enyimba’s success in the competition, the former Kano Pillars and Shooting Stars coach said: “I have to be honest with you, we had dedicated players, and the Chairman (Felix Anyansi-Agwu) did a lot of things for the team to make us qualify for the final and win the tournament.

“I must also praise the then Governor of Abia State Orji Uzor Kalu for funding and always following the team. Nigerians also gave us great support then.”

After the 2003 triumph, Enyimba successfully defended the title a year after, becoming only the second club in Africa to do so, following in the footsteps of DR Congo giants TP Mazembe.

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