Heartland FC of Owerri said their elimination from the CAF Con federation Cup competition last weekend in Dolisie did not come as a result of their
opponents, AC Leopards of Congo being, better than them rather, it Came because the hosts adopted foul means to win.
A statement by the club on Wednesday, said apart from the fact that
Heartland FC were subjected to different forms of maltreatment in Congo,
the negative roles played by the match Commissioner and the referee during
the game at the Denins Sassou Nguesso Stadium in Dolisie on Sunday, were
responsible for their 2—1 loss to the home side.
Among allegations by the Nigerian side against the match commissioner, Jean Diramba from Gabon, was that he failed to address or act on official complaints brought b Heartland FC after their advance team made up of the staff of the Nigerian embassy in Congo were attacked by supporters of Leopard and food meant for Heartland players and ol1cials were looted and destroyed
Heartland FC also held that on their arrival in Brazzaville, Congo, the Congolese official instead of flying them straight to Dolisie, chose to fly them to Pointe – Noire where they were made to travel on a long and tedious journey by road to Dolisie which took close to five hours.
The hosts, AC Leopard also refused to provide sufficient accommodation for the Nigerian side while also rationing food for the few people they agreed to accommodate until after the match whereas they had enjoyed good and sufficient accommodation and also fed on buffet when their large delegation visitedNigeria for the first leg match.
Heartland FC claimed these strategies were adopted by Leopard in order to weaken their (Heartland FC) players before the match and that although they reported these matters to the match commissioner before the game, the man never addressed the issue.
Also shortly before the kick off of the match, crowd trouble ensued at the stadium with the police releasing tear-gas which left a billow of smoke and stampede while the home fans used the opportunity to beat to stupor, the handful of Heartland FC supporters who entered the stadium with complimentary tickets to watch the match.
Fans also molested one Heartland player who was seated on the bench as the match drew to a close although the security managed to stop them.
On his own part, referee, Nananyanba Kudu from Rwanda, according to Heartland FC, was responsible for manufacturing a dubious penalty in favour of the home team with just about three minutes left in the game and with the scores still lied at I – I. Leopard converted the penalty to win 2-I Heartland FC had defeated the opponents 3 – 2 in Owerri during the 1irt leg encounter bringing scores to 4 – 4 on aggregate but the Congolese had to advance based on the away goal rule.
The Nigeria Football Association (NFF) whose representatives witnessed the game in Dolisie, is preparing to take up the conduct of the match with the continental body, CAF while the Nigerian Embassy inCongo whose staff and national were anions those attacked and injured, is also not taking the matter lightly.
Meanwhile, Heartland FC have expressed gratitude to the Nigerian Embassy inBrazzavilleCongo for the supportive role the mission played to facilitate their stay in that country. The club also thanked the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the Commissioner for Youth and Sports, Hon. Ken Emelu, the NFF and entire Nigerians for the support they gave to the team during the continental campaign.
The Naze Millionaires’ as the Heartland FC are called have promise to make up for their exit in the Confederations Cup by doing well in the league and federation cup in the remaining part of the season so as to return to Africa next year.
Heartland FC are planning to keep their array of young but experienced stars together in the future in order to make that dream possible and quick.
Despite losing to Leopard, Heartland FC General Manager, Chief Fan Ndubuoke said he would redeem the reward he had pledged to members of the team should they win or draw the match inCongo.
According to the club, the General Manager was pleased with the determination and doggedness which the team displayed even in the face of extreme hostility and threat by the Congolese.
The team that recently returned from Dolisie, Congotook on Jigawa Stars on Thursday, 17th of April in a rescheduled week 26Nigeria Premier League matches.
Heartland will also be taking Lobi Stars FC of Markudi On Sunday in another NPL week 28 game.
The team is expected to play all their outstading NPL games (4), 2 home and 2 away. Games now that they have the time and space to enable them challenge favourably in the NPL current season.