MFM FC manager Fidelis Ilechukwu believes the Olukoya Boys can compete for major titles this season. The Lagos-based club are competing in three tournaments this season; NPFL, Aiteo Cup and CAF Champions League.
The Nnewi-born tactician speaking in this exclusive interview with Naijafootballplus.com chief football writer Adepoju Tobi says his team would survive on the continent without Sikiru Olatunbosun and the newly invited Flying Eagles forward Akila Jesse which the team management failed to register for the qualifying rounds.
Naijafootballplus: Hello Fidelis, good to have you here. How is the season so far you and your players?
Fidelis: “I am honoured to chat with this medium. We knew from last season that 2018 would be tough for us because of the continental engagements. We called for it and I think we have responded well to the situation, it is a bit tough hurdle but we are coping with the challenges.”
Naijafootballplus: How would you describe the experience as debutants in the CAF Champions League?
Fidelis: “The experience is amazing and good exposure for our players, we are a small club and we are happy to take the brand name to the African continent. After our first season in the NPFL, no one gave us a chance to be on the continent the next season, my players deserved a lot of commendation for their hard work and passion to succeed. We have a lot of players in the squad making their debut in international tournament and the situation wasn’t obvious, we did an amazing job in Mali and won in Lagos.
Naijafootballplus: How was the experience in Mali?
Fidelis: “We had to travel through Ethiopia because of the difficulties with African flight, but I was able to prepare the boys mindset for the challenges and they responded positively. We spent a night in Ethiopia before our final journey to Mali, we had to cope with a different weather, food and atmosphere for a squad making their debut. We started the game positively and we scored first, the home team equalized immediately and pressure was there all through the game. The most difficult situation was injuries to our players, we were forced to play Zikiye as a striker in the game. Honestly, we progress to the next round because we have built a highly spirited team that can fight and survive in difficult match situation.”
North Africans have got the edge but we won’t panic, they are yet to play against MFM. We are in our own class with quality to progress – Fidelis Ilechukwu
Naijafootballplus: Congratulations, your team is through to the final round and MC Algers is next. Are you worried ahead of the clash?
Fidelis: Worried? Never, I am not. Yes, they scored 9 goals at home after losing two nil away. North Africans have got the edge but we won’t panic, they are yet to play against MFM. We are in our own class with quality to progress, we also understand this is the final round before the group games and our target is at least to reach the group stage. We have started working and we’ll be ready to play them next month.”
Naijafootballplus: Sikiru and Akila were greatly missed against Real Bamako. How long can your team push without these quality players?
Fidelis: “I have done my best to put the players together, everything other things are beyond me. We have to work more, more work for the coaches. We can’t hang on excuses even though they are quality players but we have to continue winning as a team. They will be available if we get to the group stage and more reason why we have to work hard and win for them. Hopefully, if we progress to the group stage, we will have them to compliment the quality in the squad.”
Naijafootballplus: Your team is competing in three competitions this season (NPFL, Aiteo Cup and CAF Champions League), what is your target for 2018?
Fidelis: “We have surpassed our expectations in two years in the NPFL and winning a major title should be on our minds, but first we have a target to finish among the top four teams in the league this season. Hopefully, we can push further on the continent and challenge for the Aiteo title. I won’t pressure my players but we have the quality to compete for titles.
Naijafootballplus: Lobi Stars is next up for your team on Sunday in the NPFL, how is your team getting ready for the game? Any major injury news?
Fidelis: “We are ready for the game, we are motivated with the two victories against Akwa United and Real Bamako at home. We have the full squad available for the game, Sikiru and Akila are also available. We have enough quality to dispatch Lobi Stars, we have to garner more points and solidify our position in the NPFL. I am confident, we’ll extend our unbeaten run in all competitions.”
Naijafootballplus: Lagos Government have supported the team with facilities and cash, what is your message to the state government and the Lagos fans?
Fidelis: “I must appreciate the Lagos Government for the love, they have supported and motivated us. We achieved the continental ticket and the issue about our home ground came up, the Government stood by us and upgraded the stadium facilities in Agege. The fans have been massive to us and we hope to make them happy with more success this season.”
Naijafootballplus: Wish you all the best in 2018.