Lagos - Fan Ndubuoke, general manager of Heartland FC of Owerri, on Tuesday said that the team’s exit from the ongoing Orange CAF Champions League would not affect its performance in the Nigerian professional league.
Ndubuoke told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on telephone that the team’s spirit was not dampened in any way, as evidenced from their 2-0 victory against Lobi Stars FC on Sunday.
It would be recalled that Heartland FC were recently walked over by US Bitam FC of Libreville following their late arrival for the second leg encounter of their CAF Confederation Cup against the Gabonese club.
The walkover they suffered at the hands of US Bitam prompted the Owerri-based team to file a petition with CAF, and the continental football body threw out their appeal.
By virtue of this development, Heartland found themselves kicked out of the continental competition, which meant that the team would have to resume the race for continental competition again, from the home front.
"I am impressed by my players' performance against Lobi Stars; they did more than I thought because a lot is going on.
"It is a difficult time for them right now, due to the speculations that are going on, but I am happy that it did not affect them in any way," Ndubuoke said.
He added that he had yet to receive an official statement from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), in respect of CAF decision.
"We are all waiting for the NFF to contact us because CAF will communicate with them and not us, because there is a formal process they usually follow.
"I won't want to talk much about it until I get an official response from the NFF as regards CAF's decision on the matter,’’ he said.
NAN reports that the CAF Inter-Clubs Committee had awarded a walkover in favour of the Gabonese Union Sportive Bitam (USB).
Ndubuoke wondered why, in spite of the evidence the club provided to counter US Bitam’s claim that Heartland did not arrive at the match venue on time, and it still lost.
"We were asked to provide our landing permit, flight hitches, Note Verbale, among others and we provided all they requested for," he added.
Ndubuoke added that if the speculation turns out to be real, then it would be the first time the club would suffer a walkover in any competition, whether local and international..
NAN reports that Heartland currently occupies the seventh position in the NPFL standings, with 10 points from the seven matches they have played so far.