Theophilus Afelokhai was the hero of Nigeria Professional Football League champions Enyimba as they qualified for the money spinning stage of the CAF Champions League following a hard fought penalty shootout win over Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia and he puts it all down to ‘believe.’
The Aba Elephants took a 3-0 advantage to Sousse for the return leg and met perhaps the most intimidating fans some of the players have ever encountered in their footballing careers.
They panicked and put every foot wrong and it wasn’t a huge surprise when Hamza Lahmar scored for the home side three minutes before first half via a brilliant freekick.
The Nigerian representatives improved in the second half but it was after Diego Acosta had scored a brace in ten minutes to make it 3-3 on aggregate and took the tie into penalties.
The competition’s topscorer Mfon Udoh, who had scored an hat-trick in the first leg in Port Harcourt, and forward Christian Pyagbara missed Enyimba’s first two kicks in the shootout, stacking the odds against the two-time CAF Champions League winners.
However, Former Kano Pillars shootstopper Theophilus Afelokhai produced a moment of magic as he saved three consecutive penalty kicks to hand the Paul Aigbogun led side a 4-3 victory in front of a hostile crowd.
”I thank Almighty God for the result of the game,” Afelokhai told SportingLife. ”Despite losing our first two spot kicks I just believed it wasn’t over and stayed strong.”
However, the Enyimba shotstopper admits that the intimidation from the home crowd was more than what he has ever witnessed before.
”We have seen intimidation before but I must confess, not like we witnessed in Tunisia.
”It was too much as they did everything to get us out including flashing the laser lights in my face to affect my concentration but we believed that when God says yes, no man can say no,” he concluded.