The controversy-hit CAF Confederation Cup fixture between USM Alger and Plateau United staggered to a new dimension on Monday when the Nigerian champions claimed they resisted moves by the Algerians to alter the kick-off of their second leg clash in Algiers for Tuesday.
Plateau won the first leg of the second-tier African club competition clash 2-1 in Lagos on April 8, but a bribery allegation took some of the shine off the Jos side’s laboured win.
South African referee Victor Gomes alleged that he and his assistants were approached before the game with an offer of $30‚000 to fix the result but they rejected the bribe. Gomes later reported the matter to the Confederation of African Football.
However, both clubs denied the allegation, with USM stating that the allegation was a “hate campaign to destabilise the club”.
Plateau said they couldn’t have offfered $30‚000 to fix the encounter when they are embroiled in financial crisis.
Reports have claimed this time round that USM, who require an outright victory to reach the group stage, pressured Plateau officials to agree to a kick-off change. The Nigerians suffered a delayed flight to the Algerian capital due to weather.
Spokesman for the Nigerian Premier League giants Albert Dakup said USM officials told them that playing the match late in the evening would boost their gate takings.
“While we were training at the USMA Stadium, two officials of USM accosted Plateau United team manager, and an NFF official who accompanied the team trying to convince them to change the kick-off time,” Dakup was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria as saying on Monday.
“The move was, however, rejected by the team because investigation shows that the hosts are not comfortable with the timing which is not favourable to them.
“The reason is that the weather won’t be to their advantage, as the weather may not be cold enough before the match kicks off at 6pm (as scheduled by CAF).
“The officials of USM Alger gave a flimsy excuse that most of their fans might be denied the opportunity of watching the game, because of the heavy traffic during the kick-off.”
Other teams representing Nigeria in the competition are MFM, Enyimba and Akwa United.
Meanwhile, Enyimba, who Bidvest drew 1-1 in South Africa with Wits, are favourites to progress to the group stage. The former Nigerian champions host the South Africans in Calabar on Tuesday.
Akwa, who host Sudanese club Al Hilal in Uyo on Wednesday, need to overcome a 2-0 deficit. MFM, who lost 1-0 to Djoliba in Lagos, also need to win 2-0 to advance.