Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) club, Rivers United have arrived in Madrid, Spain for the fifth and final phase of pre-season ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.
The contingent of 18 players and eight officials touched down at the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport at exactly 2:35pm local time on Tuesday, December 13.
A brief stop-over in Frankfurt had been observed after the contingent arrived in the German city at 5:20am local time following a six hour, ten minute flight that began at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja by 11:10 pm on Friday, December 12.
The Port Harcourt club began their pre-season preparations on November 1 in Port Harcourt with new and retained players commencing light physical work under the guidance of technical manager, Stanley Eguma.
The second and third phases of pre-season continued in Abuja and Kaduna, respectively.
United’s fourth phase of pre-season between December 7 and 11 came in the shape of Nigeria’s most prestigious pre-season tournament – the Super 4 in Enugu.
The ‘Pride of Rivers’ emerged champions of that competition after navigating three hard-fought matches against Nigeria’s flag-bearers in 2017 CAF club competitions, Enugu Rangers, FC Ifeanyiubah and Wikki Tourists.
Speaking shortly before the team departed the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa on Tuesday, leader of the delegation and Rivers State Commissioner of Sports, Honourable Boma Iyaye explained that the trip was imperative as it acts as the icing on the cake as far as the club’s preparations for the new season is concerned.
“This trip represents the fulfilment made to the team by the number one supporter, the Rivers State Governor, His Excellency, Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike as part of their pre-season preparations.
“Clubs in Madrid, particularly Real Madrid have a winning culture and coming here (Madrid) will help us imbibe that spirit and psyche.
“Another objective of this training tour to Madrid is making Rivers United not just a national and continental brand but one to be reckoned with internationally.
“We will be in Madrid for ten days and have already forged an alliance with La Liga, Spain, in the shape of training matches and more.
“By the time they are done with the training tour, I am sure the players, coaches and officials will be the better for it,” Iyaye told the club’s official website.
In the same vein, striker Emeka Ogbugh has expressed happiness at the opportunity which will be afforded him and his teammates in Spain.
“We want to thank the Rivers State Government for this opportunity and we promise to justify this high level of confidence expected of us.
“It is important to let the sponsors and fans know that we understand why we are all here and hopefully, we will do Rivers State and Nigeria proud come 2017,” he said.
While in Madrid, Rivers United FC are expected to face a La Liga club in a tune up game while proposed friendly matches have already been lined up against Segunda B clubs, Levante Union Deportiva II and Club Deportivo Alcoyano.
The Rivers United squad will also attend training sessions of a La Liga club (as well as the sessions of the youth teams of the club).
A guided tour to the storied home of reigning European champions, Real Madrid, the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu has also been lined up.
The technical crew of Rivers United led by manager, Stanley Eguma is also expected to be huge beneficiaries of the programme as a crash course on coaching methodology has already been arranged with the La Liga club.
The Rivers United contingent is due back in Nigeria on Thursday, December 22. Rivers United will represent Nigeria in the 2017 CAF Champions League.