With Adebayo Olodan
After waiting for about five months, 2019/2020 season of the Nigerian
Professional Football League (NPFL), finally commenced last weekend
with some interesting match –ups.
The over stretched domestic league break contributed in no small
measure to the premature exit of league champions, Enyimba and Kano
Pillars from the CAF Champions League as the two teams struggled for
form in the continent.
Though Enyimba and Kano Pillars played some tune up matches, the
friendly matches were however are not as competitive as league matches
hence their below par performance in the CAF Champions League.
The opening weekend of the league threw up some interesting results
With the matches between Enyimba v Nassarawa United and Sunshine Stars
v Enugu Rangers suspended due to the continental engagements of the
Peoples Elephants and the Coal City Boys, there were however three
draws and four home wins on the opening day of the current season.
The biggest surprise came from the Mountain of Fire Ministries (MFM)
FC who stunned their former coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu with 1-0 away win
against Heartland in Owerri. Surprisingly, it was Clement Ogwu, a
player signed by Illechukwu for MFM last term that did the damage with
his 39th min strike from a corner kick.
The ties between Delta and Akwa Ibom-based clubs; Delta Force v Akwa
Starlets and Warri Wolves v Akwa United both ended in 1-1 draw.
Now that the 2019/2020 NPFL season has finally commenced, it is
expected that the League Management Company (LMC) and the Nigeria
Football Federation (NFF) ensure that the league runs smoothly with a
marked improvement from what was witnessed last term.
The club management must make the welfare of the players and officials
a priority by ensuring that bonuses, allowances and salaries are paid
as at when due.
No NPFL club must be allowed to pay players below the least
recommended salary and allowance by the LMC.
Also, the headship of NPFL clubs must ensure better and less stressful
travelling arrangements for their teams. The era of away teams
travelling overnight to save cost must be a thing of the past. This
term, we expect to see more teams travelling on air for journeys that
may exceed six to eight hours by road. Due to the haphazard travelling
arrangements by officials, there have been recurring cases of road
crashes and robbery attacks on our domestic league players and
coaches. In some instances, some players have had their lives cut
short or their career truncated due to accidents or robbery attacks.
Similarly, some of the players after travelling all night arrived at
match venues looking absolutely tired.
In addition, the home-team-must-win syndrome must be left in the past.
Let no NPFL club approach match officials to curry their favour
whether playing at home or on the road.
The centre referees and their assistants must reject any form of
bribery or inducement from club officials.
With unbiased officiating, it is expected that our domestic league
will throw up more away wins and draws this season compared to what
obtains in major leagues of Europe.
Beyond this, it is imperative that the supporters of various clubs
(home or away) avoid crowd violence which has remained a recurring
decimal in our league. Any club whose supporters, players and
officials are caught in the act should be heavily sanctioned with
fines and banishment among other sanctions.
More importantly, the LMC in conjunction with the NFF must ensure they
follow the NPFL 2019/2020 Season schedule. There should be no need to
extend the current season beyond the date that has been fixed for its
termination. The league management body must take a cue from
organisers of the major European Leagues who despite postponing some
matches ensure that they conclude each season on schedule.
In situations where matches are to be rescheduled due to continental
engagements, crowd violence or other reasons, the LMC must ensure a
quick fix or rescheduling of such matches to avoid extended season.
For our domestic league clubs to excel in CAF competitions and our
players to get the attention they craved from foreign clubs, all
stakeholders must join hands to make our domestic league work. .