NPFL MatchDay 33: 4 Exciting Things You Missed

 

It’s understandable if you’re allergic to late game reviews. You probably want it straight from the oven, right? As e dey hot! Same here. When it comes to football, articles about games can very quickly go stale and become obsolete.

But sometimes, it’s almost impossible to notice one thing or the other about a game or a set of games unless you see it again – or you have access to quite a number of TV angles being a commentator or a regular on one of those football shows.

With my kind of access being the latter, it normally took me quite a while to come up with this piece. Add to that the fact that I almost wasn’t aware that the game between MFM and Enyimba FC would be shown live on TV, and you can understand the angle I’m writing this review from.

Nevertheless, as the saying goes, better late than never, right?

MatchDay 33 in the Nigerian Professional Football League served up some pretty amazing action. I finally had a chance to see a live game for the first time in the second round of the season. Guess the “TV rights issue” has been sorted out.

To the meat of the matter, I present to you five exciting things from GameDay 33 you missed

  1. The Enyimba Pose

It was one hell of an encounter in at the Agege Stadium as MFM and Enyimba locked horns in what was, for me, an unforgettable duel. I’ll touch on all the action in the game in a bit but let me quickly tell you about some things that happened before the game started.

There was the “cute and funny” Enyimba pose for the cameras. I guess they were looking to try something new; a break from the norm maybe (hello Hip TV). Instead of the normal football team pose, they sort of formed a curved line, with the goalkeeper in the middle, while they crossed their arms across their chests, puffing up their chests in a macho-like form.

Then there was the MFM Anthem – Yahweh, Your name is Yahweh, You are the Miracle-working God, Your name is Yahweh. It was hard to find someone in the stadium who wasn’t singing along with the footballers, word for word.

  1. Yet Another Away Win

In all the 10 games that were played on the day, there was only one away win. For a league that’s still trying to get used to seeing away teams cart away three points from right under the noses of the home team, a 2-4 score margin for an away side can be rattling.

But that’s the scoreline by which Abia Warriors thrashed Lobi Stars. It’s still somehow unbelievable that a NPFL side scored 4 away from home. But the Warriors pulled it off, ending Lobi’s 80-match unbeaten home run – a record that had been standing since 2013. Can’t complain though as it’s a good thing for our league. Yes, they may come every once in a while but this week’s away win was one to remember.

  1. The Titanic Encounter in Lagos

It was the case of a sleek MFM side against the “Tall Ones of the NPFL”.

The Lagos-based side played like a side under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola. Quick exchange of passes, a dribble here and another there plus a couple of tricks were on display. The Tall Aba boys preferred to be as physical as possible, while trying to keep Olukoya’s Boys at bay.

There were no goals, yes, but it was one game most fans won’t forget in a hurry. Can I quickly add that Lagos is lucky to be a host state to an amazing team like MFM FC. That Enyimba away jersey still looks lovely!

  1. The Wikki Tourists vs. Rangers Incident

Here’s an excerpt from a friend’s blog – the only Enyimba blog you’ll find on the internet:

So Rangers took the lead in Bauchi and I believe Wikki equalized. I think it was after the interval or thereabout that certain miscreants decided to show their dull-witted, pea-brained, doltish, daft, muttonheadedness. They grabbed stones and began hurling it at the match officials. One of the stones flew like David’s sling headed for Goliath’s forehead, only that this time, it hit the skull of the helpless Centre referee, cracking it in the process. Blood poured.

Incapacitated, the referee refused to continue the game and for more than 45 minutes, the game was halted. Much later, it resumed and eventually it did end at 1-1 albeit under very tense conditions. Much later, pictures surfaced all over social media of the latest version of the referee’s head. Opened in two spots and looking like he was all pains. To many, it was just a picture, to me, it was a statement that football has lost its way in our League.

Okay, maybe this point is not so exciting. Maybe our darling league still has a lot that needs to be done. But, I choose to remain optimistic.

Just in case you’re wondering though,

Now that MatchDay 33 is gone, the league is moving on to the next Game day. And there’s one game that stands out. See if you can find it.

MatchDay 34 NPFL Fixtures

Yes, I can’t wait for that 1st vs. 2nd clash this weekend. With just three points separating the two sides on the table, this game may just be the one that decides the winner of this year’s NPFL title. And I can’t wait for the outcome of this encounter.

Till then, cheers to the freaking weekend!

My Experience as a First-Timer at an NPFL Game

It took a while before I found out that Ibadan would play host to the great Elephants of Aba, Enyimba FC. After the strange decision by whoever to stop airing live NPFL games, I kind of lost touch with the NPFL world.

An Instagram picture, another there plus a bunch of tweets is how I managed to keep up with the second half of the nation’s beloved -or so I think – football league.

Earlier in the season, the coverage and broadcast of games by “that” media company helped me to have a better knowledge of the league, be able to identify Al Hassan of Akwa United when I see him and, ah yes, that Sikiru Olatunbosun wonder goal.

With live games gone – the same thing that irked my interest in the league – I became partially blind to happenings in the league… until I heard Chisom of Naija Made say 3SC of Ibadan would play host to Enyimba.

Like thunderbolt, the idea of going to watch the game live struck me. I had never been to any stadium to watch live games. With former 3SC coach, Gbenga Ogunbote, bringing Enyimba to town, and Shooting Stars teetering on the edge of relegation, the game was too good to miss.

But I had not been to a stadium before – not since when I struggled to climb and sit on a couch. How does this whole thing work? I knew the venue but being my first time, I was a bit dramatic about what to expect.

Thought after thought bombarded my head from Thursday night till Sunday afternoon. I kept imagining what the place would look like.

So I decided to go along with my friend Victor – whose version of the experience can be found here. While waiting at a bus-stop called Gate – those living in Ibadan can relate to this – I caught a revelation, something like a rhema.

While I won’t divulge all, I’ll tell you this: Dear reader, do not be deceived. Nigerians still flock to stadiums country-wide to see their beloved teams play. When you have time, visit a stadium – try going alone first for reasons I’ll explain later – near you and see things for yourself.

On getting to the stadium, the number of fans I saw was staggering. While some were already seated inside the stadium screaming their hearts out, some others were outside, screaming their lungs out!

Not sure if it was out of love or frustration but these folks outside the stadium looked like they wanted in at all cost! They exchanged heated words with the hefty bodyguards at the gates and the showed displeasure.

But there was a ticket issue. At least that’s what it looked like. Tickets had ‘finished.’ After a while, match tickets became all of a sudden available again.

There was one scramble to get the tickets, it was another to get into the stadium. It was yet another struggled to find available seats among the tough-looking, alcohol-sipping and marijuana-smoking fans already either comfortably seated or comfortably standing.

As you must have guessed, one half of the game had already been played by the time I found my way into the stadium through those rusty revolving bars that barricaded the tiny entrance.

Although greeted by the stench of urine and marijuana combined, the joy of finally entering into the stadium is one I won’t forget in a hurry. Finally, I was able to catch a glimpse of the quite tall Enyimba defenders battle things out with the not-so-tall Shooting Stars players.

I also saw some policewomen whose khaki trousers were very well starched and ironed. It was hard to look past Enyimba’s beautiful white jersey and the scramble by the medical team to bring back to life a Sootin’ player who had passed out.

Unperturbed by the unfriendliness of the structure of the stadium, the long queues for match tickets and the not-so-family-friendly ambience, I look forward to visiting the stadium again – and so the other stadiums across the country (see you sooner than you think oh Enyimba fan).

For those wondering whether to visit a stadium or not, you now know well enough to judge for yourself. You may want to test the waters with one toe rather than diving in.

For those interested in how the game ended, a lone goal was all 3SC needed to grab a win over Enyimba FC. One good move towards avoiding relegation. Maybe they won’t get relegated after all.

Just maybe.

Enyimba 1 – MFM FC 1: Fifty Shades of Green, the Whistle Blower and other talking points

On Saturday, the NPFL featured a mouth-watering clash between Enyimba FC and MFM FC. This was a contest between two teams whose recent forms were almost the same, but were miles apart on the league table.

MFM FC, whose season had started on a bright note (any club in the NPFL with an away win this early in the season has started on a bright note), were looking to at least not lose in this one.

Enyimba, looking (and playing) like the evil twin of the club that conquered Africa, were on a mission: to at least garner all three points to help move ‘table-climbing‘ ministry to its permanent site.

The game ended in a 1-1 draw, with MFM FC drawing first blood thanks to a beautiful volley from Stephen Odey (the league’s current top goalscorer) and a late equalizer from the Elephants of Aba. It was literally MFM FC’s 1st half vs Enyimba’s 2nd half.

As with all NPFL games, this one wasn’t void of its own fair share of drama (as per say dis na awa game and we dey play am awa own way!). Let’s quickly discuss all the talking points from the game in Enyimba’s ‘home away from home’ in Calabar.

Work out on a strange pitch: MFM FC players warming up before the game. Photo credit: @mfmfc_lagos

1. The Pitch and 50 Shades of Green…

… or brown, as the case may be. In a way, it’s strange that the first talking point of an exciting game is the state of the pitch. But, that’s how ‘un-missable’ the playing turf inside the Calabar stadium was.

I watched this one on T.V and, the first thing that greeted my eyes was this ‘absurd-looking’ pitch (alongside the over-half-empty stadium which I’ll be discussing later), having like a thousand shades of different colours ranging from green to brown.

I’m of the school of thought that men (well, most of us) are colour blind. So, maybe a woman would have been able to specifically identify the different colours the grass on the pitch was having. For those who saw this game, you know what I’m saying.

For those who didn’t, let me try painting the scene out for you (pun intended of course!). This soccer field (like my Yankee people go call am) had colours ranging from deep green, light green, acid green, brown, Ibadan-roofs-brown (if you’ve been to Ibadan, Nigeria, especially the Beere, Odinjo part of the city, you’ll understand this part better), light brown and more I couldn’t recognise.

The first question that came to mind when I saw the state of the pitch was,

Whoever approved the Calabar pitch?

The other that followed tethered around the reason why Enyimba would chose to not take care of their home away from home.

Yes, not all questions have answers. But, from how the sandy pitch seemed to make the ball bounce awkwardly everytime, to how it made life hard for the respective players, maybe the right people should be looking to answer these questions already.

So, for the sake of Enyimba playing well and having a good season maybe (just maybe) a stadium tweak should help improve the outlook of the pitch (just a suggestion from a football fan) and their poor-so-far season.

2. Empty Fan-Less Stadium

No, it wasn’t a completely empty stadium. The fans just refused to show up! Yeah, there were a few heads here and there with some young whistle blowers in the stands (more on this coming right up), it wasn’t up to standard.

You’re probably wondering what this so-called standard is. Actually, it doesn’t even exist… yet, when it comes to fans thronging to stadia across the nation to watch various clubs strut their stuff.

But, Kano Pillars, Ifeanyi Ubah, MFM FC (being the only Lagos-based football club in the NPFL) amongst others, are gradually raising the bar. They’re setting a standard, the standard. And Enyimba is far behind keeping up with these names.

The reason can be tied to their temporary relocation to Calabar, a state most of their fans may not reside in. Another reason may be that the fans fear to behold football being played on such a terrible-looking pitch. Another reason can be, simply put: The fans aren’t even interested.

If it’s the latter, it’s safe to throw optimism out the window and keep advertising the NPFL like as if we have never done it before. Let’s leave this as food for thought to whoever it concerns.

3. The Whistle Blowers

I have come to realise that football fans can express themselves however they want when they’re in the stadium.

Of course, fighting/hooliganism is not condoned (but those Russians just won’t listen), dancing,  singing, clapping, looking lost and forlon, a quick chat, and a selfie are just some of the many things fans involve themselves with while in ‘The Zone.’

Another is blowing whistles, either in disagreement with the decision of the referee, to send the ref a reminder about how much is left or to boo the players. So, I thought blowing a whistle in a football stadium was legal… until I was proven wrong on Saturday.

Enyimba, on a fast counter against the Olukoya boys, had three of theirs against two MFM FC players I think (can’t exactly remember now). A pass was threaded to one of the Aba Boys who was through on goal.

Then, there was a whistle, blown not once, but twice. The players halted their move, thinking they were offside. But they weren’t. The ref had not blown his own whistle. Amongst those watching the game, two little children were messing around with something that looked like their latest toys: whistles.

This sent some of the older fans into a frenzy as the sudden stop of play made the ref to ACTUALLY stop play and give a decision against Enyimba. Long story short, the little ones were stripped of their whistles, while being surrounded by disgruntled men who expressed frustration,  not only because of the kids, but also because of the thought of what could have been: a goal for Enyimba.

4. Let’s Talk About the Weird Ref

Was too lazy to even look up his name but I remember the match commentator mentioned that he was from Kano.

This centre ref, one way or the other, just managed to dish out all of his bookings on the day to MFM FC players.

Seeing as they’re humans, not machines, it’s impossible for refs to get all calls right. Somewhere in the mix, there is something called improvement and another called not trying to stare down players when they come running to you to share complaints or argue with you.

These refs, especially the centre ref for the Enyimba vs MFM FC game, should take note and make conscious effort towards becoming better.

Odey’s ode: One of the weapons in MFM FC’s arsenal. Photo credit: MFMFC Lagos

5. Fiery Confidence 

If you haven’t noticed, let me quickly show you: there’s this amazing confidence with which the players of MFM FC play. Like their God, they’re no respecter of persons. And they ooze that with their display.

Against Enyimba, while some other clubs would have chosen to let the state of the pitch hamper their play, the MFM boys chose to play football their own way: quick exchange of passes, fluid movements, going for the ball and scoring beautiful goals when the chance presents itself.

They’ve (MFM FC) started well again this season. And the reason is not far-fetched: These ones fear no foe. And that can help them on their way to yet another season in the NPFL (or maybe, who knows, a continental spot).
I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what you think about the NPFL. Have you seen any games this season. If yes, what are your thoughts? Which club are you rooting for this season? If you haven’t seen any game this season, ever considered trying to?

 
About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @Rotdav