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.

What a Weekend! Profligacy, ConSIXtency and a League on Fire

Courtesy Bleacher

From the NPFL, to the Premier League, the weekend served up too much to describe in one line or sentence. So, maybe I’d be justified if this post were without a title.

But that would mean that you the reader will be going in blind if you eventually choose to read a title-less (or vaguely-titled) post. So, I dug deep within and came up with that title.

The international break is upon us. The highly dreaded break that rids a football fan of all the excitement that club football offers. But the different clubs in Europe put on fabulous displays to leave us wondering what April will look like when club football returns.
So, while you’re preparing to miss action from club football, how about a review of what went down over the past weekend?

1. The NPFL is on Fire!

Things are heating up in Nigeria’s Premier football league. While the reigning champs are desperate to repeat the surprise by a certain Leicester, some other clubs have taken the bull by its horns, and they’re trying to create space between themselves and whatever club that may want to join the chasing pack.

Chasing pack or not? MFM climbed up to second after their win over Plateau United.

One such club turning heads in the country with their amazing performances week in week out is MFM FC. I tell you first hand: The league has not seen so much talent inside one football club… in a very long time!

I may sound like I’ve just sugar-coated how exciting the Olukoya boys have been. But, dis one no be seresere o, this ones fear no foe!

A breakdown

And this was evident in their beautiful performance against league leaders, Plateau United. Before the game, it was the table-topping Jos-based side up against the third-placed Lasgidi side. By the time the ref – who is a clergyman – called time on the game, MFM FC had beaten their opponents… and moved up to second on the log.

Names like Onuwa, Sikiru Olatunbosun, Odey were repeatedly on the commentators’ lips. And, why not?

The man of the moment, Stephen Odey.

Onuwa mesmerized, Sikiru dragged his opposing player – sometimes players – mercilessly and continuously. Odey? The league’s top goalscorer took his tally to 10 goals in 10 games.
Now you understand why the NPFL is on fire. Olukoya’s boys are too busy setting new standards for the league. If you can take a quick peek at the table above, you’ll see them topping the away table. There aren’t far from the summit of the Home table too!

If they continue like this, maybe they’ll be travelling to see the Pyramids of Egypt next year no thanks to finishing top or second on the table this season.

2. Super Sunday

Or should I say Super Weekend? Lukaku, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho and others all made it another Premier League weekend to not to forget in a long while.

You would have thought that Man. Utd would find life difficult without their star man, Zlatan Ibrahomovic. But players like Rashford and Mata and co stepped up to the plate and helped Manchester United out of their conSIXtent spot.

United also got some help from West Brom and Everton who both connived to cause a mild earthquake at the top of the table which sent Arsenal tumbling down the table.

Chelsea seem to have won the Premier League title. That’s the word on the street. Another win at Stoke put them in full control of their destiny. Spurs kept up the chase with a win over the Saints – who painfully lost Gabbiadini (somebody check that spelling) to groin injury.

What of City and Liverpool? While analysing the game on the Premier League show on The Beat 97.9 FM, I anticipated the clash and spoke of City’s danger trio: Sterling, Aguero and Sane.

While all three were guilty of profligacy, – Lallana, Milner and Firmino too – the game did not fail to live up to expectations. End-to-end stuff, shots on target and expectably, controversies.

3. The Leaders and the Chasing Pack

From Juventus to Bayern Munich to Celtic, some things just don’t change. I heard Celtic are on a 36-game unbeaten run and may be crowned champs in the first week of April. SMH?

The La Liga is still wide open – between just two teams – but things seem as good as done and dusted with in Italy’s Serie A and the German Bundesliga. I’m not sure if this is good for football or maybe it isn’t. You decide.

Time to stop here and see if I can scribble something about the connection between the recent schedule reshuffling in the Premier League and the ‘Early Pull Out‘ of some players.

I’ve never been a fan of international friendlies and the likes. But then again, it is what it is and we have to live with it. So, enjoy watching your favourite players strut their stuff in their national colours. Or better still, go for the Formula 1 which kicks off this weekend in Australia.

About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst on The Beat FM 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

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

 

A Review of the NPFL Teams Ahead of the New Season

Kicking off shortly: The 2016 NPFL season starts soonest

Kicking off shortly: The 2016 NPFL season starts soonest

Oliver Queen is the son of a rich billionaire in Star City. He’s now the Mayor and he is fulfilling the promise he made to his father aboard the amazo to bring the corrupt to justice. However to do that, he must be another person, an arrow wielding vigilante, who will become a source of mixed emotions for those in the City. It’s been five years since he started his crusade and a lot has changed since then.

It is now he faces his biggest opponent yet, Prometheus who informs him at the beginning of the sixth episode of the fifth season. Arrow is one series that I keep up with because of my younger brother (it’s also one of the many things I have to tolerate). Football, however is what I love, and unlike the Green in Arrow which doesn’t fascinate me, the Green of my country does fascinate me. Especially when it’s the Nigerian Professional Football League match ball, whose new look looks funny enough (pun intended).

I have followed the NPFL for quite a while now, and one thing that stands out is the physicality of the league. In a division where skill and technique is rare (see for yourself) and what most teams do is to outmuscle one another, the catch is quite easy: Win at home and try not to lose away. I am not so proud of the NPFL. But I grin when I see that the NPFL is the only league where you can be in the top half of the table and still not be safe from relegation.

Their Locations: Nigerian Professional Football League's various club locations

Their Locations: Nigerian Professional Football League’s various club locations. Picture credit: LMCNPFL

It’s the only league where you can be 6th after 19 games and you eventually finish 16th. It is that competitive. And while the dynamic is changing, the NPFL is the one league where the 2016-17 season starts six months behind schedule. There is quite the long way to go but baby steps are being made. Stadia are being filled and for the new season which kicks off in less than two weeks, we are optimistic that it can only get better.

It’s imperative that we treat the NPFL like our crown jewel, the same way the British media treat the Premier league, and the South Africans treat their PSL. When the NPFL is popular and the interest of everyone is gotten, some things alterations will occur. With just two weeks to go, ForTheGoals profiles each NPFL team and our expectations of them. First point of call?

 

SHOOTING STARS SPORTS CLUB

NICKNAME: Oluyole Warriors

FOUNDED:  1950 (as WNDC)

HOME GROUND: Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, Ibadan, Oyo State.

CHAIRMAN: Sen. Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo State Governor)

HEAD COACH: Fatai Amoo

THE MAN: Ibrahim Ajani (Forward). They would need him to be at his best in front of goal if they are to make an impact this season.

2015-16 League Position: 15th

Where else to start than Nigeria’s history makers, the first Nigerian team to win the African Champions Cup. It is this history however that 3SC seem to have dwelled on, making reverse steps instead of taking steps forwrd. The Oyo-State-government-owned club has been plagued with all sorts of problems since the turn of the 21st century. They have been relegated at least thrice and have not finished above ninth, a position they achieved under Gbenga Ogunbote in the 2014-15 season; a season which left us with the irony of why they failed to tie the instructor to a long term contract.

He was the messiah they had being looking for and just like Jesus, they didn’t really accept him. In fact they became an exception to the rule of opportunity coming once when he rejoined them midway through 2015-16 season after the expulsion of Giwa FC. He once again led them to safety despite the club being mired in a relegation battle and being favourites for the drop. Once again, ‘Sootin’ failed to act. They would see him leave for the second time in 15months and with the Ibadan-based side back to square one.

The club must now channel all their resources in a positive direction and implement a plan that once made them Nigeria’s most successful side. It is distressing when a side deeply rooted in African football tradition are trying hard to survive. The club must show consistency both on and off the pitch. There must be no issue of owed salaries. The people of Ibadan don’t want to see a team gasping for breath. They want to see a team with swagger, with a drive and hunger to put opponents to the sword somewhere in the mix too!

The exit of number one goalkeeper and fan favourite is sure to shake them but they must pay tribute to Izu Joseph, a man who gave his all while he was a Shooting Star. Only a top league finish can see Izu’s ghost rest and if they need inspiration, they need look no further than Rangers International who ended a thirty-two year wait. Fatai Amoo’s men must fly out of the blocks and beating Lobi Stars will be a good start. A continental slot might be a bridge too far, but that is still the target and given the adequate preparations so far, a top table finish seems just guaranteed.

PREDICTION: 9TH

 

ENUGU RANGERS INTERNATIONAL

The Crest of Champions: Rangers International

The Crest of Champions: Rangers International

NICKNAME: Flying Antelopes

FOUNDED: 1970

HOME GROUND: Nnamdi Azikwe Stadium, Enugu State.

CHAIRMAN: Chief Festus Onu

HEAD COACH: Imama Amapakabo

THE MAN: Chisom Egbuchulam (Forward) Keeping him could do as much as secure another league crown for them with Africa’s premier clubs hot on his heels.

2015-16 League Position: Champions

 

The Champions will begin their title defence against Abia Warriors looking to continue a home form that played a huge role in their triumph last season. The Nnamdi Azikwe stadium proved a fortress and recorded high attendances as they found their way out of trouble again and again. The brilliance of Egbechulam alongside Okey Odita, Bright Esieme and Dream team goalie Emmanuel Daniel (not forgetting the Ghanaian sensation) was well complemented by the astute tactical knowledge of the young Imama Amapakabo who is heralding a change in the landscape of Nigerian football.

 

Rangers played swashbuckling football at times last season. They were often unplayable (their most amazing outing of the 15/16 season comes to mind here) and they managed to banish the ghosts of years gone by. The stability and consistency they enjoyed since the emergence of Festus Onu has only helped strengthened the team further. The recently concluded Super 4 once again showed how devastating they can be on their day with a close-to-second-string side sweeping all comers aside.

 

The champions haven’t come to play and after ending a 32-year wait, who says they won’t go on to dominate the scene for a while yet. They are one of Nigeria’s most decorated sides and a seventh NPFL title will only ascertain their air of invincibility. The only challenge left? Emulate Enyimba and win the CAF Champions League.

 

PREDICTION: Champions (1st)

THE NFF, NPFL AND THEIR VICIOUS CIRCLE

pinnick-and-giwa

The controversy among the NFF, NPFL, GIWA FC and their principals is indeed the stuff of dramas. The entire unending episode has not failed to keep followers of Nigerian football bemused and, unfortunately, saddened. The tussle for leadership of the helm of affairs of the National Football body threatens to leave in tatters, the remainder of the clothings of the beautiful round leather game. This crisis has spiralled down to the NPFL and the current 2015/2016 season is in serious jeopardy, needing salvaging at this point.

Nigerian football, specifically the NPFL, has been faced with an integrity and identity crisis in the past and under the supervision of the League Management Company (LMC) led by Shehu Dikko, the league has been getting rave reviews and receiving lots of positive attention of recent. Now fans troop to stadia across the country to watch their darling teams play and away wins are now a possibility, albeit rare. Generally, the local league has been on a high.

It was however shocking to fans and stakeholders when on August 17, Giwa FC was reinstated back into the league. Giwa FC had been duly suspended from the league in May after they missed 3 consecutive games (against Wikki Tourists, Akwa United and Enyimba FC) without any tenable reason.

This was a clear violation of the NPFL Rules and Framework. For the LMC this was an apparent double standard regardless of the reason behind the shift. The only other club to be suspended from the league was Ocean Boys in 2012. Such double standards appear not to be far-fetched.

Low measures were seen at the start of the current season when clubs which had failed to fulfill their financial responsibilities (sign-on fees & salaries) to their players were still permitted to partake in the league, even after the LMC had threatened to prevent such teams from participating in the current season.

Ironically, Giwa FC, the team at the centre of the current NPFL imbroglio was the first among a handful of teams to complete all their payments to their players.

When FIFA threatened to ban Nigeria from international football if the order of the Jos Federal High Court nullifying the election of former Delta State FA Chairman Amaju Pinnick as NFF Chairman was followed, we assumed there was respite in sight for Nigerian football since the controversial NFF elections on 30th September 2014 in Warri.

However the warring parties claiming rights to the throne of the Glass House, viz Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa have refused to put down their swords. Their fight has unarguably thrown Nigeria’s entire footballing arena into disarray.

A ban from the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF on Chris Giwa and his 4 cohorts for 5 years from all footballing activities in the country, a subsequent upholding of the same ban by CAF, and a counter-ban by Chris Giwa on Amaju Pinnick and 7 others for 7 years, makes the entire series too comical a show to be real.

But it’s actually real!

Discordant court rulings have not helped matters as both sparring factions have one legal document or the other giving them the impetus to act the way they are. The decision by the LMC to reinstate Giwa FC was in-fact in compliance with a court order mandating the LMC to draft the team back into the league. This singular act has thrown several spanners into the wheels of the slowly grinding NPFL machine and several questions arise, requiring answers.

Seeing that Giwa FC might be made to play the outstanding 12 matches which they missed after the ill-fated match against Rangers in Jos on April 17, when will the league now end? Previous seasons had been fraught with disturbances and stoppages that meant the league concluded months after they were scheduled to end.

The 2015/2016 season itself began in February and was billed to come to an end in October. But, with the Giwa FC matter yet to subside, the conclusion of the league doesn’t seem to be in sight yet.

The reason Giwa FC refused playing their home matches in Ilorin after they were banished from Jos was because the owner of the club refused the club from abiding by the measures adopted by the NFF Disciplinary Committee, an arm of the NFF under the leadership of his fierce rival Pinnick, a man who he considered an illegal occupant of the NFF’s No. 1 position.

Pinnick is still in charge of the NFF that supervises the NPFL. Will Chris Giwa now allow his boys rejoin the league? Won’t this be a double-standard too, considering that it was basically for this same reason that Giwa FC was suspended from the league? This is left to be seen in the coming weeks.

If Giwa FC continue in the league, why did Chris Giwa, in the first place, allow his truancy affect the fortunes of a club that barely missed out on a continental ticket last season but now lies at the bottom of the league log? It’s a pity that the Plateau chief cannot separate his personal ambition from his business.

Giwa FC have secured the services of a new coach in anticipation of their return to the league. Gbenga Ogunbote, their former coach, has since joined the Oluyole Warriors (3SC) who are in a fair 13th place position, after 31 games (although Shooting Stars are a mere 3 points above the drop zone).

The players of the club, who were left without a club, were sent on loan to other clubs in the NPFL pending the completion of the season after which they would return to Giwa FC. But, no thanks to recent developments, the clubs have been ordered not to feature such players for the remainder of the season.

Most of these players are already on a contract with their new clubs and their exclusion from the teams might mean they wouldn’t get their salaries. With the current unsavoury state of players being owed months of salaries and sign-on fees, this new development doesn’t do any good to the image of the local league.

Is the NPFL in trouble?

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Just when I thought the league was climbing up the ladder with those away wins that were recorded, some instances of violence still surfaced. The likes of Ifeanyi Uba FC, MFM & Kano Pillars had to be fined and banned heavily following crowd trouble.

Referees are still almost being intimidated by the shouting home fans, or the fear of a reprisal attack, into being favourable to the home teams. Away clubs are now more wary of securing wins for fear of irate home fans descending on them. Combined together, all these rob lovers of the game of the beauty of watching the game; live at the stadium or on television. Although security has improved in and around match venues in the country, the fact that such violence still occurs is a cause for concern.

For the NPFL adherents who desire the best for Nigerian football, all the shameful and disturbing appearances leave a bitter taste in their mouths. Compared to European leagues, our local league is still ages away from getting to the level of its international counterparts (regardless of the arguments in favour of Nigeria being a developing country, available for presentation).

With the LMC coming into an agreement with the Spanish La Liga on several developmental programmes for the NPFL, and the subsequent tour to Spain, it can only be hoped that this new strive portends great news for our football.

However the reinstatement of Giwa FC while the LMCNPFL was in Spain seems negatively ominous — perhaps we are taking 5 steps forward and 10 steps backward. The sooner Pinnick and Giwa end the tussle between them and come to a gentleman’s agreement, the better for our football, as it is the clash between these 2 juggernauts that threatens to sour our local football’s taste.

What we need is people with love and passion for the game and not selfish people playing politics with something as dear to Nigerians as football. Until we get the right pegs in the right holes, our football will keep going down the drain, moving around in circles, headed for no specific direction.

Photo Credits: Gossip Boyz

About Author
Tim Nwaobilo is a poet, writer, OAP, sports presenter and analyst on radio. He has an undying passion for Nigerian football. Tim has a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Enyimba Int. vs Rangers Int.: Rangers Still In Range, Players vs The Referee and more #TalkingPoints

The Oriental derby between Enyimba International FC and Rangers International was one of the most anticipated matches of Matchday 29 (it was actually the other anticipated derby of the Matchday). Here’s why:

– Enyimba were trying to return to winning ways after losing to Plateau United the week before. They didn’t have a leaky defence to worry about like their opponents but they obviously wanted to make sure their NPFL run did not resemble their current CAF Champions League campaign.

– Rangers on the other hand, were looking to go one ahead of Wikki Tourists to top the NPFL table. This alone was motivation enough for them. After going their last 5 games unbeaten, Coach Imma’s side were beginning to look like title contenders. And the only team standing in their way was the one from Bauchi (save, of course, a surprise from Rivers United).

– It was an ORIENTAL DERBY.

So, all seemed set for a massive clash, the delight of football fans.

But what really happened?

1. There Was A Half-Filled (or Half-Empty?) Stadium
For a NPFL fan who’s trying to “fall in love” with the league and watch, at any available chance, the league games, this is some sort of painful point to start with. But it was very hard to miss the empty seats that were glaring at me as I watched Moses Praiz (one of the Matchday analysts) welcome me to the Yakubu Gowon Stadium.

It was too obvious! And I was constantly wondering why the stadium wasn’t filled with fans. “Don’t people want to know how this mouth-watering clash will play out?,” I thought to myself.

Of course the hardcore fans showed up. The mums and dads came along with their kids to see the action. The male and female species were duly represented. But I expected more, given what was at stake. I think I want to blame my disappointment on “over-expectation.”

In the end, I gave up wondering about the number of spectators present (and the ones absent) when the match commentator said,

“We’ve seen today, nearly 3 times the amount of crowd that usually come to watch Rivers United play.”

Translated: This crowd is actually a “huge” crowd when compared to the ones that usually show up when the home team plays. #Shock.

2. Rangers International’s Poor Defence Reared It’s Ugly Head Again
Before this game started, Rangers were second on the NPFL log-table. Not because Wikki Tourists had won more games. But because their goals difference was inferior to Wikki’s, a direct result of conceding more goals than Wikki Tourists.

And their coach, Imma Amapakabo, in a pre-match interview, seemed to not have any issues with his team’s defensive frailties. But this same weakness almost cost them the top spot they currently occupy.

Enyimba piled the pressure early in the first half, trying to utilize this weakness to their own advantage. And most times, it alnost worked with Enyimba players getting half-chances that came about thanks to poor defending by the Rangers players.

Wondering how Enyimba scored their goal? Yes, you’re right! And that poor defending almost made them leave Port Harcourt empty-handed.

3. Some Weird Officiating + Drama
I’m still unsure what really happened at end of the first half but the centre referee and one of the Enyimba players got involved in an exchange of words (note: it wasn’t the nicest of exchanges as there was pointing of fingers and the images of glaring eyes).

Enyimba had scored in the 45th minute of the game. And that lead had only lasted 90 seconds. And a certain Enyimba player wasn’t happy. What he was dissatisfied with is still unclear but I’m sure he’d have exchanged more than words with the ref if he wasn’t restrained by his teammates. Yes, it was that serious!

Of course there was that OMG!-I-thought-we-were-leading-a-few-seconds-ago kind of moment. Two goals were scored, either sides of the pitch… in the space of 90 seconds! I guess whoever said, “You’re most vulnerable after scoring a goal,” must have had this match in mind.

Have I mentioned the awkward officiating by the referee? The ladies who were the linesmen (or lineswomen?) did well. But the centre ref kept making calls that disrupted the flow of the game, calls that were sometimes, not totally necessary. But what do I know? Maybe I’m wrong. Afterall I’m only a NPFL fan.

Worthy Mentions
Obinna Nwobodo of Rangers is a rare gem. His mesmerizing skills was one of the highlight of the game. He took one anyone in sight and usually did a good job in the end. Hopefully the league doesn’t lose this one to Greece or Finland. Hopefully.

I used to think Bobby Clement was badass but after he disappeared in today’s game, I’m definitely having a rethink. In fairness, the Enyimba fans were so brutal. They seemed to be in a no-mercy, kill-em-all mode. But even when these gruesome defenders loosened their grip on Clement, he seemed to have become absent, though present, at this game.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned the scoreline of this game. But you know that already right?

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to leave a comment and share this article with your friends.

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 and on LinkedIn

Demba Ba, New Jersies and more Talking Points from #FootballThisPastWeek

It’s that time of the football season where everywhere’s quiet. Golf and other sports kick football to the back of the news queue and only ‘short scenes’ instead of ‘season-long movies’ are the order of the day.

But of course, with football, even short scenes are major sells thanks to the news media and social media. From friendlies to transfers and all, football never really gets quiet.

So, what has been happening over the past week?

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High Flyers: Iceland benefitted from their surprising display at the Euro 2016

– The Latest FIFA Rankings
FIFA, as usual, released its latest rankings of football-playing countries across the globe. Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Chile, Portugal, France, Spain, Brazil and Italy made up the top 10.

One of the biggest movers on the rankings was Venezuela that jumped 31 spots to 46th. Thanks to the Euros, Croatia, Poland and Iceland jumped up 12, 11 and 12 spots respectively to now occupy the 15th, 16th and 22nd positions. Wales jumped 15 sppts to the 11th position.

On the other, Austria dropped 11 spots to the 21st position while the Netherlands dropped 12 spots to 26th.

Nigeria? Sliding down the list as they’re now ranked the 70th best football-playing nation in the world.

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Cross-Country Move: Chelsea FC confirmed the capture of N'Golo Kante from Leicester City

– The Transfer Mart
There have been major movements in the football supermarket:

* Newcastle made its fifth signing of the summer.
* England seem to want Sam Allardyce.
* Kante joined Chelsea from Leicester (this one still baffles me).
* The 50m Pound of Stones: Everton will not sell their star defender for anything less.
* Leroy Sane moved to a new City in Manchester.
* Antonio Conte completed his move to Stamford Bridge. He came along with his record: In his three seasons with Juventus, his side never conceded more than 24 goals. It’s the first time he’s coaching outside the Italian Serie A but his “work” mantra may just work out fine for him.

Of course that’s just a little of the whole news, this one transfer market is bubbling.

– The Friendlies Season
Clubs resumed from their various hiatuses and needed to get the engines rolling. Of course, playing friendly games is the way to go!

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United started off with a win over Wigan while Antonio Conte could not get the better of Austrian side, Rapid. So much for taking charge of your first game just after two days of becoming a coach.

But of course we know the obvious: friendlies are important but they don’t determine how well a club will perform in the season. Louis van Gaal knows this too well

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New Jersies: Necessary or not? Photo credit: BleacherReport

– The New Jerseys: How Necessary Are They?
So many clubs have unveiled new kits to be used for the upcoming season. Some, great while some weren’t exactly so great. Since it has been a tradition to have new jerseys for new seasons, the question arises: Why does there have to be a new one? If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right?

Most times, the jersey used by the club the season before does not become obsolete. Most fans still love it: partially because it’s their club and partially because they’ve bought it for their closet.

Now, the club goes ahead to change the style, outlook or colour of the existing jersey. It’s simply a “reformation” or “refurbishment” or “simple improvement” of the existing one. But it comes with all the fuss of a new one. Sales tactics if you ask me.

The fans (loyal, die-hard ones though) go on out there and snap them up. The “old” jersey becomes history. The trend continues over the years.

The question arises again: Is the “New Jersey for a New Season” really necessary?

Worthy Mentions
The most exciting game of the 2015/2016 NPFL season was played on Saturday. Akwa United vs Rangers International. The five-goal thriller was a “balanced diet for a football fan’s appetite.” In the end, Rangers won and ended up at the summit of the table.

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Awkward Angle: Demba Ba broke his leg while playing in China.

Demba Ba, 31 years of age, suffered a devastating and heart-wrenching injury where his leg got broken. The sight of the awkwardly-bent leg was a gory one. I ran away from the video and only managed rhe sight of the picture. Get well soon Ba. In other news, after that injury, I’m not sure of his football-playing career.

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 and on LinkedIn

This Week’s NPFL Round-up… In Tweets!

It’s hard to follow all the games being played in a league on a weekend or matchday. Ha! You’ll need some super powers to keep an eye (or both and some fingers too for some phone tapping or typing) on updates from all games on a Matchday.

And this weekend, in the Nigerian Professional Football League, it was extra important to keep tabs on all the goings-on in the league

There were different struggles for different positions on the league table. Rangers International wanted to snatch that top spot from Wikki Tourists. 3SC desperately needed to start picking points and Kano Pillars were trying to avoid another “Elephantic Defeat.”

While MFM wanted to win without their fans…

… there was a teeming crowd to enjoy the IfeanyiUbah game.

So you can understand where I’m coming from when I say I had to follow “all available” updates. Wouldn’t be so much fun missing out on all the fun right? So I watched when I could and followed trends when watching was impossible.

And the thing is this: Following a match via trends on social media most times, helps you to see the action from more angles than one. Especially if the social media of your choice is Twitter.

You’d be amazed by how much a series of 140-characters-long posts could be informative, engaging and of course, hilarious (if you’re a twitter user, this should be a norm for you).

So how about a round-up?

It all started on Saturday with the most prolific NPFL game I’ve ever watched in my life: Akwa United vs Rangers International. It was a terrific game with terrific goals scored…

… and some amazing records set too.

Then on Sunday, some “Fan Fun” as Enyimba got the better of Kano Pillars…

… for the second time this season…

… and some stuff of international quality from Heartland FC.

Rivers added more misery for 3SC…

… and there was poor officiating in Niger.

It seemed one of the most exciting games of the weekend was played behind closed doors at the Agege Stadium.

At first, 3 penalties were awarded.

Then, as if not satisfied with the number, the ref awarded one more.

I’m wondering: Maybe heet waz a spiritual somtin? *in Falz’s voice*

With the tweets above, the fans have again, showed how interesting the NPFL is, how much fun there is and HOW MUCH YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON if you haven’t started watching NPFL games.

Already looking forward to the next Matchday!

P.S: Thanks for reading. But don’t forget to share with your friends. We need to spread the NPFL Fever. The people need to know how much fun they’re missing out on. Plus, when they realise the fun you’re trying to share with them, they’ll thank you for being a good friend.

Cheers to a great week ahead!

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 and on LinkedIn

Akwa United vs Rangers International: A Beautiful Game, Beautiful Goals, A Determined Rangers Side and more… #WhatILearnt

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It was a match that will go down as one of the most interesting in Nigerian Professional Football League’s history.

Victor Ikpeba admitted it was the most exciting NPFL game he had ever seen in all his NPFL-games-watching career. And when a pundit speaks like that, you know a lot went down during the game.

A five-goal thriller, the game between Akwa United and Rangers International was a very open one. Back and forth the action swung, with both clubs threatning to score with every move in the opposition’s direction.

There were flicks and kicks. Tackles and dribbles. There was a display of deadly attacking prowress by both sides and some outstanding goalkeeping by the goalies who did not want to be victims the whole 90.

But what did I learn?

– Rangers Came To Win
The Enugu-based side were the visitors in this encounter. And they had one thing in mind: take all three points back home. They were second on the log, behind Wikki Tourist and they wanted that top spot so badly.

They took matters into their own hands in the second half after Lady Luck smiled on them and caused Harrison of Akwa United to score an own goal. Let’s just say they scored two goals in the second half… one more than their counterpart in the half.

They looked shaky towards the end of the first half and in the early stages of the second half. But they showed what strong stuff they’re made of by recovering well.

An ambitious team this Rangers side, they want to win the league title. And they played like it. They smell blood and are going in for the kill. Watch out Wikki Tourist!

– A Fixture of Beautiful Goals
The NPFL has gone way past the days where players just scored goals. These days, the players play CONFIDENTLY and score BEAUTIFULLY. And this game in Akwa Ibom was not left out.

Asides the simple tap in of an own goal that Harrison scored and Omoniwari’s second goal, the rest were beauties to behold.

Fortune Omoniwari equalized for Akwa United with a powerful header after a beautiful cross-in from Friday.

Then Egbuchulam scored the best goal of the day. Receiving a cross from his left, he controlled the ball with his right foot in the opposition’s 6-yard box. Deciding against shooting directly even though the goal-scoring chance was good enough, he switched play to his left foot, leaving the goalkeeper for dead and scoring an amazing goal.

Morris Chebem’s goal wasn’t as beautiful as the build-up to it. First a cross into the box (another cross?), then a chest-control of the ball by a Rangers player killed the momentum of the ball and placed it in fine position for a bullet shot from Morris who had just come on as a substitue.

– Akwa United Have Potential but…
… they seem to not know how to use it yet. (Or maybe I’m the one seeing things wrongly?) While chasing the equalizer in the dying minutes of the first half, they played LIKE A TEAM. The passes were perfect. The run-ins were deadly. The inter-changes were exceptional. Every move forward seemed to be accompanied by a potential goal. And in the end they got their goal.

In the second half, they started from where they stopped. They made the Rangers players quiver in fear. Their moves caused the Rangers defense to be “at sixes and sevens” according to the match commentator.

Then they slept off. They eased up on applying the pressure. And the rest is history. During this time, their midfield seemed to not provide enough cover for the defense and was not productive going forward. Names like Omoniwari and Friday were trying but the others weren’t helping.

Cooreman, coach of the Akwa Ibom side, needs to take note of this and make sure to bring his players to the awareness of the fact that a game is only won after 90 minutes (+ whatever minutes the ref decides to add on), not during a 10-minute long spell.

Worthy Mentions
The Rangers coach (or technical advisor), Imama Amapakabo was the most animated of the two gaffers on the day. His glasses reminded me of Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp. His acting too. Though his armless top made him look like he was heading to war. He looked fierce. Even after his team scored 3 goals, he wanted more!

He may have taken things too far with his “passion” as he was seen yelling at the fourth official while trying to express himself. There seemed to be some pushing too!

No matter how passionate you are, player or coach, I think the referee SHOULD BE RESPECTED! Football is a contact sport and a game of emotions, I know, but the “RESPECT” has to be respected (pun intended)

A side that can score three in an away game in the NPFL should be taken seriously. A team that wants to win the league, scores three goals in an away game and takes all three points home should be taken EVEN MORE SERIOUSLY!

Rangers International mean business. They want Enyimba’s trophy. Beware!

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 and on LinkedIn