NPFL In A Photo Finish Battle | Independent Newspapers Limited
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NPFL In A Photo Finish Battle

Posted: Sep 24, 2016 at 10:40 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Chibuike Chukwu.

LAGOS – For the first time in so many years, the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) will end in two weeks time without a clear cut winner. This is unlike last season that Enyimba won the league with two rounds of matches left.

Three clubs- Rangers International, Rivers United and Wikki Tourists- are in pole position to win the league. Even fourth placed FC IfeanyiUba, still have cameo chance of wrestling the trophy from the trio.

Before one but last league matches on Sunday, Rangers sit top of the league with 57 points. Rivers United are on their heels with 56 points, while Wikki Tourists are third with 54 points.

Should all the three clubs win their remaining two matches, Rangers will be crowned champions, while Rivers United will not only have to win their remaining two matches and but have to pray that Rangers drop points. But Wikki is in a trickier situation, having to win their two remaining matches and pray that both Rangers and Rivers United drop points along the way.

Rangers will play relegated Ikorodu United in Abeokuta on Sunday before hosting El Kanemi. On thre other hand Rivers United host Abia Warriors before being guest of  Akwa United  in their last group match. Wikki Tourists have .

The photo finish, according to Wikki Tourists coach, Abdul Maikaba, was due to the competitive nature of the clubs, especially the pace-setting teams.

“There is a huge battle for continental slots, especially among the teams on top and that, to me, has been the major reason why no winner has emerged,” he said.
Maikaba said that it was not yet uhuru because some clubs, especially in the second stanza, put so much pressure on the referees, which resulted in so many poor officiating.

“Because of the battle to escape relegation and so many of us fighting for continental slots, some clubs, especially in the second stanza, have influenced match results through poor officiating after putting so much pressure on the referees.

“Yes, a champions will eventually emerge but we would have had worthy champions if these things were avoided,” he said.

Stanley Eguma, coach of Rivers United, declined speaking on the league, saying he was in a prayer (over the league).

“I wish I can have time to speak to you; right now I am in the church for important prayers and will not have the time to speak on the league.

“I am seeking the face of God for us to surmount the odd,” Eguma said.

Unlike the previous league season where less than 17 away victories were recorded, so far, away teams have won 21 times, with so many teams sharing points in their homes.

This, to Mutiu Adepoju, is a testament that the LMC is doing a good job.

“You said 21 away wins so far? That is good and it has shown that the League Management Company (LMC) has improved on the administration of the league. But then, so much still need to be done, especially in terms of security at match venues and good playing surface,” he said.

The LMC, however, attributed the photo finish of the league to the clubs vying for honours.

Harry Iwuala, the LMC image maker, said that the league body has not done anything apart from what they have been doing, saying that clubs would be in a better position to do the analysis.

“There is nothing we are doing now that we have not done before and I think we have done our best. But commenting on this will be like sitting in an exam and marking the script.

“I think the clubs should be the ones to tell you what they are doing that makes the league ending in a photo finish,” Iwuala, said.

But the successes recorded in the league would have been higher, if not for the ownership structure of the clubs, which has not done any good to the players’ welfare.

Recall that 18 of the clubs are owed by the state governors, a situation that has tended to more harm to the clubs than good.

In the course of the season, players of Shooting Stars, Rivers United, Heartland, Warri Wolves, among others embarked on strike over backlog of salaries and allowances owed them.

The development led to the sudden resignation of Kadiri Ikhana as Shooting Stars coach earlier in the year. The players in the domestic league are still playing under a very severe condition, with frequent night travels with attendant robbery attacks becoming their lots.

Whatever gains that have been achieved in the league leading to its photo finish next week would have been significant if the league is structured to provide entertainment with strong intent on exploiting the business aspect of the game for the betterment of the stakeholders, especially the players.

This can only be possible if government will provide a veritable ground for private investors to come up and own these clubs. This will go a long way in bringing true professionalism to the league.