NPFL: Is January 13 Kick-Off Date Still Feasible?

Lagos – Since Nigerian Football League was rechristened ‘professional’ with the named changed from the Nigeria Premier League to the Nigeria Professional Football League in 1992, the country has never witnessed distorted campaign like what happened towards the conclusion of the 2017/2018 league season and the beginning of the 2018/2019 season.

Since the infamous break embarked upon by the League Management Company (LMC), organisers of the Nigerian domestic league, following the commencement of the 2018 World Cup, the players have been rendered redundant and inactive.

First, it was the World Cup break, where top officials of the league body ‘relocated’ to Russia for the event. On coming back from the World Cup, the LMC cited leadership brouhaha between Amaju Pinnick, the NFF President, and Chris Giwa, a former NFF presidential candidate and the proprietor of the defunct FC Giwa of Jos.

Meanwhile, some stakeholders condemned the continued suspension of the league because of leadership issues in the NFF, even though they admitted that the football body has oversight role over the LMC.

Following the intervention of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the matter was laid to rest as FIFA insisted on recognizing only Amaju Pinnick as the authentic president Of the NFF. The long delay led to the abrupt end of the 2017/2018 league season due to CAF’s directive on submission of representatives for continental competitions. Consequently, no team was relegated.

Meanwhile, on the directive of CAF, all leagues of member-associations must start in December in order for them to end in the summer of 2019 so as to align with the European calendar. Consequently, the 2018/2019 of the Nigeria Professional Football League was scheduled to start by December 1.

But like a fly destined for the grave and will not flee from corpses, the league suffered yet another postponement due to issues bothering on who to promote from the Nigeria National League (NNL).  Eight teams, Gombe Utd, Kogi Utd, Kada City, Real Stars, Bendel Insurance, Delta Force, 3SC and Remo Stars, were scheduled to go for playoff, otherwise called Super 8 to determine the four that will be promoted to the NPFL.

However, the NNL said it followed in the footsteps of the NPFL by ensuring that no club would be relegated in the lower division but making sure that the ENTIRE eight clubs gain promotion to the Nigeria Professional Football League.

In the Nigeria National League’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) that held at the Nera Hotel in Jabi, Abuja, on November 23, the lower league came up with a proposal to promote the eight teams.

The Congress blamed the crisis that rocked Nigeria Football and said that the decision was taken in the best interest of football.

The development pitched NNL against the NPFL, with LMC once again postponing the league indefinitely until the imbroglio was resolved.

However, the intervention of the NFF led to a resolution that the NNL must go ahead with the Super 8, with December 15 scheduled for its commencement. But the withdrawal of some of the clubs meant that solution to the impasse was not in sight.

When NFF intervened, some of the clubs complained that most of their players had travelled for the yuletide, urging the football house to postpone the Super 8, of which NFF obliged.

Meanwhile, the Super 8, which has been delaying the NPFL resumption, was scheduled to finally kickoff on January 5 with the topflight scheduled to start on January 13.

A letter to that effect from the NFF partly read thus: “The League Management Company (LMC) is hereby advised to ensure the commencement of the NPFL 2018/2019 Season, not later that 13th January 2019.”

However, due to some unsorted issues, the Super 8 suffered a two-day shift and finally started on January 7.

However, analysts have continued to express pessimism on the commitment of the LMC and the NFF to finally commence the 2018/2019 season on Sunday.

Meanwhile, SATURDAY INDEPENDENT’S mail to Harry Iwuala, the LMC media officer, for him to confirm whether the indefinite suspension clamped on the NPFL would be lifted finally on Sunday, met a deadlock as he did not reply.

However, SATURDAY INDEPENDENT gathered from some stakeholders that some logistical issues might actually delay the kickoff beyond Sunday with January 20 targeted as the realistic date. Some of the players, who spoke to our correspondent, expressed joy at the possible commencement of the league, even as some of them are equally pessimistic of Sunday’s kickoff.   

The post NPFL: Is January 13 Kick-Off Date Still Feasible? appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.

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Author: Chibuike Chukwu