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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)

Rotimi "Papi" Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi is the owner of ForTheGoal. A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @rotdav to keep up with his writings and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.

3 thoughts on “A Review of the NPFL Teams Ahead of the New Season

  1. The rigours of the continent will affect Rangers unless they crash out early. But if they are in the Champions League till the group stage, Rangers will not win the 2017 NPFL. 2nd will be fine.

    For Shooting Stars, Top half? unlikely. 12th is not bad. They won’t be relegated unless their new acquisitions fall to deliver.

    1. You’re right AmosCP. There’s something about having to deal with continental action as well as manage your performance on the local scene, as a team. As fans, we’re caught in between seeing Rangers go as far as possible continentally and winning the NPFL again.

      But I think it’d be good for Nigerian football generally, if Rangers can repeat last year’s performance and use it to win that long-term elusive CAF Champions League.

      If Sootin can keep up the great home form, I think they’ll end up being fine.

      Thanks for your comment Amos.

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