And so the much awaited 2016 season of the Nigeria Processional Football league kicked off yesterday with Plateau United getting all three points against fellow returnee club Niger Tornadoes with their 2-1 win at home. It promises to be another exciting round of matches as we preview how these teams might fare at the end of the season.
PLATEAU UNITED have started very well winning their first match but whether they can sustain this is a different ball game altogether. The last time they were in the league, they got relegated after spending a season in the top flight. I expect them to go back down just as it happened five years ago.
NIGER TORNADOES will be brimming from the fact that they are the NNL Super 4 Champs and that confidence might boost their morale, but playing far away from their natural habitat the Bako Kotangora stadium in Minna might do little to help their cause as they have adopted the Confluence Stadium in Kogi. A bottom half finish is my expectation for them provided they keep Abdullahi Biffo as head coach till the end of the season.
GIWA FC have lost so much in playing and coaching personnel and this might be a very difficult season for them. Ocheme Edoh whose 12 goal haul last season helped propelled the club has moved to Heartland FC as well as Charles Henlong, Amos Gyang moving to Kano Pillars. All these might not help them after two seasons of finishing in the top five. A bottom half finish might be flattering for them.
FC IFEANYI UBAH have had its own fair share of players exodus but the club owner has swiftly moved to bring in as much as six Brazilians players to beef up their squad. Hopefully these ‘Samba Boys’ stay till the end of the season and help their lofty ambition of grabbing a continental slot. My verdict on them? Top half finish!!!
NASARAWA UNITED had a fantastic run-in towards the end of last season. From breaking Kano Pillars 12 years 3 months and 2 days unbeaten home record in the league to finishing third on the table and qualifying for the first time for the CAF Confederations cup, it has been a swell year for them. Amidst all of this frenzy, they have been able to retain their brilliant Manager Kabiru Dogo who has brought in some experienced legs to beef up his squad. Abdulrahman Bashir, Tayo Fabiyi, Samson Gbadebo, Douglas Achiv among others are some of players they now have. I really cant see them contesting for the title but expect them to ruffle shoulders on their way to finishing in the top six.
MOUNTAIN of FIRE and MIRACLE MINISTRIES (MFM) FC would be making their debut in the top flight and as with the trend of new teams trying to impress and making a statement, they will have to be energetic all through the campaign to maintain their status. They have a crop of very young and skillful players but that is not always enough in the NPFL. They might just be relegated back to the Nigeria National league at the end of the season even with their good looking administrative structure headed by Ace-broadcaster Godwin Enakhena.
RIVERS UNITED FC have re-christened their name from Dolphins fc. Reports reaching us from the state have it that its a merger of the two State-owned club-Dolphins and Sharks fc-with the former Sharks fc general manager Okey Kpaluku now in charge of this team on Acting capacity. Also they have signed a couple of players from Sharks, Odinga Odinga on a three year deal, Henry Ayodele, Freedom Obomate and Gabriel Olalekan. A mid table finish for new look club.
ENYIMBA INT’L FC, just like they do every other season have gone on a spending spree in the transfer market. With their erstwhile Coach Paul Aigbogun returning to the fold and also bringing in his own players from Wolves, it promises to be as exciting for the seven-time league Champions. Their list of new signings including Dare Ojo, Kelly Kester, Christian Pyagbara, Ikechukwu Ibenegbu, Leonard Ugochukwu, Joseph Osadiaye, Stephen Chukwude, Theophilus Afelokhai, Olufemi Oladapo just to mention but a few will have to work their socks and boots off to retain regular places in the starting eleven. Trust them to definitely contest their league crown favorably well hoping that their aspirations for a third CAF Champions league crown wont derail their league title chances.
SHOOTING STARS have made a very costly mistake they might regret later by letting Gbenga Ogunbote leave for Giwa fc. Not so much have been heard with respect to their new signings but with experienced league winner and campaigner, Kadiri Ikhana taking over coaching affairs, they might still do well this season. A bottom half finish for them.
LOBI STARS have new general manager and a new coach. Mike Idoko has taken over the day to day running of the Makurdi based team after the resignation of Dominic Iorfa and he has brought in Godwin Koko Uwah to head the technical crew. David Tvyakase who has a CAF champions league medal with Enyimba has joined up with them. Others include Otekpa Eneji, Solomon Kwambe, Cyril Oriaku, Kingsley Eduwo and Abdul Afolabi to beef up their squad. With the experience of Idoko and Uwah, they should finish in the top five.
SUNSHINE STARS will be disappointed in themselves with how they let the title slip from their grasp last season. Having lost key players such as Tunde Adeniji to Levski Sofia, Prince Aggrey, Kingsley Eduwo and also their coach Kennedy Boboye, its left to be seen how they would cope this season with some of their new signings Ojo mine, Oke Ogagatwho and Segun Alebiosu who have enough experience in the league. But don’t be surprised if they struggle throughout the season to maintain their league status.
AKWA UNITED have made a big statement to all who care to listen winning three titles (Federations cup, Super 4 tournament and Charity Cup) in four months. Also their new coach Maurice Cooreman knows what it means to win titles on the domestic scene having won the league with defunct Ocean boys and Enyimba in 2006 and 2007 respectively. With returnee players like Ubong Ekpai and Kufre Ebong, expect them to contest for the league title. Top three finish!
IKORODU UNITED FC have shown the world that they are ready to rub shoulders with the creme-de-la-creme of Nigerian football with their fun-fare kits unveiling. Owned by Chairman Multi-choice Nigeria, Adewunmi Ogunsanya, they add to the growing list of privately owned clubs in the country. Their first campaign in the top flight will see them struggle and might just be relegated.
ABIA WARRIORS have lost their prized asset Chisom Chikatara who notched up a total of 14 goals last season in the league but hopefully Ndifreke Effiong another of their hotshot steps up to the plate with Kennedy Boboye giving tactical instructions from the side lines. They have always had continental slots in mind but with their invariably thin squad, a top half finish could just be their surest bet.
ELKANEMI WARRIORS would have wanted to go back to base, Maiduguri precisely but recent spate of bombings around the state capital has made them maintain their home ground to be Karkanda Stadium in Katsina state. Former Abia Warriors coach Laden Bosso has pitched tent with the team and might just be a survival season for them just like last season. Bottom half finish.
WIKKI TOURIST surprised so many league watchers last season with their fearless attacking play that made them finish 4th on the table with only goal difference separating them from grabbing that 3rd place finish. This season might just be theirs for the fact that they have retained their coach of last season Abdul Maikaba and most of their star players too. A top six finish I foresee for them.
HEARTLAND FC have brought in quite a handful of players from across the country young and experienced players at that. Ocheme Edoh top scorer for Giwa fc last season, Isaac Loute from Kano Pillars, Longi Obadiah from Elkanemi Warriors, Emeka Atuloma from Rivers United fc should give them the necessary strength to do well in the league. A top four finish would be good enough for them.
WARRI WOLVES looks more increasingly like a confused club at the moment. Sam Okpodu left the club after disagreement over his salary and the foreign expatriate they are to hire is still in limbo as we hear coupled with the mass exodus of players. Peter Nieketen should take charge of their matches till things are sorted with their would-be head coach. Relegation bound!!!
KANO PILLARS have some decent signings for themselves. Getting the likes of Aggrey, Jonathan Zikiye, Omo Johnson, Chris Madaki and Ifeanyi Matthew to mention but a few. They might just reclaim the title they last won two seasons ago. Definitely a top three finish for them.
RANGERS INT’L have brought in experience from Enyimba with Chimezie Amanfor, Bright Esieme Chibuzor Madu joining them. They should compete well enough with Imama Amapakabo at the helms of affair and good restructuring of the management board. A top half finish for them!
The Dream is free, the Hustle is sold separately…Selah!!!