Sunshine, Dolphin Clash As Nigeria Premier League Season Kicks Off


The 2011/12 Nigeria Premier League, NPL, season rolls out Saturday with the clash between champions Dolphin and runners-up Sunshine Stars top of the draw.

All league matches will be played on Saturday as ordered by the board of the NPL because of the planned national strike of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, which begins on Monday.

Dolphin won the championship on the final day of last season with 73 points, two points more than Sunshine, in one of the most closely fought title battles.

Sunshine Stars defender Ofem Inah said they will take the battle to hosts Dolphin in Port Harcourt.

“They are champions and we finished second behind them, but we want to win the league this time and we have to make everyone know that right from day one. Dolphin should therefore expect a good fight as we are going for the maximum three points,” Inah told

Sunshine though could be affected by the absence of five of their players including club leading scorer Ajani Ibrahim, who scored 19 goals last term.

One of the highlights of this game would be the return of former FC Barcelona of Spain defender Gbenga Okunowo, who has joined Sunshine after he moved abroad in 1997.

Dolphin won this fixture 1-0 last season and everything points to another closely fought encounter on Saturday.

In Enugu, Rangers with new coach, Okey Emordi, will aim to start the season on a winning note against Warri Wolves, who finished third last season.

“We have rebuilt a team that will represent the state well. Our coach is highly experienced one and I am sure we will beat Warri Wolves whom I know will come here to fight for points,” said Rangers spokesman Foster Chime

Premier League returnees Wikki Tourist of Bauchi, reunited with former handler Ladan Bosso, would also gun for a winning start to their campaign at home.

Heartland have complained about the short notice they got to play this match on Saturday instead of Sunday. They said they only got a message at training on Thursday evening that the match will now be played on Saturday instead of Sunday.

“It was a difficult situation for us, it is a long distance from Owerri to Bauchi which is about 9, 10 hours, if we have our way we would want the match postponed, but since we can’t, we have to honour it,” lamented Heartland spokesman Cajetan Nkwopara.

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“It means we won’t have time to rest and train before the match, fatigue may set in but we still hope to do our best in the game.”

It will be two brand-new teams at war when Enyimba welcome ABS FC (formerly Bukola Babes) to Aba.

Six-time champions Enyimba finished last season without a piece of silverware and are now rebuilding under coach Audu Maikaba with former Olympic team coach Austin Eguavoen expected to join up as technical adviser.

“We are not looking back on our target which is to win the league, we have been together for few weeks now,” said Enyimba goalkeeper Richard Ochayi, a new signing from Kaduna United.

“We all know Bukola Babes (now ABS FC), they are strong team but we are a household name and we wish to return to glory days and I am sure ABS won’t survive it.”

Kano Pillars expect a full house when they battle Niger Tornadoes inside the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano.

Pillars will be favourites to win this clash but new Niger Tornadoes signing Eze Fidelis said: “Kano Pillars are a big team, so also are Tornadoes. We want to return to reckoning and Pillars won’t have an easy game, we have team who can go all the way and we want to show this right from the first game of the season.”

A lot is expected from the new coach of Shooting Stars Sports Club, 3SC of Ibadan, Festus Allen after he made a name for himself with modest Bukola Babes last season by going eight games unbeaten.

‘The Oluyole Warriors’ have been fortified with the arrival of Olympic team shot stopper Dele Ajiboye and central defender Sope Ahmed, who until recently featured in Vietnam.

It will be a clash of the new boys when Rising Stars host Akwa United.

Both teams won promotion from National League Division 1B last season and they are now set to renew this rivalry in the top flight.

Akwa have acquired stars Joseph Thompson (Pillars) and Femi Thomas (Ocean Boys) and are expected to pose a big threat to their hosts on Saturday.

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