5th September, 2012
It happened as the beginning of a new dawn when on 7 January, 2012, for the first time in the history of Nigeria’s football league, that the 2011/2012 football league began as scheduled by the Nigeria Premier League board, NPL. What never occured to pundits of the league was that they would have to wait several weeks for the scheduled season ending fixtures to be played.
Hence, come Friday, football faithfuls in Nigeria would in their droves storm league venues all over the country as the 2011/2012 season come to an end.
Kano Pillars club of Kano are the current table-toppers of the NPL with 64 points, closely followed in 2nd and 3rd positions by Lobi Stars club of Makurdi and Enugu Rangers with 63 and 61 points respectively.
Mohammed Babaganaru-tutored Pillars would confront Sunshine Stars of Akure inside the Dina Dipo International Stadium in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, in one of Friday’s crucial ties that would determine who wins the league title.
Interestingly, both sides also met in the last season’s final fixtures in similar circumstances with Pillars spoiling the party for the Gbenga Ogunbote-coached Sunshine that needed victory to lift the league trophy. Sunshine lost the match and conceded the title to eventual winners, Dolphins of of Port Harcourt that grabbed a crucial away win in Ilorin over Bukola Babes (now ABS). Friday’s clash would provide Sunshine an opportunity to pay Pillars back in their own coin.
In a bid to ensure that the Kano-based club win the domestic league this season, Pillars’ players were paid additional 20 per cent of their sign on fees recently by the team’s General Manager, Abba Galadima, to bring the total sign on fees paid so far to 65 per cent.
While adressing the players, Galadima commended the players and coaches of the team for their outstanding performances in the current league season, urging them to keep up the good work until the crucial tie against Sunshine in Ijebu Ode.
Meanwhile, ahead of another crucial tie between Kaduna United and Lobi Stars club scheduled to hold in Kaduna State on Friday, Lobi Stars’ Technical Adviser, Dominic Iorfa, has said that they are battle ready for the match, adding their concern is for NPL to ensure that only referees with impeccable character are appointed to oversee matches involving title chasers.
He said: “We are battle ready for our game and we will enter the pitch on Friday to do our best to win the match after working so hard to be where we are today.
“We just hope that those in charge of appointing referees for the matches would ensure only competent match officials would be appinted for the crucial ties on Friday. We have no choice than to beat Kadunal United in Kaduna and then wait to see what happens between Kano Pillars and Sunshine Stars in Ijebu Ode.”
Despite their third place position on the league’s table, Enugu Rangers’ coach, Okey Emordi, still believes they could still win the title ahead of Kano Pillars and Lobi Stars. The former Enyimba of Aba coach said that his hopes are on the fact that both Pillars and Lobi are playing tougher opponents away from home while they will play against Sharks at home, adding that his players are aware of what is at stake.
He said: “There is still hope for us to win the title, which is why we are not ruling out our chances.I don’t care about other results for now, because we don’t want to get distracted by what is happening elsewhere. We just want to prepare well and win our match against Sharks on Friday.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Premier League, NPL, have promised football followers in the country a hitch-free grand finale.
This disclosure was made by the Media Officer of NPL, Emma Njokwu, while addressing newsmen on their readiness for Friday’s the final rounds of matches in the league.
Njokwu, who also doubles as the Secretary of Lagos State chapter of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria, SWAN, opined that every logistics have been put in place to ensure that the season ends on an exciting note.
He said: “I can assure you that everything that needs to be done have been done for us to have a grand finale that befits an exciting league season we’ve had so far.
On the issue of Kwara United football club and Abubakar Bukola Saraki football club, ABS, two teams that share the same stadium in Ilorin, Kwara State and are scheduled to play at home on Friday, Njokwu said: “There is no any issue on the case of Kwara United and ABS at all. Apart from the Ilorin Township Stadium that both teams play their league matches this season, there are other good pitches in the state, like the Football College of Excellence in Ilorin and the Offa Pitch. As a result, one of them would choose which of the pitches they would play their match on Friday.”
The NPL Spokesman however, urged football faithfuls to go all out on Friday to league venues across the country to watch exciting matches, saying security at match venues would be beefed up through out the stadia.