By Chima Ebube
The Nigerian Professional Football League ended after 24 games with Lobi Stars who were table toppers as at then declared champions of the 2017/2018 season. The news shocked the media and fans of the local league, it would be recalled the league was on break till after 2018 World Cup in Russia and after the conclusion of the tourney fans were expecting the league to kick off from where it stopped.
The League Management Company (LMC), promoters of the local league cited controversies surrounding the country’s football governing body as the major reason for ending the league pre maturely coupled with the ability not to meet CAF’s deadline for submission of teams to represent the nation in continental stage as CAF want to change its calendar.
The decision to end the league brought controversies with uncertainty on how teams would be relegated and promoted for the upcoming season which was later clarified by LMC stating no team would be relegated for the just concluded season while 4 teams would be promoted to add to 20 top flight team to slug it out in a new format to be introduced come 2018/2019 season.
However, months since the shocking revelation by the organizers of the NPFL, the new season is yet to kick off which is causing restraint between the fans and the league.
At a time the LMC are recording significant improvement in followership of the local league, it’s germane to maintain momentum by continually feeding fans and the media with contents from theNPFL, but unfortunately, politics and uncertainty, slowly killing fans enthusiasm towards NPFL, and if action is not taking immediately, what looked like a plus for the organizers could be a massive set back in terms of fans interest.
With Nigeria dropping significantly in CAF coefficient, it’s dangerous to keep postponing resumption of the new season. 5 years ago, Nigeria had four slots in continental competitions with 2 apiece in champions League and Confederation cup, but today, we just have 2 slots with 1 team in each competition.
The Inconsistency of Nigeria teams continentally is the major reason for this retarded growth in ranking of our local league by the continent’s governing body. Nigeria which used to be in top 10 ranked leagues in Africa are now ranked 13th in the continent and are in the danger of slipping further behind if their representatives continue to falter in competitions.
Rangers International and Lobi Stars are the 2 indigenous clubs representing Nigeria in continental competition which are CAF Confederation Cup and CAF champions league, the latter gaining qualification through the league while the former battled it out in federation cup with both sides playing preliminary fixtures have managed to win their first games but let’s face it, a time will come when lack of competitive fixture would tell on the nation’s representatives.
Little can the coaches do to keep their teams in good shape and competitive agile, but on the long run, there would be repercussions to these teams especially in mentally preparing for high level competitiveness.
There is still a lot of work to be done to improve NPFL but the first step begins with re starting the league and getting teams to compete again.
The argument raging on for few days now on 8 teams being promoted is also one which should be thrashed without second thought, as it’s going to be a bad one, and could possibly damage what has been coming up the ranks for quite a while.
It just shows that ending the league at Game Week 24, has brought up much menace and further harm shouldn’t be caused by promoting 8 teams, plus the League has to resume as soon as possible.