On 17th February, the League Management Company (LMC) the body tasked with running the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) suspended three stadiums for having terrible playing turfs. It would’ve been four but for some intervention on the Bako Kontagora Stadium in Minna which saw them given a grace period of four games.
The three affected clubs, Yobe Desert Stars of Damaturu, Heartland FC of Owerri and Abia Warriors of Umuahia, quickly adopted Kano, Nnewi and Omoku respectively for home games and were quickly returned to their home grounds at the expiration of the suspension period. One hardly understands if the suspension helped improve all the grounds.
Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri.
The traditional home ground of Heartland FC was reopened late because the team had a double away fixture and would only try out the new feeling of the pitch last weekend against Nasarawa United and it definitely looked greener with very few dry patches thanks to the installation of sprinklers, a feature that should’ve been present from the onset as the natural supply of water, rainfall, cannot keep the playing turf green enough. Besides the sprinklers, there was also a little more work done, the evenness of the playing surface and the results also showed. The only flaw was that the grass should have been trimmed a bit lower than it was when Nasarawa United visited.
August 27th Stadium, Damaturu
Yobe Desert Stars quickly moved to Kano when this stadium was suspended and were the first to be returned at the end of the suspension period. Yes the pitch looks greener than it was prior to the suspension but that was just all the improvement. I think the management needs to do just more than keeping uneven surfaces green. Yobe Desert Stars have faced Kano Pillars and recently Enyimba after the suspension was lifted and none of the coaches complained of the state of the pitch, a deviation from the normal complaints about the terrible nature of the pitch.
Umuahia Township Stadium, Umuahia
This ground has always been a nightmare for visiting teams and most times one begins to wonder how it was okayed to host NPFL games. It doubles also as the state open field event center and even hosted a youth summit few hours before the game against Wikki Tourists. I think that of the three, this was the least taken care of. It seemed it was only let be for two weeks with mother nature expected to fix the pitch but mother nature won’t do for us what we should do for ourselves. If Owerri and Damaturu were banned at some point, Umuahia shouldn’t have been okayed to host an NPFL game but the funny truth is that Abia State has only one functional stadium as the other has been under construction for over two years. Suffice it to say that the same state boasts of two NPFL clubs with one playing in the continent but can’t boast of one good pitch.
With all these, we can commend the League Management Company for trying to improve the aesthetic qualities of the league but also advise that thorough inspection should be made at the beginning of every season at all grounds with subsequent inspections done periodically to maintain the standard.