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NPFL: The League With An Irregular Calendar

In developed world, one of the characteristics of their football league is the season’s calendar which determines everything about it. The league must have a break of at least one or two weeks –first and second stanza.

 

This break give the management of the clubs some time for a postmortem of their performance and prescribe a better strategy going forward – if it means offloading and acquiring new players, which could also involve the technical crew, the break is the time for it – the transfer window.

 

In the same vein, it also allows the players some time to recover from the pains and stress of the first stanza– the length of the break may not matter so much. The absence of a break has never been a good decision for the league of any country; this is the reason the likes of Jose Mourinho of Manchester United; Antonio Conte of Chelsea; Arsene Wenger, former Arsenal boss have all condemned the English Premier League (EPL), calling for adequate break in the league.

 

These football technocrats argued that a proper league break would give the clubs enough time to meet up with leagues of other countries as Spain, Germany, Italy and France in times of international competitions. They added that the lack of break is one of the reasons the Premier League clubs sometimes do not perform well in continental championships as EUFA Champions League and Europa League.

 

However, in Nigeria it is a different ball game; the calendar of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is never regular as it witnesses breaks when it suits the organisers as well as the entire football governing body. The ongoing 2018 season is a typical example where the clubs will be playing a total of 24 matches in the first stanza of the league and just 14 in the said second stanza.

 

The 2018 NPFL season kicked off on January 14, 2018; the League Management Company (LMC) arranged the fixture in a manner that there was three midweek matches on match days 2, 4 and 5 while the mid-season break will be from April 30 to May 5 and a longer break for the FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15.

 

The resumption from the World Cup break will be on July 18 and this will be observed with matchday 25 which will be the first of another three mid-week matches in the second stanza of the league. The other two mid-week fixtures will be on matchdays 27 and 29.

 

This no doubt is laughable. The World Cup comes up every four years and every serious country, will agree it is enough time for football authorities world over to properly plan their league calendars to avoid clash of any sort. This implies simply that only countries that are always planning for failure will still not know how to get their acts in order.

 

When the 2016/17 ended in September, the initial information from the organisers was that the current season would commence between October and November; if that plan had worked out, this anomaly would have been avoided and the clubs go on their normal break.

 

While in Premier League, La Liga, Bundisliga among others in Europe they have the interest of their players at heart one doubts if it is same in Nigeria to be specific. Does it border the league authorities why Nigerian clubs do not perform well at the continental levels?

 

When clubs of other countries in Africa that have good leagues system are preparing for the continental championships, Nigerian clubs will be struggling to wrap up their own league. At the end of the day they crash out of the championship when the chips are down.

 

It is on record that the (2018) ongoing continental campaigns witnessed embarrassing failures from Nigerian clubs – the CAF Champions League and Confederations Cup – represented by Enyimba of Aba; Plateau United Akwa United and MFM FC respectively.

 

While Plateau United and MFM that represented Nigeria at the Champions League could not qualify at the preliminary rounds, they dropped to the lower Confederations Cup to join Enyimba and Akwa. At the end of the day only Enyimba are still in the mix as others mentioned earlier have been shown the exit door by better prepared teams.

 

In this regard, would anyone blame the players for poor performance where the system is not encouraging enough for good performance? Invariably, for the reason that the league would have to go on a break for over one month outside its normal calendar – World Cup – of what benefit is it to the NPFL? How many of the NPFL players will be featuring in the World Cup? These are the questions.

 

The likes of Mikel Obi, Kelechi Ihenacho, Ahmed Musa among others who will feature prominently for Nigeria stand to benefit the Chinese league and their clubs only. The few local players in the provisional list – Junior Lokosa, Ikechukwu Ezenwa and Dele Ajiboye – are not even sure of making the final list save for Ezenwa; after all Ajiboye and Ezenwa are goalkeepers.

 

This account for the reason former Super Eagle coach, Christian Chukwu, faulted the list positing that the three local players should have been involved in the process of preparations before now. “The players invited are okay; Rohr knows them and he can get good results from them, but I’m not comfortable with the inclusion of the home based players in the last minute. He should have brought them in from when the preparations started.

 

Ironically, the Franco-German could not have had any confidence in having the local players in the squad earlier enough, because he never believed in the NPFL – yet the organisers of the league are still accept that there was need to improve. Godwin Izilein, a former Golden Eaglets coach dwelling on this seeming ugly development believed that Nigeria is yet to have a league, “Nigeria is yet to start organising football league from the way things are going presently.

 

“In a sane clime where things are done “perfectly” if you permit me to use that word, the league organisers know too well that the World Cup will always come; in that regards, it is only natural that the calendar be arranged in a way that the league will not suffer and the players too will appreciate it.” Izilein reasoned, “It is because of this lack of planning that we are performing poorly in the continental competitions. Now, Nigeria has lost two places in the CAF championship because of poor performance.”

 

Adegoyega Onigbinde, also a former Super Eagles boss has said severally that Nigerian football need total overhauling if it must meet up with acceptable international standard, just as former MFM FC of Lagos chairman; Godwin Enakhena, will always say “fix Nigeria and the football will be fixed.”

 

One is therefore waiting for that fateful time that a messiah will come and make the entire system work for the good of Nigerians as NPFL fans will be waiting till July 18, 2018 for the second round to kick off.

About Uchenna

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