The Nigeria Premier League Board will have to make available two trophies to be stationed as two different match venues because one of two venues will produce the eventual winner of the 2008-2009 season. The contest is now a straight fight between Bayelsa United of Yenagoa and Heartland of Owerri. While Bayelsa United will be away to Warri Wolves at the Ole Township Stadium, the millionaires from Owerri who have been breathing down the neck of United will travel to Minna to face Niger Tornadoes. It is going to be a tricky one because the two gladiators are separated by a slim margin. Bayelsa who are currently on top of the table have sixty nine points and Heartland is two points less. If Bayelsa United will tame Wolves of Warri tomorrow, they would be crowned champions without any fuss but if they record a draw, and Heartland pick the maximum points against Tornadoes in Minna, they will tie on points and the only thing that can help them realize their title ambition will be superior goal difference. However, if Heartland draws, Bayelsa will cruise home without much ado. And if both teams are beaten by their hosts, the status quo will remain and victory will go to Bayelsa United. However, if it is outright victory for Tornadoes who are no longer in contention for any continental ticket, Bayelsa United will still go ahead to pop champagne right there at Oghara stadium.
Bayesla United will not find it easy with Wolves because while Tornadoes may not give Heartland too much headache because they have lost out in the continental fight, Wolves have an appeal pending and if they win or get a replay ordered against Rangers, their chances of picking a continental ticket will brighten. Which means Warri Wolves will not allow Bayelsa to stroll into Ole and make away with the vital points. Bayelsa United will therefore have to throw everything into the match in order to come out with at least a point. Anything less than that will spell doom for them.
Both clubs are talking tough. Premier League title favourites Bayelsa United are not ready to take chances because anything can happen between Tornadoes and Heartland. Spokesman of the club, Ebi Avi said they have put the players in the right mood with a motivation which he refused to disclose. He said “The players are radiating with confidence after management motivated them today (Thursday)”.
Meanwhile, Heartland of Owerri led by the club captain, Ike Thankgod is aiming for the league shield. The captain says “I am very confident because I know that we have really worked hard to reach where we are today”.
“Besides, we have a team that is well prepared for the match, above all we the players are fully determined and committed to do the job” the captain assured his club’s teeming fans.
The two clubs have divided members of the league board as Chairman of NPL, Chief Oyuki Obaseki will lead some members of the board to Bako Kotangora stadium where stories of a possible sell out are rife. On the other hand, his Vice, Shehu Gusau will lead another NPL delegation to Ole in Delta where Bayelsa will be fighting to be crowned champions. Either Ole Township Stadium or Bako Kotangora stadium will witness the climax of the league season but none of the home teams will be part of the celebration.
On the other hand, there will be fierce relegation dogfight among clubs which are threatened by relegation. Out of the clubs which are battling to escape relegation, Lobi Stars are in the most precarious position because they will be playing their last match away from home. They need the maximum points against Ocean Boys. Zamfara United, Wikki Tourists, JUTH, Gateway are all playing at home so they have less to fear.
Whatever happens, after tomorrow’s league matches, a winner will emerge and four clubs must go down to the lower division. Already FC Abuja and Nasarawa United have booked their tickets for the National League. JUTH will escape relegation only if they win their last match and something unpalatable happens to Zamfara and Wikki who are equally playing at home. It is indeed dicey for the clubs involved.
Meanwhile, Dolphins, Kwara United, Ranchers and 3SC are waiting in the wings to take their rightful places from those to be relegated tomorrow. And a period like this in Nigerian league is never starved of intrigues, horse trading, and possibly match fixing.