On Friday, the long-awaited 2021/22 Nigeria Professional Football NPFL season finally kicked off with Mountain of Fire football club (MFM FC) hosting newly promoted Remo Stars at the Mobolaji Johnson Stadium, Onikan, Lagos four months after the previous season ended.
In August, Akwa United against all odds emerged champions for the first time in their history and four months after, a new season began albeit belatedly.
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Prior to this resumption date, there was a deafening uncertainty in the local football community if the league would commence before Nigerian clubs that qualified for CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup began their continental campaigns.
Nonetheless, their fears were confirmed when at a recent parley with sports journalists in Abuja, the Chairman of the League Management Company (LMC) Malam Shehu Dikko, said it was not possible for the league to resume before the start of the 2021-2022 CAF club competitions, rather Dikko assured that everything was being done to ensure that the 2021/2022 NPFL season would kick-start in either October or early November.
His assurance failed to see the light of the day as the league didn’t commence in either October or early November, he had earlier mooted. This news dampened the players who were very eager to go back to the field.
However, there was a glimmer of hope that finally, the league will resume when in early December, the League Management Company (LMC) rose from a General Assembly and ratified the decision that the season should kick off on 17th December (yesterday).
Addressing journalists after the meeting, the Executive Secretary of the NPFL Club Owners Association, Chief Alloy Chukwuemeka said the new season would start and end early enough in order to align the NPFL program with the international football calendar.
With the new date affirmed, though coming too late and behind other leagues across the globe, NPFL clubs continued their preparations for the league by participating in pre-season tournaments in bid to
In a chat with Trust Sports, Wikki Tourist captain, Idris Guda said they are excited as the league finally resumes and are preparing to travel to honour their first game of the season against Sunshine Stars of Akure.
“We were eager to know when the league will start and now we are excited. We are leaving Bauchi soon for Akure for our game against Sunshine Stars,” he said.
Speaking further, the diminutive midfielder said his team is gearing up to perform better than they did last season where they managed to escape relegation by the whiskers.
“We are expecting good results and better performances than last season. You know we escaped relegation and we don’t want to experience those tense moments this coming season. The team is prepared and we will do our best to start the league campaign on a winning note,” he assured.
In the same vein, Former Wikki Tourist player, Nafiu Kabuga said he was so joyous when he heard the news. Though he is currently without a club now as he is also nursing an injury, he is looking forward to getting back to action next month.
“I was very happy when I learnt about the kickoff. And my other colleagues are also happy about it. None of us liked it that we were not playing. You know some other leagues even in Africa began their leagues’ long while ago before ours which is unfortunate but we are glad.
“I am currently nursing a leg injury and once I am fully fit, I will be back with a club that I am currently speaking with,” he noted.
Similarly, Nasarawa FC Chairman, Chief Barr. Isaac Danladi has said his team is in high spirits to set a positive mark when they open their account for the new league season away to Heartland FC at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri, Imo State.
“We are glad that the new league season is commencing this weekend. We narrowly missed out on the continent and league trophy last season.
“We have been able to address most of the challenges of last season and our focus is now turned to the new season, with the hope to win, at least, a trophy for our financier and supporters,” he said.
Danladi who also doubles as NPFL Club Owners Association chairman said his club will do its best to bring smiles to the fans.
“Our supporters and fans had to endure a devasting last day of the last season, and knowing what that means, we have to do everything within our powers to bring respite to them and renew their hopes and strength.
“It’s not going to be an easy season, though, but we are equally not taking it with any levity. We will fight from the first day of the league till the end”, he stated in a statement.
Speaking with Gbenga Ogunbote, head coach of newly promoted Remo Stars, he told Trust Sport that his team is prepared and ready to make the owner proud. We will love to represent him well.
“Everybody has been expecting the league to start all this while and now that it is starting, though it may start at a slow pace, it’s a thing everyone is waiting to start and we are prepared to do well in the league,” he concluded.
The matchday one fixtures expected to be played in 10 centres across the country from 4.00 p.m are as follows: Gombe United v Shooting Stars, Akwa United v Kano Pillars, and Lobi Stars v Rivers United.
Others are Katsina United v Rangers International, Enyimba v Abia Warriors, Sunshine Stars v Wikki Tourist, Niger Tornadoes v Plateau United. Also fixed are, Kwara United v Dakkada, and Heartland v Nasarawa United.