Same League, same problems as 2022 NPFL season ends | Dailytrust

Same League, same problems as 2022 NPFL season ends

  Line up pf Kano Pillars before their match against Niger Tornadoes in the 2019 Aiteo Cup finals at the Ahmadu Bello stadium Kaduna. Pillars won 3-2 on penalties
Line up pf Kano Pillars before their match against Niger Tornadoes in the 2019 Aiteo Cup finals at the Ahmadu Bello stadium Kaduna. Pillars won 3-2 on penalties

My article this week would have been on the eventual fall of Kano Pillars from grace to grass but by the time the decision by the NFF Appeals Committee which sent the giant club on relegation was officially announced, it was too late in the day for me to adjust my sail.

However, I make this solemn vow that next week, I will write on how Kano Pillars played into the hands of their enemies and why the Appeals Committee was stampeded into taking that ill-timed decision.

Well as the fans of Kano Pillars continue to lick their wounds, in a few hours, the curtains will fall on the 2022 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season with 38 matches to be played simultaneously this evening at designated match venues.

With 37 matches already played, Rivers United have garnered an unassailable 74 points to emerge champions and will be crowned this evening after their match with Gombe United in Port-Harcourt. In second place is Plateau United who have already secured the second Champions league slot having amassed 64 points which won’t be matched by either third placed Remo Stars or Kwara United who are in fourth position.

Inevitably, today will be a day of tears of joy and sorrow. While Rivers United, Plateau United and Remo Stars or Kwara United will be celebrating their continental tickets in respective of the outcome of their matches, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in the camps of clubs like Wikki Tourists, Lobi Stars, 3SC, Katsina United, Abia Warriors, Dakkada and Heartland who have relegation worries going into the final round of matches.

Considering how late the current season started, the League Management Company (LMC) deserve commendation for ensuring that the season ran its full course. It will be recalled that some seasons back, the NPFL started belatedly and ended abruptly because of avoidable hitches which the LMC couldn’t surmount.

Of course, the clubs have paid heavy prices for the full season to be played because they endured so much trouble to prosecute the congested fixtures imposed on them by the LMC. The clubs lamented over lack of time to recover from the long distances they covered by road to honour away matches. 

Well, despite all the challenges that the clubs and their players faced, the good news remains that the current season will come to an end today just as leagues in other climes are getting set to start the 2023/2024 season.

However, while commending the LMC for successfully staging the 2022 season, it must be reiterated that it was the same ‘amateurish professional’ league because almost all the problems that have continued to bedevil the NPFL reared their ugly head.

Talking about hooliganism, Kano Pillars, and Niger Tornadoes were the worst offenders as they breached the NPFL Framework and Regulations on several occasions. Pillars who have become regular offenders suffered heavy fines and sanctions leading to their relegation from the NPFL.

Apart from Pillars and Tornadoes, acts of hooliganism were also perpetrated by MFM who were banished to Ijebu-Ode, Dakkada FC also misbehaved and were banished to Benin-City, Sunshine Stars also fell short of expectations same as Wikki Tourists and Gombe United. While some of the offending clubs got banished out rightly, some like Katsina United and Lobi Stars were asked to play a few of their home matches behind closed doors.

As usual, there were complaints of irregular or non-payment of salaries by some of the clubs. In this breach of the NPFL Framework, Heartland was the most notorious of all the offenders. Although known as ‘Nazi millionaires’, players and officials of Heartland went about cap in hand typical of beggars.

And in as much as no club was caught fixing any match, it will be hypocritical to believe or say that the evil act wasn’t perpetrated. Some suspicious away wins recorded by relegation-threatened clubs clearly showed that certain things happened that ordinary eyes didn’t see. And the manner in which such questionable results were skillfully crafted also showed that the clubs are becoming more proficient in the art of match-fixing. If you doubt me, make sure you watch how it will go down this evening in Uyo where Dakkada must beat Sunshine Stars by at least three goals to remain in the NPFL. 

Then, the men of the whistle continued from where they stopped in the previous seasons. The fact that not less than 20 referees got sanctioned by the NFF referees committee over poor officiating and professional misconduct is enough indication that some of the matches were still handed over to the highest bidders. Of course, going by the way some of the referees officiated, it was easy to see that the days of ‘Egunje referees’ are far from over.

However, those referees who had the courage to make the right calls in the midst of unruly fans baying for their blood in the stands are worthy of commendation. They should keep it up.

So, to round up on how the story of the 2022 NPFL season is the same old tale, it is pertinent to touch on how after sugar coated lies, the league was once again organized by the LMC without known sponsors. Okay, the LMC guys have insisted that no league in the world is doing title sponsorship again but can they boast of at least one recognizable sponsor? Without a major sponsor or sponsors, the LMC again shifted most of its financial responsibilities to the clubs who in turn made maximum use of the opportunities to gain undue advantage over their less endowed opponents.

Sometime ago, when I wrote that Nigerian referees were dying of hunger due to the backlog of indemnities owed them by the LMC, a high ranking NRA official descended on me. He accused me of weeping more than the bereaved. However, as a former referee, I will continue to ‘take panadaol’ for my junior colleagues’ headache. I want Nigerians to know that as the 2022 NPFL season ends today, the referees are still not smiling. 

Well, as stated earlier, in spite of all the noticeable lapses, the 2022 NPFL season as organized by the LMC has again fumbled and wobbled to the final day So, after so much abracadabra, let’s all watch how this evening, two more clubs will be sent to join MFM and Kano Pillars in the Nigeria National League (NNL).

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