The Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) according to the calendar of the organisers, the League Management Company (LMC) will kick off today, all things being equal in all the centres across the country after months of break.
However, there have been clouds of uncertainties, mixed feelings enveloping the new season. These seeming apprehensions are based on key issues which are key to the essence of prosecuting the league meaningfully.
The NPFL in recent times has been enmeshed with security issues at match venues and league followers are curios as to the measure of security apparatus being put in place to secure the lives of players and match officials as well as the stadium facilities.
To justify the security fears the Technical Adviser of Sharks Football Club of Port Harcourt, Gbenga Ogunbote, was recently beaten to a state of stupour alongside the club captain, Odinga Odinga by unidentified fans.
Reason given was that he failed to retain and recruit a good percentage of players of Rivers State extraction. The Ogun State-born football coach is presently receiving treatment in the hospital.
In situations as the Ogunbote, Odinga’s case, league followers are anxious to know too the penalties to be met on the culprits, and how to also guide against future occurrence.
At match venues the minimum number of security personnel needed according to information is 50, but one is yet to witness an NPFL match where this number was realistic.
Under such poor security situation unfortunately, the match officials may compromise to save their lives and at the end of the day, the best team never wins and thrills and frills of the game are eroded away.
Hence one may ask, has the LMC that is now be led by Shehu Dikko put its acts together, that no erring club will be spared this time around, but be made to face the wrath of the law?
It is no longer news that NPFL players ply their trade in their various clubs on credit, a development that presents them as ‘slave players’ irrespective of the agreement reached with their employers.
LMC in 2013/2014 season, came up with fantastic players ‘bond’ raising hopes that a new dawn has come, but as we speak, enough NPFL clubs are owing their players long lists of entitlements, sign-on fee, allowance or match bonus and nothing has happened.
The world watched NPFL clubs last season as they marched to their state government houses to press home their demand for debts owed them. Akwa United of Uyo, El Kanemi Warriors of Maiduguri and Bayelsa United of Yenagoa, Kaduna United, Dolphins and Sharks of Port Harcourt were some of the bold ones that dared their employers.
The financial issue as the league sets to kick off is still a problem haunting the clubs even as some of them are engaged in continental assignments. Enyimba International FC of Aba, Dolphins and Warri Wolves are all still in the financial mess.
Sadly, no genuine attempt was made by the LMC to salvage the situation for the helpless clubs where the players are as good as orphans till the season ended. In fairness, LMC only made good noise of a toothless bulldog.
It is even so pathetic that some clubs cannot even afford transport fare to honour matches from one part of the country to another, in situations where they should use flight.
Thus, another question now will the 2014/2015 season going to have a definite beginning and ending, without inexplicable postponement and discordant sanctions from the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and the LMC tussling for power?
However, there seem to be some light at the end of the tunnel, if the actions and attempts by the LMC at the moment to put things in the right shape is anything to go by.
The LMC recently asked the clubs to complete registration of players on or before February 20, 2015, but at the time of putting this piece together, registrations and transfer of players is still on-going.
And of course, the NFF has been sending referees and coaches abroad for refresher trainings. Good one for the Nigerian league, if only the knowledge gathered will be allowed by the Nigerian factor to function.
Also, some medical doctors are recently being enhanced too by the football body to ensure league players get the best of treatment from them on the course during league matches.
However, in apprehension of the inconsistencies of the NPFL organisers, rumours have made the rounds that March 7, kick off date might not be realistic.
But, whatever the situation may presents, there are still some sensations that are occasioned by the Nigerian league scene when it kicks off which one will be expecting from the new entrants clubs.
Clubs as Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) of Ibadan, Gabros of Nnewi, Wikki Tourists of Bauchi and Kwara united are back to the fold after years of oblivion.
The question before them now is how far can they go. The Ibadan side since its first relegation way back has not been able to find its bearing in the NPFL till date. It has been one season in, two, three seasons out.
The Ibadan club is known for its vociferous, traditional fans that do not believe in failure. Can coach Franklyn, who has long been rumoured for sack weather the storm to prove their return is not a fluke?
Gabros, from the Nigeria National League (NNL) Super Four it won, showed promises of better days ahead even as the club has brought in a foreign coach, Mitko Dobrev, who guided the club through the Super Four. Gabbros was out of NPFL for 10 years (2005-2015).
Kwara United is one team that if the logistics being put up by the club’s management so far is anything to go by, one can say laurels will be at its beck and call.
The club has a new coach in the person of Tunde Abdulrahman, just as the club has signed contract with a sporting firm for kitting which is encouraging in football development.
For Wikki, a new and experienced coach, Abdul Maikaba, was also appointed to tutor the team too and only recently 15 new players were added to the squad with majority of them from relegated, Kaduna United, just as the coach has been talking tough.
In all of these ‘jamborees’ by the various clubs and managers of the league, one thing is common in the Nigerian football scene, ‘resilience’ on the side of players and officials, money or no money, in sickness and in pains. There is always hope, e go better! Just pray, God dey!