The Nigeria Professional Football League 2018/19 season finally resumes action on Sunday (tomorrow) after it was abruptly ended seven months ago.
The league had been on break before the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and efforts to resume the previous season hit brick walls.
It will be recalled that with 24 games played and 14 undecided then, Lobi Stars who were leading with 43 points were declared the winner by the club owners and the League Management Company following the ratification by the Nigeria Football Federation.
This was for the LMC to meet the October 15 deadline given by the Confederation of African Football, CAF for the submission of representatives for 2019 club competitions.
It was gathered that though the continental body reportedly gave a five-day extension for Nigeria, meaning the nation had till October 20 to produce CAF club competition representatives.
At that point, it was considered almost impossible to play the remaining 14 matches of the NPFL and conclude the Aiteo Cup.
In an emergency meeting held last year, it was agreed that no club will be relegated.
Nonetheless, four clubs will be promoted from the Nigeria National League, NNL to now form a 24-team 2018/19 season which will be abridged into two groups of 12 each.
However, the 2018/19 season was billed to kick off in November but for the controversy surrounding the Super 8 which was eventually concluded on Wednesday.
The four teams are Gombe United and Kada Stars from the Northern Conference of the Nigeria National League, while Bendel Insurance and Remo Stars got the promotion tickets from the Southern Conference.
With the kick off on Sunday, across several venues in the country, six games are already confirmed will be postponed.
With no team relegated from the previous season, the four promoted teams from the lower division have been established.
Four of the postponements in the first league sets of games come from teams that participated at the NNL Super 8 in order to recover.
According to Salihu Abubakar, League Management Company (LMC) Chief Operating Officer explained the reason for the postponement in a statement made available to Trust Sports.
He said, “The games involving the promoted clubs from the NNL are being shifted to give the clubs time to return to their respective bases and make adequate plans to play in the NPFL.”
“It’s only fair that the players be allowed time to recover from the rigours of the tournament they just participated in and they would join from Matchday 2 while a new date will be announced for the postponed fixtures.”
The other postponement comes as reigning champions Lobi Star begin their CAF Champions League group stage campaign against Mamelodi Sundowns at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu on Friday, January 11, 2019 .
The final postponement is due to Enugu Rangers final CAF Confederation Cup qualification game away to Bantu FC first leg to be played on Friday, January 11.
Ahead of the league kick 0ff, several of the clubs have been keeping their players match fit through pre-season games but for clubs like Plateau United who according to the coach, Abdul Maikaba did not partake in any competitive pre-season games.
“In regards to the team this season, it is a new philosophy, new coach and some new players ahead as well, we certainly need time to get into a fusion, which did not get the opportunity to partake in any of the pre-season tournament that was held sometime ago, which was part of our greatest undoing”.
“I believe we are pushing ourselves to making sure we are very ready come Sunday for our first league match” the Plateau United gaffer concluded.
League fixtures are
MATCHDAY 1 (GROUP A)
January 13, 2019
- Kwara United vs Sunshine Stars
- Enyimba vs MFM FC
MATCHDAY 1 (GROUP B)
- Nasarawa United vs Abia Warriors
- Plateau United vs FC Ifeanyi Ubah
- Kano Pillars vs Heartland
- Akwa United vs El-Kanemi Warriors
Meanwhile, the Football Club Owners Association of Nigeria (Club Owners) have welcomed the four clubs that gained promotion to the top flight of the Nations football league, the Nigeria professional Football League NPFL via the just concluded NNL super 8 play off to its fold.
The newly promoted clubs are to join the 20 premier league clubs to battle in the 24 team format abridged league for the 2018/2019 NPFL season.
Club Owners according to a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday and jointly signed by the Chairman Barr. Isaac Danladi and the Executive secretary Alloy Chukwuemeka commended the NNL for the peaceful and transparent conduct of the Super 8 play off at the Enyimba stadium in Aba.
The Association appreciated the participants for their good conducts and the spirit of sportsmanship exhibited by the players and officials of the clubs and urged the promoted teams to come into the NPFL with the same spirit.
It assured the promoted clubs of total cooperation and fairness as they compete with top clubs in the nation’s biggest league, the NPFL.
Club Owners commended the leadership of the NFF for the matured and professional way it handled the heated atmosphere before the play off as well as the financial intervention to get the super 8 successfully concluded.