Following the lifting on the ban of football activities in the country, the Nigeria Professional Football clubs have expressed their readiness to vie for honours ahead of the commencement of the 2020/21 league season, the sportsbay.com reports.
It will be recalled that the League Management Company (LMC) had proposed the commencement of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) to begin on November 15 and end in June 2021, all things being equal.
With the country grappling the COVID-19 pandemic and putting it under some control, there were little hopes that football activities would resume in the country, while taking into cognizance that top football leagues in Europe had resumed.
Based on that, the LMC had initially set September for the kickoff of the league but the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 ‘refused’ then to lift the ban on contact sports for fears of a pandemic upsurge.
The LMC had on August 6 sent a memo to all the 20 clubs with the Confederation of African Football (CAF)/ Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Licensing requirements.
The LMC had while noting as at then that the Federal Government was yet to lift the ban on football activities as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, urged the clubs to begin to put in place those requirements that can be achieved within the period the lockdown was relaxed.
According to statement from the LMC, a number of the clubs’ leaders had affirmed that they are already working to meet the requirements especially in the area of stadium facilities, safety, and security, medical, technical and financial.
In a recent chat, Isaac Danladi, the Chairman of Nasarawa United rued the effects of the pandemic on the overall health of football activities while declaring that the club was complying with the licensing requirements and ready for the season.
“The crises has greatly affected our preseason arrangements basically in the area of physical training and football activities which have been suspended by the NFF and the Federal Government through the Presidential Task Force on the pandemic.
“However in the area of other preparations such as administration and day to day running of the club, it is work in progress.
“Management and the technical crew have been working assiduously to ensure effective and efficient preparation for the forthcoming 2020/2021 NPFL season.
“In a nutshell, aside from our inability to resume on the field training, we are planning slowly, quietly but surely preparatory to the new season,” he said then.
However, on October 15, the PTF agreed to lift ban but with some conditions such as obeying the COVID-19 protocols.
With this cheering news, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had an Executive Committee meeting held via video conference where they endorsed the new season date proposal.
“Following from the lifting of ban on football activities in the country, the Executive Committee endorsed a proposal by the League Management Company to fix the calendar for the 2020-2021 Nigeria Professional Football League to commence anytime from Sunday, 15th November 2020 and end the season by June 2021, with full adherence to the Federal Government’s Covid-19 protocols and other requirements as may be prescribed,” stated the NFF communique issued after the meeting.
The football body also asked the Nigeria National League, Nigeria Women’s Football League and Nationwide League One “to synchronise their calendars with that of the NPFL with each of them commencing within three weeks of the elite League”.
In a chat with Heartland FC coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu, he said the team is prepared for action this coming season and as such the players are already in camp.
He further stated that his mission for the club is to remain in top flight football and if results go their way, to represent the nation at the continental level.
“Nigerians should expect quality football and we try as much as we can to get the desired results. We opened our camp on Wednesday and we know there are challenges. Football is all about challenges.
“We make sure that the team does not go into relegation. We need to do a lot of work to make sure that Heartland football club is where is it should be.
“The truth is that I am trying to make sure the players are focused on their careers not on the leadership crisis in the club. When there is no disagreement, there will be no agreement. So what has happened is normal in football but now there is peace and more understanding, he said.
Wikki Tourist coach, Usman Abdallah said his club are in camp in Jigawa as they prepare for the league commencement and next week, the players will be in Katsina for another pre-season tour.
“We target to win the league just like every other team. We want to secure a continental ticket. We are hoping to have a very good season. Every team has the ambition to win the league, so let’s see what happens during the season,” he said.
In the same vein, the team manager of another NPFL side, Rangers International, Amobi Ezeaku said the club is prepared for the coming season in terms of getting certifications from health, security, safety and environment agencies.
“Rangers has always been at the forefront of ensuring that Club Licensing requirements are met.
Already we have called upon the Fire Service for inspections and recommendations as well as being issued a fire safety certificate.
“We have also made contact with the State Police Command for Security analysis and review and issuance of Police Safety Certificate. Same has been done with the Enugu State Waste Management Authority and the State Emergency Management Agency. In Enugu, Rangers are not letting anything to chance in complying with medical requirements,” he said in a statement.
He further disclosed that the camp of the club has already undergone phases of decontamination as well regularly maintaining and decontaminating the stadium from time to time in anticipation of commencement.
“Once the players are back the necessary medical tests would be carried out with reports submitted to the appropriate authorities”, he said.
Ezeaku said the club has received the assurances of the funders, the Enugu State government on provision of the financial guarantees through a Letter of Financial Guarantee that would be submitted at the appropriate time.
Nasarawa United media officer, Eche Amos said the club is primed for action as they are also in camp.
According to him, the club has been involved in a series of pre-season matches to ensure the players who have been inactive for several months are fit for the season.
“We have been involved in series of pre-season games and the players are ready to resume action this coming season.
“As you know, we didn’t perform too well last season but I am very certain this season we will do well. We will not be involved in continental games which means that our players will be fit for the season baring any form of injury,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NPFL coaches have welcomed the new rule that will see them use five substitutes in the season.
Abd’Allah, said the new substitution rule is in line with other major leagues in the world, saying the clubs are ready to abide by it.
“It’s a good one because that’s what they are doing in other leagues. If it’s approved by FIFA, then it’s okay. I don’t think they created the rules on their own”.
“For me, we are ready to follow the rule of the LMC. So, the five-man sub is a welcome development,” Abd’Allah said.
Also, Nasarawa United technical adviser, Bala Nikyu, noted that the rule would create room for more players to showcase their talents in the NPFL.
“I must commend the LMC for this new development. The rule will favour all the clubs and most of the players who find it difficult to play in the league will now have time to showcase their talents. Even the players are happy with the development,” he said.