Months ago, the abridged version of the NPFL ended with Enyimba FC emerging as champions at the playoffs in Lagos.
Prior to the commencement of the 2018/2019 season, the League Management Company, LMC, revealed that plans were in place for the 2019/2020 season to begin at the same time with the major leagues in Europe.
However, after eight weeks into the Premier League, Ligue 1, La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A which are the top football leagues in Europe, the 2019/2020 NPFL is yet to start.
To add salt to injury, nobody knows, for sure, when the league will commence.
Consequently, club chairmen, coaches, players and fans of the 20 NPFL clubs who are major stakeholders have continued to express their frustrations over the failure of the LMC to start the new season.
Similarly, a director in the LMC, Hon. Nduka Irabor, was quoted recently offering what was the official reason behind the delay.
He said the new season is yet to kick-off because of the ongoing investigations of Nigeria Football Federation chieftains by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP).
His explanation did little or nothing to assuage the mounting agitations from football stakeholders over the delay in the commencement of the league.
In the face of the complaints, the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare came out to announce that the league will kick off on October 20.
According to him, a notification has been sent out to all the NPFL teams apprising them of the new date.
He, however, did not disclose when the draws for the season would be conducted.
As reassuring as his words may be, many stakeholders received the announcement with a pinch of salt because the LMC themselves had made a similar pronouncement that the league would commence on September 22 but that didn’t see the light of day.
Going by the procrastination on the part of the LMC, there are also fears in some quarters that the league organisers may once again settle for another abridged format of the league to meet up with CAF deadlines for registration of clubs in the Champions League and Confederation Cup.
The same scenario played out in 2017 when with 14 matches left to play, the league was stopped abruptly and Lobi Stars were declared champions to the consternation of many football fans who saw it as an aberration.
Although some of the clubs, especially those who stood a good chance of winning the league kicked vehemently against the decision, the carrot dangled by the LMC that no club would be relegated made the aggrieved clubs to accept that the league season should be abridged.
The technical adviser of Heartland FC and assistant coach of Nigeria’s U-23 team Fidelis Ilechukwu said the delay is responsible for the embarrassing results scooped in recent times by NPFL clubs in the continent.
“It is not good at all. You can see the poor results posted recently by clubs like Kano Pillars, Enyimba FC and the Home-based Super Eagles.
“At the same time, do you want me to blame LMC or NFF? Who do you want me to blame? I’m confused. Is it ICPC? When two elephants fight, the grass suffers. The most important thing right now is for them to kick start the league,” he told brila.net
Illechukwu, who said he is envisaging another abridged season reiterated that the ongoing investigation of NFF chiefs is causing more harm than good to the game.
“All the fights against Pinnick, Dikko and Co is not even affecting them but us. I don’t understand this country and don’t know if the 20th is the real date.
“I pray these issues are sorted out in time for the league to commence. I can see another abridged season happening in the end.”
However, in his contribution to the topic, a former Super Eagles captain Henry Nwosu said “I think it is better to start later than do it in a hurry and not do properly.
“Even though we may start late, it is better late than never. “The delay might affect us, but we can still manage the situation in our usual way,” he said.