Analysis: Footballers, coaches, fans worry over crowded NPFL fixtures


As the dust raised by the imbroglio of leadership tussle  for the soul of  the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) begin to settle, the attendant consequences are beginning to manifest in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).

Sequel to this time, the incumbent President of NFF, Amaju Pinnick and his challenger Chris Giwa, have been locked in the battle of wits over who should be the president.

Pinnick, elected as the president of NFF in 2014 at a congress in Delta has been locked in a stand-off with Chris Giwa, who had appealed the result and won a favourable court ruling in June.

The battle been fought in the Nigerian court of law is a flagrant disobedience to the world governing body of football, FIFA statues, which prefers its own court of arbitration.

The last battle has seen Chris Giwa take over the Glass House of the NFF immediately after the World Cup, brandishing a valid court judgment in his favour.

FIFA on its own principle frowned at the continuous interference in its statues by the situation in Nigeria as it also prepares to ban Nigeria from its activities.

The Gianni Infantino-led FIFA has not hidden its recognition for the Pinnick-led administration of NFF, which it says; it is in accordance with its law.

In order to assuage FIFA’s fury, it took the last gap intervention of concerned stakeholders spearheaded by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to recognise Pinnick, and thus avoided the impending ban.

However, in response to the confirmation from the government, FIFA said “The suspension of the NFF will not take effect”.

FIFA received confirmations that the legitimate leadership of the NFF under Pinnick and General Secretary, Mohammed Sanusi has been given back effective control of the NFF and its offices.

With the imminent ban avoided, football actions which has been put on hold for almost two months is expected to resume, especially the NPFL which is the worst hit of the NFF crisis.

The leadership of NPFL, League Management Company (LMC), on Tuesday announced the revised time-table of NPFL fixtures which many has said was lopsided due to its crowdy fixtures.

The LMC had fixed the resumption of the NPFL to Sept. 2 and expect it to close on Oct. 28.

A look at fixtures shows that the clubs are expected to play about eight matches just in one month which also includes travelling to far distant place to honour their matches.

Succinctly put, playing eight matches in a vast geographical space like Nigeria is not a joke, considering the fact that the players would still have to honour the AITEO FA Cup fixtures.

The supposedly crowded fixtures by LMC can be traced to the new football calendar approved by CAF which says that all league should start by December.

This new calendar is to accommodate the African Cup of Nation (AFCON) which has been moved from January to June in line with their European countries football calendar.

For example, Lagos-based MFM for its first three matches will first have a date with league Champions, Plateau United in Agege before travelling far away to Bauchi to face Wikki Tourist in the mid-week match.

The Lagos-based team will then travel back to Lagos to face Kano Pillars, then travels southwards again to face Akwa United in Uyo. All within the space of one week.

However, in calculation of distances covered, MFM FC would have travelled more than 5,000km to honour its matches within the short period of time which is far above the minimum travel approval for players.

Meanwhile, football pundits are alarmed with the fixtures which they claim will have negative impact on the players.

For MFM player, who did not want his name mentioned, he said that the crowded fixtures caused by NFF crisis would not bring anything good for the league.

“This is not what we want, these fixtures will cause a lot of players their health and many may have injuries as a result. What about Jet lag?

“I assure you that they won’t get anything good out of the league or maybe the champions have been decided already,’’ he said.

Also from the NPFL fans base platform, many pundits have condemned the fixtures.

For Heskey, he said, “Welcome Nigeria league ??? eight games in one month, this is Nigeria, too bad for the players.

Junior Nwankwo quipped, “What are they turning our league to, I am tired of this.’’

However, the 2017/2018 NPFL season must be concluded on time before the kick off date in December for the 2018/2019 season.

Courtesy: News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)