NPFL 21: Akwa United Takes Bold Step Towards League Title

Akwa United line-up against Warri Wolves on matchday 34

 

Akwa United Football Club of Uyo have taken a bold step towards winning the 2020/2021 Nigeria Professional Football League title after a convincing 3-0 victory over Warri Wolves.

With the victory, the Promise Keepers have also opened a 6-point lead at the top of the table and it’s looking good for them because Kano Pillars and Nasarawa United recorded losses on matchday 34.

Warri Wolves, playing to avoid the drop were out of ideas on how to stop a team who were within touching distance to the league title. Seven minutes into the match, Ikechukwu Nwani fired a shot towards the goal and it was handled by Warri Wolves defender. Penalty to Akwa United. Charles Atshimene who is enjoying good form stepped up to the spot and scored his 13th goal of the season.

Nasarawa Utd line-up against Lobi Stars

 

The hosts weren’t done. They wanted more and kept pushing till they doubled the lead in the 26th minute. Samuel Amadi penetrated the visitors’ defense lie and combined well with Ubong Friday who curled the ball into the net. Akwa United took a 2-goal lead into the break.

When play resumed, the Promise Keepers continued were they stopped in the first. In the 58th minute, Samuel Amadi directed a delightful corner kick towards Atshimene, the striker followed with a beautiful header to secure his brace and a 3-0 lead for coach Kennedy Boboye’s team. It’s Atshimene’s 14th goal of the season and Akwa United’s 17th win of the campaign. The defeat is the 18th for Warri Wolves this season and a major setback to their relegation fight.

Rangers International Football Club recorded their 16th win of the season with a 2-0 win over Kano Pillars. It is a humbling defeat for Sai Masu Gida who also had league title ambitions with Akwa United just before the match. An early goal by Christian Nnaji gave the Flying Antelopes a good start to the encounter. Just before half-time, midfielder, Archibong Eso doubled the lead for coach Salisu Yusuf’s team. In the second half, they defended the goals to secure a vital win. Kano Pillars will remain in third position with 58 points.

At the Aper Aku Stadium, Nasarawa United put up a fight against Lobi Stars, but it was not just good enough to stop them from losing 3-2. Silas Nwankwo scored both goals for the Solid Miners to increase his goal count to 16 but his team will leave Makurdi with nothing. Mathias Martins also bagged a brace for Lobi but it was Austin Ogunye’s goal just at the start of second half that secured the win for Coach Kabiru Dogo’s team. They are now 7th on the log with 53 points. Nasarawa United maintains their 2nd spot with 58 points.

Lobi Stars line-up against Nasarawa Utd

 

At the Agege Stadium in Lagos, MFM FC beat Plateau United 3-1 to get into the top 10. The reliable Akanni Elijah scored a brace while Tunde Azeez goal in the 74th minute wrapped up a fine performance for the Olukoya Boys. Defender Ibrahim Buhari scored the only goal for Plateau United.

Rivers United’s hopes to return to the top four was dashed after they lost 2-1 to Jigawa Golden Stars while Abia Warriors proved they can fight to stay in the league with a 2-1 victory over Heartland FC. Meanwhile, the struggle of Sunshine Stars is not yet over. The Owena Whales played a goalless draw with Katsina United in Akure, putting themselves under more pressure as the relegation battle gets intense.

NIGERIA PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Matchday 34 Results

Akwa United 3 Warri Wolves 0

Rangers Int’l FC 2 Kano Pillars 0

Lobi Stars 3 Nasarawa United 2

MFM FC 3 Plateau United 1

Jigawa Golden Stars 2 Rivers United 1

Abia Warriors 2 Heartland FC 1

Sunshine Stars 0 Katsina United 0

CAFCC: Enyimba Beat South Africa’s Orlando Pirates, Qualify For Quarter-Finals

Enyimba is the only Nigerian team in the tournament and the CAF Champions League. (Photo: Twitter @EnyimbaFC)

 

Enyimba have qualified for the quarter-finals of the CAF Confederation Cup (CAFCC) after a 95th-minute goal from Cyril Olisema gave the Nigerian side a 1-0 win over Orlando Pirates on Wednesday night.

The Peoples Elephant needed a win going into their final Group A encounter against the South Africans to advance to the next stage of the competition.
At half-time and with the score pegged goalless, the Aba-based side were at the bottom of the group standings.

While many fans may have given up on the multiple Nigerian champions, Anayo Iwuala’s cross found Olisema; the latter wasted no time in slamming the ball past the Pirates’ goal to send his club to the next round.

Wednesday’s win ensured that coach Fatai Osho’s charges finished top of the group with three wins and three losses.

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Pirates had beaten Enyimba 2-1 in the reverse fixture of the encounter. Despite the loss in Nigeria, the South African club side made it to the quarters alongside Enyimba.

 

The Nigerian team lost 2-1 in the reverse fixture of the encounter against the Pirates (Photo: Twitter @Orlando Pirates FC)

 

JS Kabylie; Jaraaf. CS Sfaxien, Cotonsport, Pyramids, and Raja Casablanca are the other teams that qualified for the quarter-finals of the tournament.

The draw for the next round of Africa’s second-tier club competition will be held on Friday, April 30th in Egypt.

An ‘Ultimate Aim’

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State had described Enyimba’s win as a testament to the indefatigable spirit of the club, thanking fans and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for their support.

“The massive support the team received from her fans across the globe & particularly from the NFF under the able leadership of  Pinnick Amaju should serve as tonic for greater commitment & hard work,” the governor tweeted on his official handle on Thursday morning.

“I’m personally thrilled by the fact that matches can now be played at the Enyimba International Stadium by 10pm with floodlights on an ultra mordern turf, complimented by a digital score board all of which were provided by our administration & which also attracted accolades from the match commentators!

“Good Thinking, Good Product! Congrats Enyimba! Let’s keep the flag flying until we achieve our ultimate aim!”

LMC Approves 13 Stadiums For 2020/21 NPFL Season Matches

 

 

The League Management Company has approved 13 stadiums across the country for the upcoming 2020/21 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season.

The certification process is part of the broader club licensing regime, and the LMC explained that the 13 approved grounds met minimum requirements to host games.

Another 11 were recommended for varying degrees of upgrade and repair works before they can be certified.

The 13 approved grounds include Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos; Godswill Akpabio Stadium, Uyo; Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin; Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba; and Okigwe Township Stadium.

Others that met the certification requirements are Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi; Gombe Township Stadium, Pantami; Aper Aku Stadium, Makurdi; Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna; Enyimba International Stadium, Aba; Muhammad Dikko Stadium, Katsina; and Ilorin Township Stadium, Ilorin.

Listed for upgrade and repair works are 11 stadiums but Umuahia Township Stadium and Dutse Township Stadium were recommended for complete re-modeling and re-construction.

The rest were listed as requiring repairs varying from relaying of new synthetic grass, regressing, provision of floodlights, television camera platforms, and upgrade of changing rooms as well as provision of additional exit and entry gates among others basic requirements.

They are Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano, Agege Stadium, Akure Township Stadium, Warri Township Stadium, New Jos Township Stadium, and Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu.

The rest are Lafia Township Stadium, Ifeanyi Ubah Stadium, Nnewi, and Fufure Stadium, Yola which will be inspected for certification after construction work has been completed.

The League Management Company has communicated the development to the clubs in a memo that reads:

“In line with the CAF Circular of July 26, 2020, on stadium infrastructure among others, which was forwarded to you and the need to meet up with the requirements of high-quality television production by our new partners, the LMC has reviewed various reports submitted on the state of our stadia across the country”.

It further explained that the inspected stadiums have been categorised into two; A and B with Category A representing those that have been approved to host NPFL matches for the season having met the minimum requirements while Category B includes those requiring upgrades.

“We have made notes on the areas/repairs needed to be done before recertification”, the memo stated.

Clubs whose home or preferred grounds have been recommended for upgrade would have to choose from any of the certified grounds if they are unable to complete the upgrade before the commencement of the season.

Controversies Trail Appointment Of New Heartland FC Technical Adviser

Controversies Trail Appointment Of New Heartland FC Technical AdviserControversies have continued to trail the recent appointment of the new Technical Adviser of Heartland FC Owerri, Coach Emmanuel Deutsch.

The chairman of Heartland Football Club, Mr Goodfaith Etuemena, says the appointment of Deutsch was done without his knowledge and the appointment did not also follow due process.

He insisted that appointment of a new technical adviser is uncalled for and unwarranted as the club still has a standing head coach in Mr Ramson Madu.

He argued that the club’s self-acclaimed supervisor, in person of the Deputy Speaker of the Imo State House of Assembly, Mr Ugonna Ozuruigbo, has no power to unveil a coach without his knowledge.

He said that since the club went on relegation last season, the management has been doing everything possible to ensure that the club bounces back stronger and with the new development, Heartland FC might be seeing a big setback especially with the role of the supervisor who is trying to usurp the office of the Chairman of Heartland.

“Whatever my supervisor is doing, I wasn’t informed. Nobody informed me. I don’t think we need a technical adviser now (because) we already have one in the person of Coach Ramson Madu, and he’s comfortable.

“If we need a technical adviser, it is something we have to sit down and discuss, considering the state of the club at the moment.

“I’m trying to make sure we succeed. We are doing all we can to ensure we get back to premiership, (and) we have started screening and it’s been successful, so I don’t know where the appointment of new technical adviser comes in,” Etuemena said.

Heartland Football Club finished 18th in the just concluded season making the club go on relegation for the first time since its creation.

Sports Minister Advocates Maintenance Of Sporting Facilities

SportsThe Minister for Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung, has charged managers and users of sporting facilities in Nigeria to develop a good maintenance culture.

According to the Minister, the poor state of infrastructure in the country is getting worse because those in charge of the facilities do not take proper care of them and when they go bad, they are abandoned.

While conducting a facility tour of the National Stadium in Lagos, Dalung expressed deep disappointment at the dilapidated state of the nation’s sporting facilities.

”As a people, our maintenance culture is very poor. We have no good reasons to explain why these structures are in the state they are. If fully maximized, those facilities could have generated good revenue and other benefits for sports development.”

The Minister expressed disappointment at the level of rot at the National Stadium and hopes to bring the structure back to life if given the chance to stay on with a long term plan.

One project he wants completed is the swimming pool. He gave a strict order to the contractor executing the project.

“If you tell me that this project will be completed in 100 years, I will wait. But if after that I come and you provide excuses why it is not completed, you will need God and the angels to intervene for you.

“If we release funds for you, we will follow you to the touchline. I don’t allow contractors to be paid and they use our money to change their fleet of cars and woo new girlfriends.

“My position is that before the end of the first quarter, people should be swimming in this pool. If it’s too difficult for you to meet up, I’ll help you but make sure that this pool is completed before the end of first quarter.”

Solomon Dalung also confirmed that there were plans to improve the welfare of national team players and coaching crew. According to him, it is important to take care of the athletes so they can give their best when representing the country.

”We are addressing the issue of non-payment of wages to players and the coaching crew. After giving the country a good representation, denying them of their benefits is totally unacceptable.

”The president has also approved the rewards of athletes who have made this country proud and have not been rewarded. These include the first team that won the Fifa U-16 Championship in 1985, we have sorted them out and the President has approved a date which will be announced this month for a celebration to appreciate the players including those who have done well recently.”

The Minister said that he believes a good reward system will sustain the skills, zeal and patriotism of Nigerian athletes whenever they are representing the country.

Rivers Police Rescue Kidnapped GM Of Dolphins FC

Dolphins The General Manager of Dolphins FC, Joe Johnson, who was abducted on Sunday, October 11 by gunmen in Port Harcourt the Rivers State capital, has been rescued by men of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad of the Rivers State Police Command.

Joe Johnson told Channels Television that he was ambushed on his way to the airport to honour a scheduled match against Giwa FC by his assailants.

According to him, while members of his family were negotiating ransom in the range of 15million naira, he was confident that he was going to get out alive.

His optimism paid off when men of the Rivers State Police Command stormed the uncompleted building where he had been held hostage on Thursday evening.

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Ahmad Mohammad, said that the rescue operation was part of the command’s onslaught against kidnapping in the state.

NNL Warns Football Clubs Against Assault On Officials

NNLThe board of the Nigeria National League (NNL) has read the riot act to clubs participating in the league saying an assault on match officials will now attract a fine of one million naira to be paid within 14 days in addition to the banishment of such teams.

Chairman of the Nigeria National League (NNL), Mr Emeka Inyama, who announced this in Abuja, said that the board can no longer tolerate the increasing assault on match officials by some football clubs and their fans.

In a communique made available to journalists, the board resolved that in view of the pending disciplinary matters, inspection of stadia with defects and to allow for the rescheduling of outstanding matches, the second phase of the league will now kick off on July 25.

The board further warned all clubs indebted to the league in any manner to clear such indebtedness before the resumption of the second round or risk been barred from further participating in the Nigeria National League.

Five Kano Pillars Players Injured In Robbery Attack

Kano_pillars11Nigeria Premier League champions Kano Pillars were on Thursday attacked by armed robbers along Abaji-Lokoja road, leaving five players seriously injured.

The incident occurred at about 1.15pm Nigerian time on Thursday, March 5th when Kano Pillars were on their way to Owerri for their opening league game against Heartland on Saturday, March 7th.

Kano Pillars’ spokesman Idris Malikawa revealed that the gunmen shot sporadically in a way that left Sai Masu Gida with no escape route.

The five players injured during the attack are Gambo Muhammed, Eneji Otekpa, Adamu Murtala, Reuben Ogbonnaya and Ubong Ekpai.

Malikawa confirmed the injured players are in a Lokoja hospital receiving treatment.

“We were attacked by armed robbers, in which five of our players were injured by the thieves and as I’m talking to you, these five players are now at the Federal Medical Centre in Lokoja and are responding to treatment. The attack happened around 1:15pm and the rest of the team are still in fright following the incident,” Malikawa told Channelstv.com.

Meanwhile,the League Management Company [LMC] has postponed the opening game of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) between champions Kano Pillars and Heartland.

Heartland were scheduled to host the champions this Saturday, but the game is now off after the Kano club were attacked by armed robbers along Abaji-Lokoja road on Thursday (March 5th) afternoon.

Five key players – Gambo Muhammed, Eneji Otekpa, Adamu Murtala, Reuben Ogbonnaya and Ubong Ekpai — were those left injured from the incident.

“The League Management Company has expressed shock at the news of the armed robbery attack on the Kano Pillars Football Club contingent along the Abuja-Lokoja Road and consequently ordered an indefinite postponement of their Match Day 1 fixture in Owerri against Heartland FC,” a statement from the league body said.

The LMC revealed that the other nine matches of Match Day 1 will proceed as scheduled.

Dolphins will play hosts to Kwara United in the early kickoff of the opening day, while Sharks face Sunshine Stars in the second match on Saturday, March 7th.

Gov Ahmed Advocates Public-Private Partnership In Sports

The Kwara State Governor, Mr Abdulfatah Ahmed, kwarahas advocated for Public-Private Partnership in the sports sector to harness the opportunities therein.

Governor Ahmed made the call while receiving board members of the Nigeria National League (NNL), led by its Chairman, Mr Emeka Inyama, at the Government House, Ilorin, Kwara state capital.

He also emphasised the need to create a sustainable entertainment world that would allow interface between football and business and called for investments in that sector for the growth of the round leather game.

Governor Ahmed, who identified sport as a unifying factor for national cohesion, stressed the need to use football in molding youths in Kwara and Nigeria at large, to shape their mental capacities, for the growth and development of the nation.

The Governor further said the state had positioned itself at both sub-national and national levels, assuring the gathering that the state would continue to host more competitions for the mental strength of players and spectators.

Earlier in his remarks, the Board Chairman of the NNL, Mr Inyama, explained that the NNL had been re-branded with enhanced credibility and integrity, calling for sponsors to further promote the league.

Mr Inyama commended the state government for its investment in sports and for the promotion of the Kwara United Football Club to the elite division; the Nigeria Professional Football League.

Solution To Nigerian Football Crisis Is Government’s Withdrawal – Tijani

Nigerian FootballVeteran Sports Journalist, Kayode Tijani, says the solution to the crisis that has continued to rock Nigerian Football and its administration is for the Nigerian Government to embrace total withdrawal from Nigerian football.

Speaking on the Friday edition of Sunrise Daily on Channels Television, Tijani said that the reason why the National Sports Commission, NSC, would always want to lord it over the Nigerian Football Federation is because there is so much money in the federation being put in by the government.

Nigeria escaped yet another FIFA ban as it beat the deadline set by the world football governing body for it to resolve the leadership tussle it has been embroiled with, although some Nigerians have frowned at FIFA’s seeming disregard for Nigerian laws and administrative peculiarities.

This view, Tijani disagreed with, saying that Nigeria having agreed to belong to FIFA had agreed to abide by the rules of the body.

“A lot of people are getting it wrong. Germany, during the first war and the second war left FIFA because to FIFA ‘you can’ t be here because of all your problems’. The same thing happened to South Africa, even England at a time (when) they had some disagreement.”

He, however, also took a swipe at FIFA because of their many threats, “I am not saying FIFA is this squeaky clean (organisation), they are not.

“FIFA is one of the most corrupt organisations in the world but when they do their thing they do it very well.

“So for me, it is the (Nigerian) Government’s problem from time immemorial. The Act for the NFF has been there for the past eight years, why don’t you pass it to solve all these problems?”

A ban by FIFA would ensure that Nigeria loses the opportunity to appear at international football competitions both at club and country level and Tijani believes this would not have been a loss but would rather ensure that monies are not wasted.

Local League Development

While Tijani expressed happiness that the country was able to resolve its issues, he noted that the fear of being banned by FIFA should not be Nigerians’ concern but how to develop the game within the country.

He noted that the Nigerian league should be more important to Nigeria and not the fear of losing spots at FIFA’s international competitions.

He highlighted a number of factors militating against the growth of Nigerian football leagues as well as the challenges Nigerian clubs were facing, including the situation whereby several players were not being paid their salaries.

Kayode mentioned some European leagues, as well as the South-African league as examples of places where governments have no hand in the management of their leagues.

“In Germany, the only involvement of government is infrastructure,” he said, maintaining his earlier stance that the Federal Government of Nigeria has to withdraw its direct involvement with the management and funding of the game.

Super Eagles

Tijani also had some words for the players and handlers of the Super Eagles as Nigerians look forward to the team’s next African Cup of Nations qualifier.

“Are we going to win? I don’t know. Stephen Keshi to me is a hero, he’s done so much but…why holding us to ransom with players who are not going to perform? The likes of Mikel, I don’t know why.

“Muda Lawal in midfield? Mikel? I can never compare a Mikel or some of these players who are holding us to ransom.

“I was in Sudan with them, they were talking about playing on synthetic (pitch), I am in shock! Rashidi Yekini scored in Sudan in 1993 and that was not even a pitch!” he said passionately.

Pricewaterhouse To Audit NFF Books

PricewaterhouseThe new NFF Executive Committee has approved the hiring of the services of world–famous Pricewaterhouse to audit the accounts of the Federation.

This was part of the resolutions reached at the meeting of the Executive Committee which took place at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on Wednesday night.

Related to this is the approval given to hire the services of Financial Derivatives, another much respected firm, to act as financial consultants of the NFF, and Ben & Co to act as Management Consultants.

“This is all part of our vision to drive the engine of Nigeria football differently but energetically and to let the world know that we are determined to be transparent and accountable. All these decisions are being taken in the best interest of Nigeria football,” explained NFF President, Amaju Pinnick.

According to a statement by the NFF Assistant Director (Communications), Ademola Olajire, Hon. Suleiman Yahaya-Kwande was, also on Wednesday night, named the Chairman of the Match Commissioners/Assessors Sub-Committee, which will work under the Referees Committee.

The Vice Chairman is Abel Ehigie, and members are Jamila Buhari, Abdulkadir Magaji Kabaka, Manzo Mohammed, James Odeniran, Mohammed Alkali, Emma Ochiaga, Bola Abidoye and Dave Egho.

The Executive Committee opted to constitute the Internal Audit Committee at a later date.

The fabulous run of the Senior Women National Team, Super Falcons, also got the attention of the Committee, which commended the maximum points garnered by the girls in their first two matches of the 9th African Women Championship in Namibia.

The Falcons have sailed into the semi finals of the competition ahead of their final match of the group phase against the host nation, having scored 10 goals and conceded only two.

The Super Eagles also received praise for their fighting spirit in the 3-1 defeat of Sudan in Abuja on Wednesday; a feat that keeps alive hopes of qualification for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals.

Repairing Nigerian Football Is A Major Task – Pinnick

Nigerian FootballThe President of the Nigerian Football Federation, NFF, Mr Amaju Pinnick says his election was divinely scripted and he would therefore depend on the Almighty for the task of fixing the game.

Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, Pinnick noted that identifying the problems in the Federation and creating an environment of peace and stability would be the first task to embark on.

He stated that he was aware of how bad things were in the organisation before venturing into leading it and therefore did not expect to have things easy but he was ready for the challenge.

“I came at a time when there is so much turbulence, bickering, animosity, hatred in the system. So its not going to be something very rosy or easy, but prayerfully, tactfully we are going to do what we want to do.”

He revealed that one of the major sources of problems in the NFF, asides the deep seated emotional bitterness, is the politics of exclusion.

He, however, expressed joy that some top people have started extending hands of fellowship to him including those who ran against him in the race to the NFF Presidency, like Amanze Uchegbulam.

“Repairing Nigerian Football is a major task,” he said.

Pinnick also emphasized the need to create an environment for potential partners to wish to identify with the Federation, noting that it would be important for the NFF to build trust especially among corporate organisations.

“We are going to create a platform for them to see that we are very serious.”

Pinnick itemised a number of steps his team would take in order to build the confidence in corporate organisations, “where people know that their brand name will not be tainted”.

Sustainable football culture is Pinnick’s priority and he warned that this would mean Nigerians have to make sacrifices as regards their constant quest for winning trophies, as there must be long, medium and long term goals.

He explained the plan to create a technical study group under the NFF technical department, which would go round the country to select genuinely young and talented players quarterly for transfer to developmental leagues abroad.

He explained that this would not be for them to be put under the pressure of winning at all cost for the Golden Eaglets or Flying Eagles but they would be trained to have the mentality of seeing themselves as future Super Eagles.

Pinnick linked the successes recorded by Germany in recent years to a similar approach with he said also gives him the assurance that “Germany is going to dominate for the next eight years.”

Pinnick also noted that his strategy was based on a similar template which he has worked and succeeded with, citing the Blessing Okagbare success as an example of how to build sustainable development which he assured would eventually yield results.

He also played up his experiences working at the world football governing body, FIFA, and the progression from that and rising gradually to the top of football administration in Delta State as quality antecedents that give him the confidence that same successes can be achieved with the NFF.

Keshi’s Contract

On the employment status of Super Eagles Coach, Stephen Keshi, Pinnick noted that the Eagles Coach remains a hero who must be accorded the respect of one, having won the African Cup of Nations as a player and as a coach.Nigerian Football

He noted that although he had made comments in the past that “Keshi has reached his limit and he needs to build his capacity” the recommendation of the technical arm of the NFF would be considered.

“I believe in due diligence, going through a due process. The technical department will come up with a comprehensive report about Keshi, submit it to the technical committee, they look at it and give it to the board.

“The board will now make a decision based on those reports, but I can assure you we are not going to do anything that is against the interest of Nigerians.”

Pinnick would not give a categorical statement on the future of Keshi with the Super Eagles, but hinted that “if Keshi is going to stay we will help him” explaining how he intends to do this.

He also noted that the priority of the board would not just be Keshi but also the training of other Nigerian coaches and referees, as improving the level of officiating in Nigeria, and having a Nigerian referee feature at the next World Cup is one of his targets.

He appealed to Nigerians to be patient, promising, “We are going to give you what you’ve never seen before.”