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What to expect from the upcoming Nigerian Premier League

LAGOS-(MaraviPost)-With the Covid-19 pandemic not going away anytime soon, football federations across the world have to adapt to their new environment in order to commence new season activity.

Nigeria is no different. Last year’s Nigerian Professional Football League season was cut short due to the pandemic.

Although many of the greatest prizes and punishments were withdrawn – no titles, relegation or promotion – the table would be settled with a point-per-game system to decide who represented the league in the 2020/2021 CAF Inter-Clubs Competitions, such as the Champions League.

Yet while a start date for next season has been mooted – late September or early October – no fixtures have been released and many doubt the Nigerian Football Federation’s capabilities in organizing the kind of set-up that would be required during this unprecedented time.

Tony Bolus, the coach of Lagos-based top-flight team MFM, told the Guardian that “the resumption of the league next month is not feasible” and that “COVID-19 has to go out of the country first for the league to kick off.” He is not the only dissenting voice among the league’s prominent figures with other coaches speaking out.

The common consensus is that the Nigerian healthcare system has not coped well with the pandemic and that the league is not a priority.

The NFF does not have the resources of the likes of the English FA. That same Guardian piece highlights the death of Nasarawa United defender Chineme Martins as an example of the inadequacy of Nigerian facilities.

He collapsed during a 2019/20 league game against Katsina United and neither club was ideally positioned to treat him.

Ambulances, trained medical personnel and even first aid kits are unfortunately uncommon in home stadiums.

To cite the example of European counterparts as a model for restarting is fanciful, if not unrealistic and borderline irresponsible.

This isn’t supposed to paint a picture of a league with teams that do not want to come back. They simply wouldn’t want to compromise the safety of anyone in order to return.

However, let’s think positively and act on the assumption that the league will return on its planned date. A quick recap is required: The 2019 season (the last season to be completed) was won by Enyimba, an Aba-based team whose previous league triumph was in 2015.

They are still technically the reigning champions. They finished third in the 2019-20 PPG campaign, earning them qualification for the CAF Confederations Cup. Kano Pillars also qualified for the Confederations Cup despite finishing sixth, this was due to their Federations Cup win.

The top two teams in the table, Plateau United and Rivers United respectively, earned qualification to the Champions League. Title races in the NFPL tend to be heated and competitive.

While Kano Pillars enjoyed a period of dominance at the start of the decade, claiming three consecutive titles, no team has retained it since, with three teams coming out on top on the four completed seasons since.

In that sense, betting on the NFPL offers plenty of value. A look at Sportytrader shows the best Nigerian sign-up offers for anyone looking to stick a wager on the league action. Predicting whether it will start at all is another matter altogether.

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