When news broke out that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had approved the resumption of contact sports in the country, football lovers and followers of the Nigerian Professional Football League were overjoyed as it meant the resumption of the local league was imminent.
The league was initially suspended on March 18th after 25 rounds of matches, before it was cancelled on July 10th as the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to end the season and also hurt the footballing calendar. The decision meant the teams were ranked by points per game with the top two teams going to represent the Nation in the CAF Champions League, Africa’s premier club competition, while the third placed team will fly the country’s flag at the CAF Confederations Cup, the second tier of the Champions League.
The league’s handlers and the Nigeria Football Federation, who are the governing body in charge of football-related activities in the country, has concluded that the league will have no champion and the lowest-ranked three teams will also retain their places in the league instead of getting relegated to the Nigeria National League.
The NPFL Table as it stands
At the time of cancellation, Plateau United of Jos were leading in the race for the title with 49 points, four more than their nearest challenger, Rivers United. Lobi Stars of Makurdi were the third placed team with 43 points, with Rangers FC of Enugu a further six points back with 37. Defending champions Enyimba FC were fifth at the time the season was cancelled on 36 points, however they had played fewer games than their closest rivals and once points per game were taken into account their final placing in the curtailed league table was second.
At the bottom of the table, Adamawa United, Kwara United, Jigawa Golden Stars and Nasarawa United occupied the bottom four positions respectively, and would have been demoted to the lower division under normal circumstances.
NPFL 2020-2021. Analysis and Predictions
With the announcement of the start of a new NPFL season by 6th of December, our experts came together and analysed how teams may fare when the season starts. There are bound to be favourites and underdogs for the title, with surprises expected to occur as the season goes on. Below is the list of teams who are likely to slug it out for the title in the upcoming season.
Nigerian Football League. The Favourites
Seven signings already, goalkeeper Adamu Abubakar has joined from Wikki Tourist alongside attackers Sunday Adetunji from Abia Warriors and Wasiu Jimoh from Sunshine Stars. They have joined what was already a strong and ambitious team. The disappointment of missing out on the league title despite being the leader will spur them to go one better.
The People’s Elephant has won the most titles in the league’s history and is expected, as always, to compete once more. They finished in a top three place in the previous season, so they will be geared towards reaching for the peak in the new season.
Kano Pillars FC
Four-time champions, the Sai Masu Gida have been regulars near the top of the table since their triumph in the 2007/08 season. They are expected to be in the mix for the title once more to make up for their recent near-misses.
Led by the experienced Stanley Eguma, Rivers United were well placed to challenge for the title before the season was brought to an abrupt end. They have strengthened by adding new players headlined by the highly-rated goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai from Enyimba FC. Do not put it past them challenging for, or winning, the league title.
NPFL 2021. Outsiders
Off the pitch, they have been placed on a two-year transfer ban but the Naze Millionaires have made a habit of winning when the odds are stacked against them. They may be in the hat come May 2021.
Sunshine Stars FC
The return of the highly experienced and respected Gbenga Ogunbote as the manager is a big boost as no manager of the club has matched or surpassed his achievements since he left eight years ago. He will lift the players’ morale and spirit. Expect Sunshine to prove themselves and possibly be near the top of the table.