The last week of football action in the 2016/17 season of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is upon us, yet, the winner of the championship have yet to emerge. Even down the ladder, only two clubs: Remo Stars and Gombe United are certain of not playing in the top flight next season.
A tough competition at the top of the log adds to the beauty of the league, as all eyes will be on two venues: Jos and Maiduguri one of where the champions will be crowned. One thing is certain: there will be a new winner of the league, a club that has never won the Nigerian top flight league before. History.
The two clubs that are in line to taste such league glory are Plateau United and MFM FC.
Plateau United –
Plateau United Football Club of Jos are the top dogs to win the about-to-end Nigeria Professional Football League title. Before 1991, they were known as the JIB Strikers FC. The Jos based side were promoted to the Nigeria Professional Football League for the 2010/11 season by winning on the last day against Mighty Jets, but were relegated back the next year on the last day. They, however, gained promotion back to the top flight on the last day of the 2015 season. They are on the summit of the NPFL log with points
MFM FC –
MFM FC are currently on the 2nd place on the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) log with 62 points. The Lagos-based club are participating in the NPFL for the second time and have come close to lifting the title in their second time of asking. The club is wholly owned and run by the The Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, a Pentecostal Christian Organization.
In 2013, MFM FC took over the slot of Bolowatan F.C. in the Nigeria National League, the second-tier division in Nigerian football. The founder of Bolowotan FC, Toyin Gafaar, a Muslim, handed the slot to the church (MFM) to manage without collecting a dime in return. On 31 August 2015, MFM FC gained promotion to the Nigeria Premier League.
How time contrast fortunes
About this time last year, the fear of relegation was palpable in the camp of the Lagos based side, MFM FC needing all 3 points to remain in the NPFL. Similar fate for the table toppers, Plateau United who struggled to beat the drop till the latter days. As it stands, Plateau United and MFM FC have surprised analysts to displace the top dogs and gun for their first title in history, no matter where then pendulum swings.
Sad tale for Bauchi fans as they watch Wikki Toursist who were present at the continent by virtue of coming 3rd on the table last season, go down the wire in the murky waters of relegation. Wikki are presently 17th on the log as opposed to the top three where they ended last season.
The account of Rangers is not far fetched to league followers. Apart from starting this season on an abysmal note, the defending champions found themselves in the drop zone and barely escaped by picking some vital away points. The same Rangers that broke a 32-year jinx by way of clinching last year’s title.
Desired continental spot
For the CAF Champions League, Plateau United and MFM FC have picked the tickets to represent Nigeria on the continent. The scrap for the CAF Confederation Cup is primary between Enyimba and Akwa United. The People’s Elephant are on 3rd place with 58 points while Akwa United have garnered 57 points and sit on the 4th position.
For the Promise Keepers’ to have a chance to get to the continent they have clinch 3 points against Kano Pillars and hope Enyimba falters against Kastina United.
Out of the four spots for relegation, Remo Stars and Gombe United have confirmed two spots. This leaves 13 other clubs in the struggle to avoid the remaining two positions. Lobi Stars are on 6th position having gathered 53 points, while 18th placed ABS are on 49 points, but it will take ABS, Wikki Tourists and Shooting Stars Sports club a win with big margins and the favour of results from other centres to make them escape this dire situation.
The goal poachers and the goal stoppers
It will take an extraordinary goal account for Lobi Stars’ Tony Okpotu to break the 23-goals-per-season record set by Mfon Udoh, but the “Panther” needs just one goal to set him apart from Stephen Odey as they both have 18 goals to their credit. Okpotu will have all the fortune to add to his tally and worry less since Stephen Odey is no more part of the NPFL having joined FC Zurich of Switzerland.
The lads between the sticks have had their records kept and Nasarawa United’s goal tender, Suraj Ayeleso has kept 15 clean sheets, and is followed by Mustapha Aliko of Niger Tornadoes and then Ojo Olorunleke who have 13. Apparently, Suraj has the gloves for keep considering the fact the Aliko and Ojo can only end of 14 for the season.
Cameras on Maiduguri
The announcement of the live coverage of the final game in Maiduguri will excite gaffer of MFM FC Fidelis Ilechuwu more than anyone. The coach of the Lagos based side had been quoted to vow to win El-Kanemi Warrios if the game is live or resigns his position. For the good of the game and for sake of transparency, a terrestrial TV will beam the game live to Nigerians, thus NPFL fans from across the country will be able to follow the two most important games live on TV. In Jos, where Plateau United host Rangers, the game will also be live on TV.