The quality of play in some of the major European leagues has often left Nigerian football lovers scratching their heads wondering why the local league continue to cling on to mediocrity while struggling to live up to its potentials.
Sadly, the administration of the game in the country before now left many a Nigerian fan with no choice than to watch these foreign leagues, since they had a relationship that was established through live telecast of games from the leagues in Europe, England, Spain, Italy and Germany.
Ask the average Nigerian football fan to name the entire quad of Barcelona, Real Madrid or teams in the Premier League in England, and they would do that without batting an eye. But tell them to name the players in the Nigerian league and many would struggle to name one or two. This was because the games were not on television and many people shy away from stadiums either because of the poor quality of pitches or the crowd trouble during matches.
However, the emergence of the League Management Company (LMC) led by Mallam Shehu Dikko and his team has seen a drastic change in the attitude of Nigerians towards the league. This could be measured by the large turnout of football fans at the various stadia across the country last season and the continuation of same this season. Also the coverage for the league in the media has considerably improved.
One other improvement not many have keyed onto is that the Nigerian league now features on the football betting market and many Nigerians and others around the world now bet on outcome of NPFL matches. This means that bookies now trust the quality of the officiating enough to include the league in their offerings.
This newfound love of Nigerians for domestic football has coincided with the influx of wealthy individuals and organisations who have injected much needed funds and provided good administration for such clubs like Ifeanyi Ubah FC and Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries Football Club (MFMFC). Apart from these two, more teams are becoming privately run and the quality of the players (and their pay) is getting better, while the overall quality of the league is becoming more evident.
Perhaps what may have further confirmed the rise and rise of the Nigerian Premier League, or the NPFL as it is called, happened penultimate weekend when Sikiru Olatubosun of MFM FC set the Agege stadium crowd into raptures by scoring a flick-and-volley goal so amazing that it was named the CNN’s ‘Goal of the Week’.
The goal, which has since gone viral, has been described as “heavenly” by many , while Fox Sports thinks it’s like witnessing a miracle.
The beauty of a goal scored on Matchday 10 of the Nigeria Professional Football League game with the winger getting accolades from renowned pundits, blogs and websites.
The goal was quite special and Olatunbosun’s execution was brilliant as he gave the home side a 1-0 lead in the game that they eventually won 2-1. Rangers midfielder Chinedu Udeagha lost the ball in midfield to MFM left-back Julius Emiloju, who prodded the ball forward to the diminutive midfield maestro Chukwuka Onuwa.
Onuwa found space to lob the ball to Stephen Odey, who on noticing three Rangers defenders closing in on him, flicked the ball with the inside of his left boot to Olatunbosun.
In one swift movement, Olatunbosun contoured his body to meet the direction of the ball while flicking it over a visibly bamboozled Etim Matthew with his left foot, before taking a 180-degree turn and letting fly with the same left foot. The ball went all of 20 yards, taking a swerve on the way before landing in the top right corner of the Rangers net.
The MFM striker won the CNN ‘Goal of the Week’ poll ahead of Roma’s Raja Nainggolan, Youri Tielemans of Anderlecht and Joey Jones of Woking FC. Olatunbosun came tops with a whopping 82 percent of votes cast ahead of Nainggolan who had 11 percent, Tielemans at six percent while Jones had one percent out of the 6 647 votes cast.
It will be fair to say that the NPFL has come of age.
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