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Nigerian Football

All to play for as NPFL abridged league ends on FIFA anniversary

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Battle for top three positions as well as struggle against relegation are the high points  of the Nigerian Premier Football League which abridged format draws to a close this Sunday, the 119th anniversary of the world football governing body, FIFA.

Undoubtedly, it is about the best organised league that Nigeria has had in recent history as the Interim Management Committee strives to end the season on high note.

There are three major battle grounds cut across the tow conferences of the league.

For some of the teams, it is a stroll in the park. Bendel Insurance in Group A belong to that category. In group B, Rivers United have navigated their ways into the Super 6 just as Lobi Stars are also home and dry.

Others have their destinies in their hands. Remo Stars just have to beat visiting Kwara United to either retain their third position or even climb higher, depending on the results obtained by  Enyimba in their match with Shooting Stars in Ibadan.

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Remo Stars have 30 points, just three behind that of the group leaders, Bendel Insurance and a point behind Enyimba (31).

Owing to massive goal surplus of Bendel Insurance, only Enyimba with a win in Ibadan can upstage Bendel Insurance, should the group leaders lose in Nasarawa.

Some other teams will depend on results elsewhere to know their fate. That applies to Akwa United who will wish that Remo Stars lose at home to Kwara United while they either draw or beat Gombe United in their away duel.

The same applies to the duo of Doma United and Sunshine Stars who are jostling for the third position in Group B.

With 26 points, Doma are currently third, but could be upstaged by Sunshine Stars who have 24 points.

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If Sunshine Stars win at home against Dakkada and Doma United lose their away duel at Abia Warriors, it will be advantage Sunshine Stars.

All the Fixtures

Group A

  • Remo Stars v. Kwara United
  • Shooting Stars v. Enyimba
  • El Kanemi v. Plateau United
  • Nasarawa v. Bendel Insurance
  • Gombe United v. Akwa United

Group B

  • Lobi Stars v. Wikki Tourists
  • Bayelsa United v. Niger Tornadoes
  • Sunshine Stars v. Dakkada
  • Abia Warriors v. Doma United
  • Enugu Rangers v. Rivers United

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Nigerian Football

Relief for continental ticket-seeking Enyimba

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Enyimba FC who are desperately seeking a return to the continental fixtures next season have been relieved of a little financial burden by the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation.

 The initial N10 million fine imposed on the team has been reduced almost by half.

 In the ill-tempered match with Enugu Rangers three weeks ago, the Nigeria Premier League fine Enyimba N5 million as part of the disciplinary measures taken, claiming that Enyimba disrupted the live telecast of the match.

The NFF committee disagrees with the decision and therefore set aside the fine imposed.

Enyimba will this Sunday host Plateau United in a potentially volatile match as both teams have varying chances of picking continental ticket to feature in either the CAF Champions League or the Confederation Cup.

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Nigerian Football

All eyes on Aba, Ibadan and Ikenne as battle for continental tickets goes down to the wire!

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A stroll in the park to be followed by victory parade are the anticipated spectacles in Jos when Enugu Rangers face ‘home’ sides, Gombe United this Sunday.

But elsewhere, it could be ‘thunder and blood’ battle as four eligibles fight for two obtainable continental tickets in three venues of Ikenne, Ibadan and Aba.

Remo Stars, Shooting Stars, Enyimba and Plateau United are aspirants jostling for continental tickets.

On the other side of the struggle is also the battle to evade relegation. Coincidentally, Ibadan  provides the venue for both dreams where the hosts, Shooting Stars, will be hoping to pick a ticket to any of the two CAF inter-clubs competitions while the debuting Premier League sides, Sporting Lagos are expected to play the game of their life.

Coincidentally, Shooting Stars were expected to give the Lagos sides the succour last weekend when they faced Bayelsa United.

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 Had Shooting Stars won the match, Sporting Lagos which upstaged Enyimba 2-1, would have been in comfort zone, making Sunday’s duel at the Lekan Salami a ‘merry-making’ venture for both sides.

But a twist of fortunes which saw Bayelsa fighting back to a 2-1 win means Shooting Stars will have to spare no weapon on Sunday to beat Sporting Lagos.

The visitors on the other hand have a mountain to climb to avoid the looming drop.

 Ikenne provides another battle ground, though with lesser gravity than what is expected in Ibadan and Aba. A win of any margin secures CAF Champions League ticket for Remo Stars as they host Katsina United who stay without threat in the middle of the league log.

But the battle will be fiercer in Aba where both hosts, Enyimba and visiting Plateau United have arithmetical and conjectural chances of making the top three and obtaining a continental ticket.

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While the battle at the top of the log is for two teams to join Enugu Rangers in getting continental ticket, so also it is at the bottom as both Gombe United and Heartland await the two others that will escort them to the lower league.

 Battling to avoid the drop are Sporting Lagos, Doma United, Akwa United and Bayelsa.

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Nigerian Football

Coronation day for champion-elect, Enugu Rangers

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Enugu Rangers can afford to lose 56-0 this Sunday to Gombe United and erase the record negative goal difference of the already relegated side. Such a scoreline will not change the destiny of both sides as Rangers will merely enter the pitch to fulfill the fixtures for formality sake. They will be more interested in the post match event – their coronation as the new king of Nigerian league.

 A win will only add icing to the celebration cake, taking their points to 70, just three short of 73 obtained by the defunct Dolphins in the 2010/2011 season.

 But it is taking nothing away from Enugu Rangers who will be presented with the league trophy this Sunday by the NFF president, Ibrahim Musa Gusau.

The NFF chieftain headlines a choice list of eminent guests expected at the occasion, which will see the champions, who will be crowned for the eighth time since a national football league was introduced in 1972.

Their success this season was confirmed last weekend when they beat Bendel Insurance 2-0 at home while their three rivals – Remo Stars, Shooting Stars and Enyimba lost their respective away games with identical scorelines of 2-1.

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