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Nigerian Football

Who will be Nigeria football league champion?

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Who will rejoice tonight after coronation? - Enyimba, Remo Stars or Rivers United

BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

The fullest attendance is expected this Sunday at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena as the Nigeria Premier League Championship play-off gets to its peak.

It will be suspense galore as the eventual champion may not be ascertained until about 9pm when the third match of the day will likely end.

Overhead view of Mobolaji Johnson Arena – the battle ground and coronation palace…

Even though front runners have been ascertained, nothing is guaranteed as the title quest has become a three-horse race.

There are two major contenders, leaders, Enyimba and defending champions, Rivers United; a dark horse has merged posing a major threat to the top dogs.

Remo Stars potentially have four possible positions at the end of the series tonight. Should they lose by a two-goal margin, they drop to the fourth, while their current position will be taken by Bendel Insurance.

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If they win by a lone goal, they move to the second position if the latter match of front-runners, Enyimba and Rivers United ends in a draw.

If Remo Stars win by 3-0 and both Enyimba and Rivers United draw, Remo Stars will run away with the title.

It will then turn to the old age adage published by the Oxford University Press: “While two dogs are fighting for a bone, a third runs away with it.”

But it will be a nervy wait by Remo Stars if their title dream were to be realised even as it is well known that their clash with Bendel Insurance is grudge-laden.

Enyimba will be attempting to extend their record as the most decorated Nigerian club having won eight titles since their first victory in 2001.

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Yet, not many will remember that this great club was once relegated in 1991, the second year of the introduction of professional football in the country.

Rivers United, highly motivated by the previous administration of Nyesom Wike and the sports commissioner, Christopher Green who was grinning the day Rivers United beat Bendel Insurance 2-1.

He reportedly further motivated Rivers United for even more ceaseless flow with a package of N5million.

Should the motivation work, Rivers United will be the runaway champions and the first to achieve back-to-back winning since 2014.

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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.

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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