NPFL 2018 Final Table Decision: Was there really a choice?

NPFL 2018 Final Table Decision: Was there really a choice?

Nigerian football fans woke on Friday morning to a shocking piece of news; the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) will be discontinued with Lobi Stars sent as the league’s representative in the 2018/19 CAF Champions League.

The reactions that trailed the new development was typical of what could have come in the event of any decision taken by the league organisers on how to see out the remainder of the league season, and in good time to meet up with CAF’s October 15 deadline for the registration of teams that will participate in its inter-club competitions next year.

You can find the full text of the decisions here.

In the midst of all feed backs, there was this growing feeling of the right questions not being asked.

  • Was it the right decision?
  • Was it the best decision?
  • Was it the most sensible decision?
  • Was it the necessary decision?

There is no time to explore the answers to each of the questions just asked but one thing that was sure by Thursday was that; any decision that is arrived at, will always come up for severe criticisms. When the League Management Company (LMC) came up with a proposed format for the completion of the season a fortnight ago, it was hugely criticized as being “inhumane to the players”. In the light of Friday’s resolutions, all other suggestions on social media were still strongly contested by the debaters.

LMC’s Head of Special Duties, Harry Iwuala spoke with Channels Television on Friday night and his sincere comments gave me some real food for thoughts:

“Using the word best may amount to using a qualification for it (the decisions), but I think it is a necessary decision to be taken,” began Iwuala.

“It is necessary because a lot of factors have been taken into consideration. First of all, there is the need to beat the CAF deadline, so that we have Nigerian clubs playing in the CAF competitions next season, there is also the more important factor of the health of the Nigerian Professional Football League players.

“I wouldn’t want to be judgmental to say it is the best (decision) but I think it is absolutely necessary to have taken this decision and it was taken unanimously; the clubs, the NFF and of course, the LMC,” added Iwuala.

The decision to end the league no doubt takes Nigerian football as far back as 1982, the last time the league ended abruptly with then table toppers Enugu Rangers nominated to represent Nigeria at the Champions Cup (via Kunle Solaja). However, the general acceptance it received from the Club owners and more recently, the Players Association portrays the wide acceptance of the decision by the key stakeholders.

An NPFL match at Agege Stadium last season

Like I mentioned earlier, at this juncture, there was no decision taken that could have received general acceptance from the media (especially) and the fans, it then behoves on those that it affects most directly to find a suitable and professional way out of the mess caused by the protracted crisis that rocked Nigerian football on the wake of the World Cup.

Other suggestions such as Nigeria forfeiting participation in next season’s continental competitions are impracticable. Aside the fact that failure to participate attracts a heavy fine and possible suspension from subsequent tournaments, Nigeria needs her two teams to churn out respectable performances so as to boost the coefficient ranking of Federations by CAF.

Other Schools of thought such as having a playoff or having all the teams in one venue to play one after the other have one name written all over it “chaos”. Which venue would host and on whose bills? In the event of play-offs, in what categories would the points be accrued and in what way would they be added to existing points on the table? There will always be answers to all these questions anyways but they would never get the unanimity enjoyed by the decisions arrived at on Friday.

The decisions are in no way perfect and it still leaves genuine fears for what it becomes in the future but one important thing it helps to do is the aligning of the Nigerian league calendar with the new African calendar of August to May (same as in Europe), something the league has been struggling to achieve since last year.

Indeed, there can always be a rainbow to look up to after the heavy rain.

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