NPFL: Home coming of the heroes…
It was that A-list rapper Diddy and his group called Dirty Money that released an iconic album in 2010 which had the popular song “I’m coming home”, a song that trended for years that followed.
I’m coming home, I’m coming home, tell the world I’m coming home. Let the rain wash away all the pains of yesterday. I know my kingdom awaits and they’ve forgiven my mistakes. I’m coming home, I’m coming home.
Nothing can more aptly describe what fans of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) will witness in the second stanza of the 2022/2023 football season with the home coming of many heroes in recent past.
Two of the league’s top-scorers in the last five seasons are among other experienced NPFL stars returning to the league after some period of career hiatus occasioned by either some poor career choices or botched adventures to the foreign land.
ACLSports Chief Football Writer Fisayo Dairo highlights some popular names that have joined NPFL clubs ahead of the second half of the season which starts on Saturday.
Elephant, Chijioke Akuneto 𝗶𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘀 💙#WelcomeAkuneto pic.twitter.com/rtOdoDtoUq— Enyimba FC (@EnyimbaFC) March 22, 2023
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Below is a list of the home coming of the NPFL heroes.
1. Chijioke Akuneto (Enyimba)
I personally hold Akuneto in high esteem. Not just because he was last season’s topscorer in the league but because he is an invaluable asset for any team that has him.
His move to Europe at the end of last season failed to pull through at the dying moments but this former player of MFM and Heartland has now targeted the People’s Elephant as the team to bring him up to speed ahead of a possible summer move. It’s a win-win for all parties: Akuneto, Enyimba and the fans of the NPFL.
2. Junior Lokosa and Ifeanyi Anaemena (Remo Stars)
I combine these two players together because they have a few things in common. Both players have featured for the mainstream Super Eagles in the past and are both returning to the league after stints in Saudi Arabia’s second division.
💫 We are thrilled to announce the transfer of Junior Lokosa as a member of the sky blue family. #WelcomeLokosa pic.twitter.com/Pc1OPs4xEk— Remo Stars Sports Club (@RemoStarsSC) March 22, 2023
Despite finishing top of the league’s top-scorers’ chat in 2018, I have this feeling that Lokosa is grossly underrated. He is often either seen as only useful in the box or as a flash in the pan. I feel that the 29-year old is more and has more to offer if the environment is right. I hope that Remo Stars will prove that for him.
For Anaemena, he is one of the league’s most accomplished defenders who combines brawn with brain in equal proportion. The 31-year old had a more successful stint in the Middle East but home grown quota rule saw him coming back home for a while.
Da lu Ifeanyi 👋 Ihu gị ozo di nma— Remo Stars Sports Club (@RemoStarsSC) March 23, 2023
💫 Defender, Ifeanyi Anaemena rejoins the club as the #NPFL23 is set to resume. #WeAreRemoStars pic.twitter.com/xYUDMgcp4z
It is quite obvious why Remo Stars have made a gamble on these vastly experienced duo, setting aside well-know club philosophy because if things go as planned, the club will benefit most in terms of results.
4. Ikouwem Udo Utin (Shooting Stars) – Many are curious as to how things unravelled this quick for the promising left back. The captain of the Flying Eagles class of 2019 went to Israel with Maccabi Haifa but things never turned out as promised from there on. Well, he’s back having last featured for Slaven Belupo in Croatia.
Who else to take him back but the coach that gave him first NPFL start, Gbenga Ogunbote while he was at Enyimba. He should provide some competition at Shooting Stars’ left side of defence.
5. Samson Obi (Abia Warriors)
The petite forward has rejoined the club that brought him to NPFL limelight after some troubling times in North Africa. Obi joined Al-Nasr Benghazi from Enyimba in a celebrated move in 2021 but an injury cut that dream short before both parties mutually went their ways last year.
Obi is now well and truly over his injury woes and hopes to give himself some crucial first team minutes while also helping Abia Warriors in their interesting pursuit of a Super Six spot.
6. Sad’eeq Yusuf (Akwa United)
Not much has been heard about this former Sunshine Stars forward who had a great time in the league in the 2020/2021 season. He joined El Makasa of Egypt after that season but things failed to go as envisaged before a further switch to Amanat Baghdad of Iraq.
Well, he’s back home now with Akwa United and will expect to shoulder some of their scoring responsibilities as the Promise Keepers bid to keep hold of their Top 3 place.
7. Lukman Adefemi (Rivers United)
This is a name that is not so prominent with league followers but he featured for Crown FC of Ogbomosho before starting his decade-long sojourn to the diaspora in 2013. He has played mostly in Mozambique but also in Serbia and India before he played for AFC Uttara in Bangladesh, from where he has decided that home coming is in order.
He has linked up with reigning champions Rivers United and has already made two appearances for the Pride of Rivers in their rescheduled matches at Bayelsa United and Abia Warriors. He’ll hope to relieve Nyima Nwagua of some burden especially as it concerns playing in both CAF and domestic competitions for the rest of the season.
Final note: The second stanza of the 2022/2023 season resumes this weekend with Dakkada FC hosting Niger Tornadoes in the only game on Saturday. The remaining eighteen teams take to the pitch on Sunday.
If you find yourself at any city where teams like Remo Stars, Enyimba, Shooting Stars et al have an outing, be sure to look out for the home coming of the heroes.