Kano Pillars living legend Rabiu Ali and Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) record topscorer Mfon Udoh head our selection for the league’s Team of the Decade.
The team has good representation from the Kano Pillars side that dominated the league between 2012 and 2014 while also sprinkled with an Enyimba representation.
Here we go:
Theophilus Afelokhai: The indisputable choice in goal. Theo is the epitome of consistency as obtained with NPFL players. He followed up his three league titles with Kano Pillars with another one at Enyimba at the end of the decade in 2019.
Abdullahi Shehu: Also a proud member of the Pillars squad that dominated the league in the early 2010s. Three titles with him and went on to have a super CHAN tournament, the first for Nigeria. Also versatile as he helped Pillars out in the midfield a number of times and I think he did just enough to edge out Markson Ojobo and Mathew Etim for this.
Festus Austin: Nicknamed “Koboko”, this sweeper is still waxing strong after a decade of football in the NPFL. Was in the Dolphins side that won the league in 2011 and overcame a nasty lengthy injury to remain a regular from 2013 till date, now the captain of Rivers United.
Chinedu Udoji: Nigeria’s version of John Terry, the man he regarded as his role model. Late Udoji captained Enyimba to the title in 2015 and was instrumental to the People’s Elephant keeping clean sheets in all their home games in the 2013 season.
Ugwu Uwadiegwu: Ugwu was present for almost the entirety of the decade, playing for Rangers then Enyimba and now Rangers again. Won the league with the People’s Elephant in 2015 and had Cup titles in 2014 and 2018 with Enyimba and Rangers respectively. Nearly an ambidextrous player but is prominent at the left back role.
Ibrahim Ajani: Ajani has been a very consistent league attacker in the 2010s decade where he was edged out of the topscorer gong while playing for Sunshine Stars in 2011. He followed coach Gbenga Ogunbote from Sunshine to Sharks in Port Harcourt where he continued his goalscoring exploits even till Rangers where he is presently.
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Rabiu Ali: Anything called the NPFL is quite synonymous with this man called “Pele” in Kano. No midfielder has scored more goals than this Number 10 since his NPFL debut and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down at age 39. His contributions to Pillars’ title successes in 2013 and 14 are invaluable and he still remains Mr Pillars.
Azubuike Okechukwu: Broke into the league as an early teenager with Niger Tornadoes and confounded the league landlords with some unbelievable performances. Played every game of the season for Bayelsa United a year after his Tornadoes bow and led them to 3rd. Remained a key figure for United till he left for Turkey in mid 2015.
Stanley Dimgba: Sopuruchi takes the place on the left side of my midfield because of his upward trajectory from 2012 till date. From Kwara United to Warri Wolves and Enyimba, he has terrorised defences week-in, week-out. He crowned his decade with a league title at Enyimba in 2019.
Mfon Udoh: Record topscorer of the league with Enyimba in the 2014 season. That was a season after his breakthrough season with home town club Akwa United where he got double digit of goals. In 2019, he was also the league’s joint topscorer with Sunusi Ibrahim.
Gambo Muhammad: A consistent goal poacher for Kano Pillars during their years of dominance of the domestic front. Pillars fans never joke with this man and Rabiu Ali and the decade cannot go without giving them their worthy mentions.
Shehu – Austin – Udoji – Uwadiegwu
Ajani – Azubuike – Rabiu Ali – Dimgba
Mfon Udoh – Gambo Muh’d
Goalkeepers: Sunday Rotimi (Dolphins/Rivers United), Ilechukwu Ezenwa (Sharks, Sunshine, FCIU)
Defenders: Ebenezer Kunle Odunlami (presently Rivers United), Markson Ojobo, Daniel Itodo (Plateau United), Emmanuel Anyanwu (now Kano Pillars) and Peter Ambrose (now at Wikki Tourists)
Midfielders: Tamen Medrano (Sunshine Stars and FC Ifeanyiubah), Ekundayo Ojo (now at Enyimba), Usman Bara’u (Katsina United), Nzube Anaezemba (now Lobi Stars)
Forwards: Gbolahan Salami (Warri Wolves) Sikiru Alimi (Wolves, Sunshine, Lobi Stars) and Jude Aneke (Kaduna United), Ahmed Musa (Kano Pillars).