NPFL 2017 Final: And the winner is?
The NPFL final day beckons and with bated breath we await who will emerge as champions of the League. It could be a whole less complicated if Plateau United win their fixture against Enugu Rangers. It is ironic that Rangers hold the aces on the bearing of the League title. The defending champions filling the role of Kingmakers. Beat Plateau United and there’s probably no ill feeling of watching the trophy lifted by another team before their very eyes or graciously roll-over and be part of the fan-fare congratulating the new champions.
Plateau United will get television exposure for the first time this season, and will hope they do not bottle things in front of thousands of fans watching from the stands, the comfort of their homes and various viewing centres showing the match alongside European matches. Kenedy Boboye has worked his magic thus far with the Tin-City side, imbuing the side with belief making them entirely unrecognizable from the side that finished eighth last season without a major transfer into the side.
It is testament to his transformative ability that the side has been atop the table for 32 matchdays of the 37 played without a truly exceptional player in the side. The former Sunshine Stars coach has firmly banished the ghost of a second half slump that has haunted him in his three years at top level coaching. It is about the collective for Plateau United and playing to their strengths which has gotten them this far, they will be counting on these variables alongside their work ethic to produce a spirited performance in front of their fans to earn the tag champions for the first time in their history.
The other half of the title equation will be played out at Maiduguri, where second-placed MFM FC face El Kanemi Warriors. Prevailing wisdom is that there will somehow be a more level playing field if the game is on Television. And the heavens heard and granted that the game will be broadcast live giving MFM FC a ‘better’ chance at winning at the impregnable El Kanemi stadium. The Yahweh crooners are in for a game of their lives, needing all the miracles they can get to complete their fairy-tale. Their victory over Nasarawa United last week at the Agege Stadium wasn’t all smooth sailing. They weren’t the well-oiled, ball-playing, exhilarating side they’d been all season especially at the Soccer Temple.
It was a perforated performance with the goals– a freekick and a header from a defensive midfielder bundling forward — papering over cracks. Perhaps it isn’t unrelated to Stephen Odey’s departure from the side. Fidelis Ilechukwu though believes his side is good for the victory. The MFM FC manager boldly declared in a radio phone-in interview that his side is going to defeat El Kanemi Warriors once the game is televised, even putting his job on the line in the process.
It isn’t all cut and dried though if the Olukoya Boys get the victory. It doesn’t guarantee the crowning moment to their impressive run. It doesn’t exactly install them as the Nigerian version of Leicester City: staving off relegation the previous season and Champions the next. MFM FC will need Enugu Rangers to stop a Plateau United victory at the Rwang Pam stadium while they defeat El Kanemi Warriors.
This cliff-hanger of an NPFL season ensures the final matchday gets a lot of attention not only for the trophy presentation but for the significant happenings on the field before the presentation. Maybe our hearts would be better served with a guard of honour in the 36th matchday but the heart want what the heart wants: a thrilling denouement.
Enyimba 16 : 00 Katsina United
Plateau United 16 : 00 Enugu Rangers
Gombe United 16 : 00 Wikki Tourist
Abia Warriors 16 : 00 Rivers United
Nasarawa United 16 : 00 ABS
El Kanemi Warriors 16 : 00 MFM
Akwa United 16 : 00 Kano Pillars
Niger Tornadoes 16 : 00 Shooting Stars
FC Ifeanyi Ubah 16 : 00 Lobi Stars
Remo Stars 16 : 00 Sunshine Stars