At the end of the 2016/17 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season, 4 out of the 20 teams dropped into the Nigeria National League (NNL) while four new teams took their places in the top division.
Remo Stars, Gombe United, ABS FC, and Kastina United were the new boys for the last season and out of the four only Kastina United escaped the drop back into the lower division with Remo stars (20), Gombe (19) and ABS (18) making up the last 3 while Shooting Stars FC completed the relegation zone.
The NPFL spots of the afore-mentioned teams were taken by the newly promoted teams which include former NPFL champions Heartland Fc of Owerri, Yobe Desert Stars of Damaturu, Go Round Fc of Omoku and Kwara United of Ilorin.
■ Heartland FC
Location: Owerri, Imo state
Last NPFL appearance: 2016
Home Ground: Dan Anyiam Stadium
Best NPFL Finish: 5-time winners (last triumph in 1993)
The Naze Millionaires were relegated in 2016 in controversial circumstances after the team abandoned its final league game against Plateau United.
A goal which gave Heartland a 2-1 lead was cancelled by referee Folorunsho Ajayi making the team abandon the game with 15 minutes left and was subsequently punished by the League Management Company (LMC) who awarded 3 points and 3 goals to Plateau United ensuring that the 2009 CAF Champions League finalists were relegated for the first time in their history.
However, the team only spent one season in the Nigeria National League (NNL ) finishing first on the Southern Division log after an impressive 61 points from 32 games which include 18 wins, 7 draws and 7 loss.
A finish in the continental places or the top 6 of the table at the end of the season wouldn’t flatter Heartland considering their pedigree in the league, and the Chibuzo Etuemena led team are highly unlikely to be involved in the relegation dogfight this season.
■ Kwara United
Location: Ilorin, Kwara State.
Last NPFL Appearance: 2015
Home Ground: Kwara State Stadium
Best NPFL finish: 3rd in Super Four (2006)
While Kwara state fans may rue the drop of ABS, they might take solace in the promotion of Kwara United whose promotion ensured that top flight football continues in Kwara for at least another year.
The harmony Boys were relegated in 2015 and spent the next few seasons in the relegation wilderness before former Nigeria u20 coach John Obuh led the team to the promise land.
Kwara inspired by the high scoring striker and NNL best player for 2017 season, Micheal Ohanu who scored 22 goals, topped the Northern division of the NNL where they got promoted with four games to spare.
Going into the new NPFL season a lot will be expected from the young striker Ohanu to keep the team afloat with his goals, the former Ifeanyi Uba player scored 3 hattricks last season and a replica of such performances should be enough to see his team avoid immediate relegation.
With a manager who has NPFL experience after managing Sharks FC and Enugu Rangers in the past, Kwara United may fancy a finish in the top half of the table.
READ ALSO: Top Ten Foreign Players In NPFL
■ Yobe Desert Stars
Location: Damaturu, Yobe.
Home Ground: Damaturu Township Stadium.
Last NPFL Appearance: 2001
Best NPFL finish: 20th
After 15 years of absence from topflight football, Yobe Desert Stars return to NPFL.
The Desert Stars had a terrible campaign to forget in their first and only top flight experience till date. The Damaturu based side won only 11 games in the 2001 campaign to immediately return to the lower leagues where they have since shuffled.
Consecutive promotions from the Nigeria Nationwide League to the NNL and from the NNL to the NPFL could give their fans hope of a decent Campaign, at least a better one than that of 2001.
Much wouldn’t be expected of the less fancied side as they are expected to the boo boys of the League alongside fellow promoted side, Go Round FC. A finish above the relegation zone will be considered a good season.
■ Go Round Fc
Location: Omoku, Rivers State
Home Ground: Krisdera Hotel Stadium
Last NPFL Appearance: NIL
Best NPFL Finish: NIL
The only debutant in the league for the 2018 season, Go Round FC are based in Omoku, Rivers state.
Go round secured promotion on the last day of the Southern Divison of the NNL campaign last season finishing second behind Heartland Fc. Relatively unknown, the stats don’t give good omen for the newcomers, of the 3 debutants promoted to the NPFL in the last 2 seasons 2 of them returned to relegation immediately.
Remo Stars, Ikorodu United and MFM were promoted for the first time in their histories in the last 2 seasons and only MFM managed to escape relegation in its first ever season in the NPFL. In fact only one of the promoted teams last season escaped relegation.
However, Coach Ngozi Elechi will hope to lead the team to a decent first top-flight season by avoiding relegation.
FIFA Congress To Decide Future Host Of FIFA Women’s World Cup™
Council assigns FIFA Women’s World Cup™ hosting decision to the football governing body’s Congress; also approves financial statements for 2020 and budget for 2022.
Meeting by video conference, the Council conferred to the Congress the decision to award Women’s World Cup™ hosting rights.
Until now, the decision has been taken by the FIFA Council, most recently in June 2020 when the hosting rights for the 2023 edition were awarded to Australia and New Zealand.
As the football governing body seeks to raise the profile of the women’s game, this represents a significant step to bring the Women’s World Cup in line with the flagship men’s competition.
The proposal will be put forward for a final decision by the 71st FIFA Congress, which will meet virtually (for the second time) on 21 May.
International match calendar and release of players.
The FIFA Council received a report on the international football situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bureau of the Council had extended to April 2021 the temporary amendments to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players regarding the release of players for international duty, and FIFA, the confederations, and its member associations remain in dialogue with national authorities about exemptions from quarantine rules for national team players.
READ ALSO: Mosengo-Omba Is CAF New General Secretary
The FIFA Council recognized that the highest priority in football is the health of the players, and therefore the discussion around the release of players for international duty must maintain this perspective, especially as the public health situation develops around the world.
2020 financials and 2022 budget
The Council also approved the organization’s Annual Report, which contains the financial statements for 2020 and the budget for 2022.
The FIFA Annual Report 2020 focuses on the role played by world football’s governing body in the fight against COVID-19, primarily through the unprecedented COVID-19 Relief Plan, which has made available USD 1.5 billion to support FIFA’s 211 member associations and the confederations through times of financial uncertainty.
The FIFA Annual Report 2020 is available on the official site.
FIFA Arab Cup 2021™
The Council approved the competition regulations for the FIFA Arab Cup 2021, confirming the match schedule and draw procedure for the competition taking place in Qatar from 1 to 18 December this year.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Fédération Internationale de Football Association.
Paul Onuachu: A Victim Of Tactical Deficiency
Ever wondered why Genk forward Paul Onuachu has always been a prolific figure for his club and find it hard to replicate that form with the Super Eagles when invited?
The Nigeria international has been in awesome form for the Blue-White, scoring 26 goals in the Jupiler League this season for Genk, while his scoring prowess at his club has been a contrast to his form with the national team under Gernot Rohr scoring just once in 9 games despite being a top performer at club level.
Ahead of the AFCON qualifier doubleheader against Lesotho and the Benin Republic, Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr named his 23 man list with the inform former Midtjylland forward listed as one of the standby players.
Onuachu’s struggles with the Super Eagles in previous games he featured is quite baffling, considering the excitement that greeted his first appearance with the national team plus the impressive form he’s currently in.
The job of every manager is to find a suitable position or fashion out tactics that would be suitable for their players in other to blend with the team approaches to every match. In Onuachu’s case, he hasn’t been fortunate enough to blend in with Rohr’s tactics. While at club level, Midtjylland plays to his strength.
However, due to Napoli’s players been restricted from traveling, the Genk forward made it through the backdoor to replace Gernot Rohr’s number one forward Victor Osimhen who hasn’t really hit the ground running with the ‘Partenopei‘, but when with the Eagles, he never fails to deliver.
It’s no doubt that the lanky striker has failed to deliver in his previous games, disappointing the ever-demanding Nigerian football enthusiasts with unforgiving backlashes from the fans. However, his prolific prowess with his club suggests otherwise and consistently makes a case for him to be integrated into the team with a different tactical approach that suits his style.
The era of a target man may have been long gone in football due to the advent of new tactics that have brought about a series of changes in the game. With managers preferring to go with a fast, skillful, or makeshift winger- kind of striker, instead of a target man.
READ ALSO: Super Eagles: 9 Players Who Netted On Debut
Looking at how Paul Onuachu plays with Genk upfront shows he’s one of the best target men in football, despite been perceived by many as a slow and old-fashioned kind of forward. However, John van den Bromm has been able to carve out a tactic that suits him which has been evident with his prolific form irrespective of his style of play.
Onuachu’s Super Eagle future might be on the knife-edge with Gernot Rohr not finding the right tactics that suit the Genk forward, especially with him not been consider as the go-to man despite his blistering runs of form in Belgium.
In recent times Rohr’s philosophy of vibrant attacking football with an emphasis on passing in the final third which requires the expertise of brilliant players to implement such tactics hasn’t really favored him.
Having a player in the mold of Onuachu gives Rohr another tactical option and an alternative style of play should the initial approach fails to work as expected, but the German tactician hasn’t really taken advantage of what the man could offer with a different opponent.
Onuachu’s presence in the Super Eagles team should be an added advantage in terms of variety when the normal approach of the manager fails. With an in-form striker on the bench, it could prove valuable, but in the former Midtjylland’s case, Gernot Rohr doesn’t seem to see him as a player that has a future with the national team.
Players in the mold of the Nigerian are quite physically imposing as the point man, though they may not offer the team excellent off-the-ball movement in some cases. However, they often find a way to provide an opportunity which the team could utilize when attacking or defending.
Onuachu’s inability to show a good turn of pace and smart footwork may have been one of the deficiencies that are affecting his chances of blending perfectly into the team.
However, the job of a manager is to help players blend in perfectly, and that’s exactly what Gernot Rohr should be doing. Not only for Onuachu but for every other player who are always finding it hard to replicate club form with the National Team.