The Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) is the highest tier of the Nigerian football league system which includes all 3 leagues for the Nigerian Club Football Championships. NPFL, also known as NPL (Nigerian Premier League) is considered the strongest league in CAF (Confederation of African Football). The top-division of Nigeria has experienced a lot of reducing fortunes and situations since the late 2000s. It is fed into by the NLL (Nigeria National League, 2nd strongest division in the system) and this connection is organized by the League Management Company (LMC).
LMC is the legal League`s body that was established in November of 2012 by the Nigeria Football Federation with an aim to take over and fix the NPL which at that point was almost collapsed. After LMC took over, the NPL was renamed to Nigerian Professional Football League, also known as just ‘’Football League’’ in Nigeria. In 2015, LMC got financial support from the Nigerian government in order to ‘’upgrade of existing and provision of required broadcast equipment and facilities in the stadiums’’.
2 years ago, on April of 27th, 2016, The LFP (Liga de Futbol Profesional), organizers of the La Liga which is the Spanish top division and the strongest league in the world, sealed a five-year deal with the NPFL on capacity building and idea exchange signed by the LMC`s chairman, Shehu Dikko and the president of the La Liga Javier Tebas. The partnership is already starting to work as during the January transfer window, Ezekiel Bassey who is an unknown young player from The Super Eagles, got loaned to Barcelona B from Enyimba (most decorated team in Nigeria) on a six-month deal with an option of 3-year extension depending on the player`s performance. Ezekiel Bassey was set to take the Spanish spell by storm, but it did not quite work out and right now he has signed a deal with Paykan, a team from Iranian top flight. Because of this connection between LPF and NPFL, the AllStars of the NPFL have been playing winter break friendlies with top-tier Spanish sides like Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Villareal and many others. As a result of this, NPFL gets to expose and test local players against top-level opposition.
The best global reputation the NPFL has received is a title of being the best league in Africa and the 24th best in the world, ranked by the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics). This placement was determined in 2012 and it that year, it even surpassed the Scottish Premier League which at that point was considered a very strong league between European competition. The team with the most titles won is Enyimba from the region of Aba, with 7 titles on their belt the last one joining the record in 2015 and the team is highly respected between African leagues and domestic competitions. Right now, NPFL is ranked 63rd strongest league in the world which puts the NPFL under some seriously weak football nations. The NPFL has dropped drastically, almost 40 positions in 6 years is a sign of a problem. Still, a lot of fans and pundits around the world and Africa consider it to be the strongest league in the continent but it is quite obvious – NPFL is in a huge slump right now and there are more competitive leagues in Africa.
The NPFL starts at the beginning of each year, January. Currently, the league is stuck at Matchday 32 as the league is postponed due to leadership crisis and it is leaving a huge impact on Nigerian football. It all started in May of 2016, when the founder of a rival faction in the Nigerian Football Federation, Chris Giwa, was banned from football-related activity worldwide by FIFA. Both NFF and FIFA banned Mr. Giwa and 4 other gentlemen for five years for impersonation and taking football matters to a civil court. These actions are considered as a breach in NFF statutes and in the FIFA code of ethics and it results in an instant ban. Chris Giwa insisted on losing his position in the NFF and refused to step down which resulted in FIFA threatening to ban Nigeria from international competition if Giwa did not step down. Obviously, that is completely unacceptable for Nigerian national football team as the team is showing loads of promise and potential and at the end of September, the NFF elected a new president to take Chris Giwa`s seat – Amaju Pinnick. The resumption of Nigeria`s top division is still postponed indefinitely although it was set to resume on 18th of July after taking a break while the World Cup 2018 took place. League Management Company followed up with a statement :
‘’The decision is based on the current adverse circumstances in the administration of football in the country as a result of which sponsors, partners, and service providers have expressed strong concerns and are reviewing their involvement in the league. Organizing matches of the NPFL under the current circumstances might cause irreversible damage to the League brand’’ The officials of LMC announced.
Giwa has insisted since August 2014 that he was elected NFF president in a disputed vote that was not recognized by FIFA. Giwa still is consistently putting up a legal challenge against Amaju Pinnick, whose NFF board`s tenure expires in 1 month.
It is still a mystery what comes up next for NPFL as there are 20 teams and hundreds of players waiting for something to happen. This situation blows a massive hole in the Nigerian football scene and it has left a mark worldwide.
As the shenanigans of leadership between Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa over who is the real NFF president resurrected again after Nigeria`s elimination from the 2018 World Cup, the faith of the league is yet to be resolved. Right now, Lobi Stars are leading the league table with 43 points after 24 games. The league should end next month and yet there are 14 match-days to go. It is obvious, that even if the league restarted today, it is still physically impossible to finish it in time. There are no updates about the date when the league could kick off again. Though, one thing is obvious – the league is not restarting any time soon. Nigerian and NPFL fans are hoping for some updates in September, after the NFF`s board`s decision on the presidency case.