Although it was difficult to recover the passion and excitement that characterized the Nigerian Professional Football League in the 90s when clubs like BCC Lions of Gboko, Iwuayanwu Nationale of Owerri, Stationary Stores of Lagos, Abiola Babes of Abeokuta, Kano Pillars, Ranchers Bees of Kaduna and Julius Berger of Lagos dominated, the interest of Nigerian football fans for the national league refused to die completely.
It is for this reason that despite glaring shortcomings in the organization of the league, enthusiastic football fans still flock to match sites to support their beloved clubs.
Clubs like Kano Pillars, Plateau United, Enyimba FC, Wikki Tourists, Heartland of Owerri and Kwara United still attract significant fans to their stadiums on match days, as attendance at match sites has dropped significantly compared to 90s.
Therefore, fans of these major clubs usually wait for Wednesdays for midweek action and Sundays for weekend football, as they hope to achieve resounding victories against opposing teams.
It was a routine for 25 weeks before the League Management Company (LMC) through the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) suspended the current league season on March 18 after the outbreak of the pandemic. COVID-19.
With the pandemic that ravaged the world, which necessitated the suspension of all sporting activities as well as the introduction and enforcement of restrictions, the minds of players, coaches, fans and even administrators was how to survive the deadly virus.
Thus, the need to dramatically change people's minds from depressing thoughts on COVID-19 and also to relaunch the economic recovery has intensified and the need for football leagues around the world to take over has become imperative .
According to the available figures, Germany has entered a recession and it is to date the first and only country to have used its league, the Bundesliga, to dissuade people from wallowing in fear, Uncertainty and depression.
Spain, Italy and England, which have recorded thousands of deaths from the virus, are also preparing to resume their leagues in the coming weeks in order to slowly revive the economy.
European football market now a record 28.4 billion euros (£ 25.1 billion, £ 12 billion), according to the 28th annual football finance review of Deloitte Sports Business Group .
Although it is unclear to what extent football in Nigeria contributes to the economy, it has however been a source of income for a large number of people and it is believed that if it resumes, the league can help restart the economy slowly and gradually.
With Nigeria registering far fewer deaths than Europe and the gradual easing of the lockout, some players want the league to restart while others believe the LMC should consider the health crisis a case of force majeure and cancel the season of the league.
Note that other African countries like Kenya and Angola have decided to end their championship campaigns but the NFF and LMC have chosen to wait while the government tries to contain the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.
In a conversation with Trust Sports, beefy Kano Pillars striker Nwagua Nyima said resumption of the league should be in accordance with federal and state government guidelines.
"My thoughts on resuming the league are still in line with the Department of Health and the federal government. I think that once they see that it is safe for us to play games, playing behind closed doors will be the best for us for now.
"The reason is that crowd control will be difficult, so I strongly support playing behind closed doors if the league is to resume amidst COVID-19 chaos," he said.
Nyima also advised the LMC to be patient in case it considers canceling the league and declaring a champion.
"Regarding the cancellation or proclamation of a champion, I still think it will be too quick given the narrow gap between leaders and those who support them.
"I would always prefer the LMC to be patient and continue to look for ways to continue the league," he said.
In the same vein, Enyimba winger Thomas Zenke supported calls for the resumption of the league by declaring that he wanted to return to what he likes best.
"I do not and will not argue that the LMC cancels the league and declares a champion. I want to be able to play football and see how my club can climb on the table.
“You know that we have exceptional matches and it is very possible for us to overtake those who are waiting for us. So if the LMC cancels the league, it will be an injustice for us because we have exceptional games, "he said.
Chris Okunnuwa, Sunshine Stars media manager, wants the league to be concluded, if possible behind closed doors.
He said: "I am in favor of the resumption of the league and that it be played behind closed doors. The league must resume in camera or the format of the continental playoffs / relegation must be adopted.
Abia Warriors sports director Patrick Ngwaogu also said that his club was still ready to play football, but that they were awaiting the final decisions.
"Abia Warriors has never had fears about the resumption of the League and in whatever format they want it to be played. We are all listening to whatever the organizers would like to do, "he said.
Ngwaogu, however, acknowledged that the LMC cannot restart the league without the express approval of the government.
"It is very evident that the LMC has no power over when the league will restart, and we do not even know when. Before that, the federal government will have to give its authorization, and nobody knows when it will be. But it is only when you get to the river that you will be able to cross it, "he said.
However, Adamawa United President Emmanuel Zira said the LMC should not be playing with the lives of players and club officials when reopening the league.
“I want all stakeholders to prevail on LMC so as not to reopen the league as they will expose everyone to serious risks. It is too early to rush.
"The German Bundesliga has picked up because it will lose so much money if it doesn't pick up. The English Premier League and La Liga are also planning to resume as they will lose sponsor money.
“Our case is different. We don't have to risk precious lives because we want to do what others do, "he said.
Wikki Tourist striker Nafiu Kabuga also supported outright cancellation of the league season.
“For me, I would prefer that the LMC cancels the league and declares a champion. Before being misunderstood, my club is no longer in relegation waters, so I am not selfish, "he explained.
Kabuga is not alone because he has the support of the captain of the Plateau United, Elisha Golbe who does not want the league to resume now.
"I am not in favor of the resumption of the league for now because they said that health is wealth, and that only healthy people can play football. And when you look at it with a critical eye, the pandemic is increasing daily in Nigeria.
"For this we cannot risk our lives on the playing field. In addition, many countries in Europe and Africa have declared winners without finishing the league. Ours cannot be different, ”he said.
Contacted, the president of Nasarawa United and the president of the NPFL Club Owners Association, lawyer Isaac Danladi, simply stated that the clubs, as essential stakeholders, would cooperate with the LMC if necessary.
He however refused to go into details of the cooperation and support that the clubs are ready to offer to the organizers of the league for the resumption or cancellation of the league.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) has declared that football activities will not resume until the government gives its approval.
"The NFF will liaise with the leaders of the various leagues (Nigeria Professional Football League; Nigeria National League; Nigeria Women Football League and; Nigeria Nation-wide League One) and other important stakeholders on the return to the season national football, subject to an announcement by the federal government on the resumption of football and other sports activities in the country, "said the football federation in a recent press release.
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