This weekend, Curtains will fall on the 2016/2017 season of the Nigeria Professional Football League with Plateau United and Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries, MFM, FC of Lagos going for their first NPFL title.
Unlike the English Premier League season that produced Chelsea as winners with some matches to play, the winner of the NPFL will be decided on the final day. Call this photo-finish and you won’t be wrong.
Consequently all eyes will be at two centres, the Rwang Pam stadium Jos and the El-Kanemi Warriors stadium in Maiduguri where the two title contenders will be making last ditch effort for the title.
While league leaders Plateau United on 63 points will play host to out-going champions Enugu Rangers in Jos, MFM with 62 points will be guests of El-kanemi Warriors in Maiduguri.
Plateau United who have been leaders for most part of the season must win against Rangers to realise their dream in front of their teeming fans.
A draw will still see Plateau United emerging champions, if MFM lose or draw against El-kanemi Warriors. And Plateau United will still end as champions, if they lose and MFM also lose in Maiduguri.
However, if Plateau United draw at home and MFM win against El-Kanemi Warriors, the title will go the way of the ‘Olukoya boys’ of Lagos.
So if MFM win in Maiduguri, Plateau United must respond with a win in Jos before they will smile home with the coveted trophy.
Captain of Plateau United Elisha Golbe has said they won’t toy with the life time opportunity to win their first league title.
He assured that they will do everything to lift the title before their teeming supporters who have waited for so long for such a moment.
“We are not going to put too much pressure on ourselves but I want to say that we are not going to let this chance pass us by.
“We have waited for so long for such a moment and we shall do everything humanly possible to win the title.
“It is going to be a difficult task considering that we are facing the defending champions but to become the number one, we must be ready to beat the best.
“I urge our fans to be calm as we are not going to disappoint them. We won’t wait for the result of the match in Maiduguri. We shall do the job by ourselves,” he said.
Meanwhile, even as the fight for number one and two has become the exclusive reserve of Plateau United and MFM, the fight for the last continental ticket is still on between Enyimba FC and Akwa United.
However, the odds favour Enyimba who have their last home match against relegation threatened Katsina United even as their rivals Akwa United also face Lobi Stars in Uyo.
The advantage Enyimba have over Akwa United is the point they picked away against Rangers in Enugu on match day 37. The 1-1 draw ensured Enyimba leapfrogged Akwa United to the third place on 58 points leaving the ‘Promise Keepers’ in fourth place with 57 points.
As it is, a win for Enyimba against Katsina United will take them to 61 points while victory over Lobi Stars will leave Akwa United with 60 points one behind Enyimba.
However, if Enyimba end with a draw and Akwa United win, the ‘Promise Keepers’ will realise their continental ambition.
Unfortunately, the mood in the camp of Akwa United paints a gloomy picture as they appear to have already given up on their ambition of continental football next season.
They are still sulking over the 0-1 away loss against 3SC in Ibadan. There have been hues and cries over officiating which saw them losing on penalty.
At least a draw would have given them a glimmer of hope but as it is, all they can do is to pray for Enyimba to slip in Calabar against Katsina United.
Akwa United may be inspired by the battle cry coming from the camp of Katsina United who have vowed to ensure that Enyimba do not find the points on a platter of gold.
One of the most experienced players in Katsina United, Obinna Eleje has said they will give Enyimba a run for their money.
He said “We are not going to allow Enyimba get easy points. They need the points so badly but we shall make them work for any result they want against us.
“If they take anything for granted, they will pay dearly,” he said.
As the battle for the title and continental tickets signpost the final day fixtures, the final battles against relegation will also be staged in some of the match venues.
They may not appear to be in any serious danger but Niger Tornadoes may go down, if they fail to get the maximum points against 3SC in Lokoja. Even a draw will spell doom for them.
And defeat for 3SC will not help the ‘Oluyole Warriors’ survival struggle. They need to win to stand any chance of surviving relegation.
Fourth placed Wikki Tourists also must win away at Gombe United to avoid going down with Remo Stars, Gombe United and ABS. Although neighbours and the tendency to play an accord game is high, Wikki Tourists are not ready to take chances against Gombe United as they have tagged the match a do or die affair.
Wikki coach Bala Nyiku is confident of a win in Gombe just as one of his strikers Abubakar Lawal is urging his team mates to give everything to achieve a good result.
“We are condemned to win against Gombe United. Although they have dropped to the lower division, they would want to play for pride.
“There is an existing rivalry between us and anytime we meet, it is always a serious tussle.
“I am appealing to my team mates to remain focused. We have no choice but to win to stay in the topflight,” he pleaded.
Indications are strong that out of the four clubs that joined the NPFL last season, only Katsina United may retain their place in the top flight.
So all said and done, by the end of the week 38 matches, the teams to represent Nigeria in next year’s Continental competitions would emerge and the club to join Remo Stars, Gombe United and ABS in the NNL would be known.