The nation’s number one league is back! After weeks on break that seem like eternity, the 45th season of the league begins this weekend. It has been three months since Enyimba FC narrowly edged their way to a record seventh league title shrugging off the challenge of Warri Wolves and Sunshine Stars.
But come this Saturday and Sunday, it will be a clean slate again for all 20 teams in the league as a fresh 38 Match Day journey begins.
SoccerNet Nigeria brings you the latest updates and biggest news stories since the league went on break.
1. Dolphins FC are now to be called Rivers United Football Club.
After barely escaping relegation last season, the Port Harcourt side have opted for a name change and are now to be addressed as Rivers United Football Club. It is believed that the Rivers state government merged the former Dolphins with Sharks to form the new, united club.
The new logo of Rivers United bears the similitude of a dolphin and a shark, pointing to a merger of both Port Harcourt clubs with a number of Sharks players now signed on for the NPFL side.
2. Akwa United are the current Nigeria Professional Football League Charity Cup winners.
They are to be referred to as such as many times as Enyimba FC are called the league’s defending champions. During the end-of-season break, the Promise Keepers emerged winners of the 2016 tourney following a 4-3 penalty shoot out victory over the league champions Enyimba, thereby raising their league title prospects.
3. 2014/15 season was the best yet.
In terms of publicity, management, officiating, crowd control, and also money won by clubs in the league, the Nigeria Professional Football League had never had it so good.
The League Management Company gave out 150 million Naira in prize money, the highest ever in Nigeria’s league history. While relegated Bayelsa United earned the least in the league with 3m Naira, champions Enyimba FC carted home 30m Naira, the highest of any club in the league.
4. Three of last season’s five top goalscorers in the league have departed for greener pastures abroad.
PFC Levski Sofia have completed the signing of Tunde Adeniji from Sunshine Stars on a three-year deal. The former Owena Waves top star netted 16 goals and added another 5 assists in the Akure side’s failed bid to emerge as league champions.
Abia Warriors have also lost 19-goals hero Chisom Chikatara to Moroccan club Wydad Casablanca.
While 24-year-old Gbolahan Salami, winner of the Rashidi Yekini top scorer award last season with 17 goals for Warri Wolves, has moved to Finland to join Kuopion Palloseura on a year’s deal with an option of further one year extension.
5. Champions Enyimba FC have a new technical adviser.
Despite leading the People’s Elephants to a historic seventh league title last season, coach Kadiri Ikhana was deemed not good enough for the Aba giants and have since been replaced by Paul Aigbogun.
Lest you forget, coach Aigbogun led Warri Wolves’s failed pursuit of Enyimba FC last season but could only guide the Delta State club to a second place finish, sealing a CAF Champions League spot in the process.
6. Abia Warriors has a new head coach: Kennedy Boboye.
The former Sunshine Stars coach was the brain behind the Akure side’s unexpected charge for the league title last term and he was never going to be short of suitors. However, coach Kennedy Boboye decided to pitch his tent with the club that finished 10th last season.
On their part, Abia Warriors had to first part ways with Ladan Bosso before hiring Kennedy Boboye as manager.
Boboye’s first competitive assignment will be away to newly promoted Ikorodu United this weekend.
7. Globacom is no longer the official sponsor of the NPFL
The partnership agreement between next generation network, Globacom, and the League Management Company, in which the telecommunication outfit sponsored the Glo Premier League for over a decade, has officially ended.
Globacom spent over N8 billion to promote the Nigerian Premier League during the sponsorship period.
The League Management Company is however expected to unfold a new multi- sponsorship arrangement which will see different companies sponsoring the league through different platforms. It promises to be mind-blowing.
Tweeps, the hashtag #GloNPFL thus ceases to operate.
8. Veteran Victor Ezeji quits.
We’ve seen him score loads of goals, produce several beautiful moments and almost single-handedly drag teams to victories but after 2 decades of playing mostly in Nigeria’s top league, former Dolphins and Enyimba star Victor Ezeji has announced his retirement from football.
His name is easily one of the most recognizable in the league in recent years and his presence guaranteed goals, little wonder then that he has represented the top dogs including Sharks, Enyimba, Dolphins and Club Africain over the last 20 years.
We wish Victor Ezeji the very best as he embarks on the next chapter of his life.