This season has been a bad campaign for Nigerians in African-wide competitions. First-placed Akwa United and second-placed Rivers United bounced out off the CAF Champions League in the qualifying round. Although this is an egregious fact by itself, more facts show how the NPFL is losing its status as an elite league.
In the Confederations Cup, Bayelsa United have been eliminated. It is shocking that only one Nigerian club, Enyimba, stands a chance of advancing to the Confederations Cup.
They will have to face Libyan club Al-Hilal and their spot in their group stage isn’t entirely secured, as their 2-0 lead will be tested in December.
This means that the NPFL could be going into a new era of mediocrity. Could this mean that Nigerian clubs are getting worse?
Is the NPFL getting less money than it should? How can Nigerian clubs rebound from this already-embarrassing campaign?
As the NPFL falls behind its contemporaries both financially and quality-wise, the NPFL will be forced to search for a way to regain its edge.
What the NFF Can Do
Unfortunately, as is the answer to most problems, the NPFL will need to invest a lot of time and money to make their clubs champions again. One way to get the money is by attracting attention.
We all know of Mo Salah, Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo. They are some of Europe’s best, and they are known because of how European leagues push deals and market competitions.
Yet do we know of Silas Nwankwo and Charles Atshimene, who were the 2020-21 NPFL top goalscorers? Most probably will not.
Part of this is because of the difference of quality between Europe and the NPFL, but most of this is how the NFF brands their native league.
Godspower Anefiok Shares His Opinion
Akwa United midfielder Godspower Anefiok has also given some insight on what the NPFL is doing wrong. When asked what separates North Africa from Nigeria by PremiumTimesNigeria, here is what he had to say.
“The clubs there are owned by private businesses. But here in Nigeria, clubs are owned by the government, and we know that governments run on budgets.”
“For instance, in a season they will tell you, ‘Okay, we are budgeting N20 million. That is what we are going to give you to run the league’, but there they don’t do it that way.”
“There, they see it as a business. They buy good players from other countries, other places, and other clubs, bring them together and pay good money.”
And they pay in dollars. So you can’t compare there and here in Nigeria. But we are still trying.
“At least now, it is better than five to six years back. Because in 2013 when I played with Akwa United, I saw some players earning N70,000 every month or N60,000.”
“But now, we see players earning N600-700,000. They are improving and I think with time, everything will be okay.”
Only 4.8% of NPFL players are not from Nigeria. That number will need to go higher. With players not just from Nigeria but from all over the world, the NPFL will appeal to a much larger market than their domestic fanbase.
With a larger market and better branding, the NPFL will get a larger profit and invest in ways to get their clubs back to the cream of the crop.
The NPFL Should Look At The EPL
The NPFL can learn a lot of lessons from the FA’s transition from the Football League 1 to the current-day Premier League and how it gained popularity worldwide.
The Premier League is inclusive, appealing, and marketable. For its clubs to succeed, the NPFL will need to become all of that. As Nigerian players suffer from the NPFL’s current status, pressure mounts on the NFF to make a change.