The 2013/14 league season was expected to go down to the wire but with the award of three points & goals to the Peoples Elephant against Pillars, it looks like an anti-climax
By Kolade Oni
The picture since the beginning of the season had given many football purists the notion that the fight for the league shield would be a four horse race after Enyimba, Bayelsa United, El Kanemi Warriors and Kano Pillars all took their turns at the summit of the Nigeria Professional Football League(NPFL).
The Aba Millionaires, The Restoration Boys and Sai Masu were the top three contenders because they have stayed longer at the summit of the NPFL than any of the other clubs save for Heartland and El Kanemi who only assumed the same position for momentary periods.
Enyimba would clinch a record seventh title and their first league trophy since 2010 if the ruling of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF)'s Organising and Disciplinary(O&D) sees the light of day while reigning league winners, Pillars could even kiss continental competition goodbye for the first time in the three years according to the permutations conducted by Goal.
It will be a remarkable year for new coach Salisu Yusuf and former African champions Enyimba who have failed to play in continental club competitions for the past two years.
Enyimba's title quest was given a landmark boost after the NFF's O&D awarded them three points, three goals for a botched match day 31 tie against Kano Pillars at the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano.
The Peoples Elephant now become the hot favourites to win the 2012/13 league as the teams have two home and away games left to play before this season runs to an end.
Enyimba have 58 points currently to set the pace at the top of the NPFL log and they may end the season with 64 or 65 points which is enough to land them their record setting seventh league title and a league and cup double irrespective of results gotten by other leading contenders.
Enyimba had earlier beaten Warri Wolves to win the Federation Cup on September 15 in Lagos.
On Wednesday, The Peoples' Elephant will face relegation-haunted 3SC in Ibadan before a visit to Akure to tackle Sunshine Stars in their remaining fixtures while they will square up with ABS and Sharks at home which they are expected to win comfortably.
It is assumed that the Aba giants would pick a point off inconsistent Oluyole Warriors but will lose to the Akure Gunners in Akure which means they will end up with 65 points. 64 points could even still be enough to win the league title if they lose both matches in Ibadan and Akure respectively.
Premier league returnees Bayelsa United are currently second with 55 points and are poised to win their remaining home league matches against Warri Wolves and Kwara United but may struggle at away ties to Kaduna United and Gombe United who may want to consolidate on their near home invincibility having failed to grab a point on the road all season.
That means that the Restoration Boys could end the season with 61 points and get second spot as well as a ticket to the 2014 CAF Champions League in their first year of staging a return to the top flight.
El Kanemi have kept a place in the top four for the most part of the second stanza of the league and they will be thrilled to book a spot in next year's CAF Confederation Cup on their return to the elite division.
The Maiduguri side are third currently on the log with 54 points and are poised to end the season with at least 60 points based on their impressive results at the El Kanemi Stadium and some exceptional results at away games. They play Dolphins and Lobi Stars who are expected to fall in Maiduguri in their remaining home matches.
They visit troubled Heartland and Rangers and with the recent poor form of the Naze Millionaires having drawn their last two home matches, El Kanemi could even get a point from those two trips which would give them 61 points.
Defending champions Pillars seem to have been badly turned to shreds from the outcome of the O&D’s ruling because they have not only lost their bid to retain the league title, they may have also lost the opportunity to return to the continent for a fourth year. They have 54 points with inferior goals difference to those in the top three.
Sai Masu have two 'home' games against Kwara United and Dolphins which they would play away from Sani Abacha Stadium in Lokoja after they were banished from their home till the end of the season.
If they even beat both clubs at 'home' they will have their work cut out for them against Gombe United and Lobi Stars which they play away. Both their away foes are dogged by relegation worries and may not want to trade away maximum points and put their elite division candidacy in jeopardy.
With the above arithmetic, Pillars should finish the season with 60 points and may only finish in fourth behind Enyimba, Bayelsa United and El Kanemi Warriors.
As Enyimba prepare to be crowned kings of Nigerian football again, it’s unfortunate that their rivals have seen their sails punctured due to the points won in the boardroom. A fact that has deflated the expected exciting finish to the league this season.