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NFF Awards 2018: Team of the Year Nominees

18:32 SAST 2018/02/18
MFM vs. Plateau United
Goal examines the potential recipients for the best team in country for the previous year

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The inaugural edition of the Nigeria Football Federation Awards takes place in Lagos on Monday, with the aim of honouring the best of Nigeria's footballing talent at home and abroad.

In this feature, Goal assesses the nominees for the Team of the Year prize.

Which of this trio are your favourites to win the gong for their achievements during 2017?

Akwa United

After finishing 14th in the 2016 Nigeria Professional Football League season, the Promise Keepers aimed bigger and recruited Abdu Maikaba from Wikki Tourists, whom he had guided to the third the previous year.

Things didn’t start out well for the Uyo outfit, but they eventually found their feet with a fine crop of players that included Ifeanyi Ifeanyi, Alhassan Ibrahim, Musa Newman, Christian Pyagbara and others, all of whom bought into Maikaba’s possession-based philosophy.

United churned out a lot of impressive results and spent a large amount of time in third place before ceding the position to Enyimba on the penultimate game of the campaign.

The Promise Keepers were able to lift the Federation Cup, beating Niger Tornadoes on penalties in Lagos for a second cup title in as many years.

Maikaba was able to once again illustrate that with his tactics – which draw inspiration from Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, and the right players, he can achieve big and United fully deserve their nomination.

Mountain of Fire and Miracles FC

2016 was seen as a learning curve for the Olukoya Boys, as they were making their debut in the Nigerian top flight. They did impress early on, but could not hold steam for long and narrowly avoided relegation.

The Lagos-based team took things to a bigger level in 2017, improving on their gameplay which had entertained both faithfuls and neutrals alike, and made the Agege Stadium a fortress.

They dropped points only twice at home, and ultimately finished second, thus qualifying for the Caf Champions League.

A bulk of their brilliance was credited to 18-goal king Stephen Odey, who formed a solid partnership with Sikiru Olatunbosun – recipient of the CNN Goal of the Week award for his thunderbolt strike in MFM’s 2-1 win against Enugu Rangers on matchday eight, and diminutive midfield maestro Chukwuka Onuwa.

From relegation survivors to continental participants in the space of one year is certainly a big leap, and not many would have envisaged it. Without doubt, MFM are worthy of being in contention for the Team of the Year prize.

Plateau United

The story of the Peace Boys is truly inspiring.

They hadn't been in the NPFL for five years before promotion in 2016, and went onto finish an admirable eighth in that campaign.

Despite recruiting Kennedy Boboye, not many would have predicted the Jos outfit winning a maiden league title ahead of the likes of Enyimba, Kano Pillars and then-defending champions Enugu Rangers, but they did just that with a determined contingent of players that included Daniel Itodo, Emeka Umeh, Elisha Golbe, Joshua Obaje and a host of other talents.

Plateau were the most impressive team by a mile last term, going unbeaten at home, racking up the joint-most wins of any team - 19. They also claimed 13 points on the road, which was the most of any side, and have impressed already in the Caf Champions League so far this term.

So dominant were Boboye’s men that they handled the pressure effectively, and kept MFM FC at bay. That’s what worthy champions are made of, and it would be little surprise if they won the NFF award.