By Paul Bassey
Last week end, the Nigeria Premier League for the 2012/2013 season kicked off, albeit unexpectedly.
I was one of those who did not believe the league will kick off on the 7th. After listening to my friend and colleague, Chief Executive Officer of Heartland Fan Ndubuoke bemoaning the fate of government owned clubs who cannot operate outside the state budget, I wondered where clubs were going to source the funds to start the league.
Chairman of newly promoted Akwa United, Isong Isang was to speak in the same vein. For him, the new and old players had not jelled. Also, all the players they were targeting and had contacted, the funds had not been released to pay transfer fees and other allowances.
Yes at the back of my mind was the determination of Chief Baribote who three weeks ago in Abuja had sworn to me that everything will be done to kick start the league as early as possible.
Ramson Baribote regretted the mix up involving the various calendars of FIFA, CAF and NFF that always ended up messing the domestic league and said he was determined to ensure the marriage of all the calendars so that the Nigeria Premier League does not end up the loser due to series of postponements that end up dragging the league into uncertainty as we witnessed last year.
Off to Bayelsa the NPL went, did the draws and declared that the league was going to start on January 7. A week to the kick off date the distractions afore mentioned reared their usual heads, sponsorship details had not been formalized, yet the league kicked off and successfully too.
Let me not forget the proposed nation wide strike that was also to affect the league, yet the NPL board put on their thinking caps and moved all the matches to Saturday to enable away teams and officials the opportunity of travelling back to their various destinations yesterday.
The successful kick off of the league gives me hope. Let me talk about the suspension of Kaduna United matches which is also commendable. But not for long. The league had to start on Saturday to enable us eliminate the bag log of matches. The Kaduna issue should be settled before the next round of matches.
I believe there will be some sponsorship monies accruing to clubs this year. A decision should be taken now to make sure that the dues of Kaduna United and indeed other dues should be utilized in the settlement of those debts.
The successful kick off of the league is a further demonstration of the capability and capacity of Nigeria and Nigerians. This is the league which in the midst of confusion still produced champion clubs in Africa, a league which when well organized will return to the nadir of African football.
The last time I felt this way was when Davidson Owumi took over the reins of the NPL and strived to put things in order including the playing of matches ONLY in television friendly pitches. Unfortunately board room wrangles and court distractions put paid to those dreams.
Now that we are starting afresh and positively too, I join millions of Nigerians to pray for the success of the league, that Stephen Keshi will rely on to build a foundation for our football.
I also pray that the strike that was expected to start today will be resolved by tomorrow to enable us witness the second round of the league, even this week end.
Well done NPL and God speed.
By the time I come your way again, by the grace of God I will be reaching you from Gabon where the Nations Cup will be kicking off next week, without Nigeria of course.
Time permitting, ( The functions of a General Coordinator in a Nations Cup are the most demanding as you are the one running a whole centre as the representative of the CAF General Secretary) I will try and update us with those happenings that will help to shape and develop our football back home.
See you next week.