By Amaechi Agbo
Ahead of the 2017/2018 Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL new season, the League Management Company, LMC, handlers of the nation’s premier football league, on Sunday released the fixtures for the 2017/18 new season.
The draw which was held on Sunday in Kano served up several mouth watering clashes on matchday one.
The 2018 NPFL season will kick start on January 14, 2018.
According to the fixtures, there will be three midweek matches on match days 2, 4 and 5 while the mid-season break will be from April 30 to May 5 and a longer break for the FIFA World Cup from June 14 to July 15.
Resumption from the World Cup break will be on July 18 and this will be observed with matchday 25 which will be the first of another three mid-week matches in the second stanza of the league.
The other two mid-week fixtures will be on matchdays 27 and 29.
In the Week One fixtures, defending champions, Plateau United will welcome neighbours, Nasarawa United in what promises to be a cracker.
Other fixtures in the Week One see former back-to-back CAF Champions League winners, Enyimba FC playing guest to Lobbi stars while 2015/16 champions, Enugu Rangers will be on the road to face Akwa United. Last season’s runner up, MFM FC will be guest to Abia warriors as FC Ifeanyi Uba entertains new comers, Yobe Desert Stars. Another new comer, Heartland FC of Owerri will host Sunshine Stars of Akure, Kwara United hosts this year’s FA Cup finalists, Niger Tornadoes
Addressing stakeholders before the draw on Sunday, LMC chairman, Mallam Shehu Dikko called on the stakeholders to work together with the League management to make NPFL the best league in Africa and welcomed advice on how to move the league forward.
“We are here to plan for the next season, though 2017 was a busy one and we are here to correct our previous mistakes and improve on them”.
“I just came back from a CAF programme and most of the things we deliberated on are what we have been doing and that means we are on the right path. We want to work together so as to be the best league in Africa. We are the only league invited for the meeting and people outside Nigeria are seeing our great work and I am happy for their submissions about the NPFL.
“We thank you for your support. We have tested a lot if technologies during the 2017 NPFL Invitational Tournament and we are open to advise from individuals and corporate bodies,” the LMC boss said.
LMC’s Head of Special Projects, Harry Iwuala, said in a statement that the new season has been slated to kick off on January 14 and end on September 30.
The draw on Sunday is part of the activities heralding the commencement of the league. The LMC will conduct club licensing exercise in order to usher in the season’s opening matches on January 11.
There was induction and orientation workshop for the four newly-promoted NPFL clubs on December 14 and the LMC Pre-Annual General Meeting (AGM)/Consultative Meeting with NPFL clubs on December 16 in Kano where the pre-season tournament was held.
There were pre-season seminar and spot-checking on clubs compliance to licensing regulations, payment of players and officials salaries, status of facilities, et cetera.’’
It is also understood that the LMC has also fixed January 5 as the final date for submission of club licensing documentation by clubs participating in the league. The NPFL handler also set January 5 as the cut-off date for compliance with redemption and settlement of any outstanding payment of salaries arising from the 2016/2017 NPFL season to players and coaches.
Another highlight of our 2017/2018 calendar is on Jan. 8, when the LMC, as the First Instance Body (FIB), will issue the NFF Club Licensing Certificate to qualified clubs. These are the clubs which meet the criteria for participation in the 2017/2018 NPFL season.’
Above all, the 2017/2018 NPFL season will start at all designated venues on January 14.
NPFL 2017/18 matchday one fixtures:
Nasarawa United vs Plateau United; Heartland FC vs Sunshine Stars
Abia Warriors vs MFM FC; Wikki Tourist vs Go Round FC
Lobi Stars vs Enyimba Int’nal , Katsina United vs Kano Pillars
Kwara United vs Niger Tornadoes; FC Ifeanyi Ubah vs Yobe Desert Stars
Akwa United vs Rangers Int’l; Rivers United vs Elkanemi Warriors