The rumoured shift in start dates for the 2020-21 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season would be welcomed, Plateau United coach Abdu Maikaba has said, as no club is ready to kick off the new season this weekend.
Fixtures released by organisers the League Management Company last month proposed a 6 December kickoff date for the new season subject to government approval.
Unofficial reports, however, suggest the date will be moved back by a week to ostensibly give clubs more time to comply with licensing obligations.
Regardless of the reasons for moving the start of the league season, Maikaba whose side face Simba in the return leg of a CAF Champions League preliminary qualifier believes none of the country’s topflight clubs would have been ready, in football terms, to start on the proposed date.
The former Enyimba and Akwa United points to the impact on Nigerian footballers and club sides of an eventful year that saw the global sports calendar disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and Nigeria rocked by youth-led nationwide protests against police brutality and bad governance.
Maikaba’s Plateau United were top of the league and on course for only the second title in their history before the league was ended prematurely in March and a nationwide restriction on football which followed was only lifted in October – in the heat of the protests.
The sum total of the long period of inactivity and the aftermath of the #EndSars protests, Maikaba said, is that no club has been able to carry out proper preseason preparations.
“Actually, I don’t think any club in Nigeria is well prepared for the NPFL. Any club that tells you that is very ready, 100 percent ready for NPFL, I think is lying,” Maikaba told busybuddiesng.com.
“The truth is that we have so many problems in Nigeria, particularly the Covid-19, and you know how they refused to lift the ban, more especially on contact sports like football.
“And after that, the problems again of EndSars protests, you hardly see a team have all the stages of preseason which will prepare the team for the whole season.
‘I don’t think any team has been able to go through all the stages of preseason this time around. I don’t think there is one team to have completed all the stages.”
Maikaba, however, believes the quartet of the country’s representatives in CAF inter-club competitions – Enyimba, Rivers United, Kano Pillars and Plateau United – may be better placed than others for the new season, having had the opportunity to play competitive games prior to the kickoff of the domestic season.
Maikaba who won the AITEO Cup with Akwa United in 2017 says the headstart afforded the teams on the continent would “help us not in a small measure.”
“The truth is that [we have to ensure that] within the short period of time to make sure the team is ready, most especially for we that are playing in the continent and our games both home and away will really help us in getting ready to start the domestic season.
‘I believe it will help us not in a small measure.”