Stars to watch in the Nigeria League, 2015

Christian Obiozor now plays for Kano Pillars

By Fisayo Dairo

The
commencement of the 2014/2015 Nigeria Professional Football League is upon us.
Yeah, starting from the weekend of 7th March (Ceteris Paribus), the best twenty
teams in the nation will lock horns with one another in what is expected to be
a battle of known foes and the relatively unknown.
This
piece would focus on the gladiators, yes the real gladiators that make us leave
our homes and offices for the stadiums. The PLAYERS!
It
is common knowledge that the league was robbed of some of the stars that lit it
up last term during the close season. Players like Emem Eduok, Peter
Ebimobowei, Osaguona Ighodaro and Gbolahan Salami (who only recently returned
to Warri Wolves) were the talking points last season and got rewarded with
sumptuous deals abroad.
The
questions then are: Are there more stars in the league to watch? Is there any player
that is worth my time, “N200 (about $1) and transportation???”
I
believe, yes! And to help you in wherever location you may find yourself during
the season, here is a selection of TEN (10) players that will make your viewing
experience worth the while.
1. Christian
Obiozor (Kano Pillars)
Christian
is unarguably the in-form player going to the new season. His integration into
the Kano Pillars squad since joining from Enugu Rangers in December has been
impeccable. His return of 5 goals in six competitive games in 2015 (5 Super
4-Invitational games and 1 Champions League qualifier) can only be bettered by
the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Good
in the air, can shoot comfortably with both feet and is good on the ball too,
this lanky striker is certainly one to watch and his ability to co-exist with a
fellow striker – as seen in Rangers last term – will give defenders sleepless
nights and football fans enjoyable moments.
Mfon Udoh

2. Mfon Udoh
(Enyimba)

Mfon
needs no introduction to any league follower. The well proclaimed league record
goal scorer found the back of the net 23 times in the league last term.
He
would also go on to deservedly win the Player of the Season gong at the League
Bloggers’ Award in December. Mfon joins Jude Aneke as one of the few top
scorers in the league to stay back the season after, even though he would have
loved to leave to Al Ahly Nationale in Egypt.
Though
I cannot precisely say how long this romance will last, we will enjoy it,
regardless.
If
class is indeed permanent, then all suggestions of him not living up to last
season’s standards can be laid aside as we catch a glimpse of this league
superstar once the season starts.
3. Oghenekaro
Etebo (Warri Wolves)
Oghenekaro Etebo

Etebo
is a truly gifted attacker that we can be proud of having in the league. An
excellent playmaker and dead ball specialist with a knack for goals. We were
unable to see much of him last season but was one of the top performers in
2013, hitting double figures and playing a pivotal role in Wolves’ run to the
2013 Federation Cup final.
This
season, his relevance to the Olympic Team has made it more certain for us to
have him fully concentrated to domestic football and his services will not only
be enjoyed by “Waffarians” alone but also every league follower.
4. Christian
Pyagbara (Dolphins)
Christian Pyagbara

If
there is anyone closer to filling the void created by the exit of one of the
stories for last season – Emem Eduok, it has to be the Rivers State born
Pyagbara. Dolphins pulled a surprise coup with the addition of this Flying
Eagles star. The upcoming season will only be his 3rd in the Glo Premier League
but he is already creating an image for defenders to be wary of.

He
scored 14 league goals last term in the colours of Sharks last term and his
move across town to Dolphins will definitely avail him more opportunity to
prove to doubters that he is here over the long haul.
The
highlight of his season last year was against Sunshine Stars in Port Harcourt
when he scored all four goals in the game.
5. Bobby Clement
(Enugu Rangers)
Bobby
is relatively new in the business as he is one of the revelations of last
season. He made his breakthrough in the second half of last season when he
scored six goals for Rangers’ oriental rivals, Heartland FC having made his
first start in Week 21.
For
a young striker, Clement’s tenacity is unbelievable as is his composure in
front of goal. He can also count himself lucky as he is set to continue his
development under Coach Kelechi Emeteole who has “carried him along”
to Enugu Rangers. Having lost the duo of Osaguona Ighodaro and Christian
Obiozor in the off season, fans of the Flying Antelopes can look up to Bobby
Clement for goals in his first full season in the league and trust me, he will
not disappoint.
6. Tamen Medrano
(Sunshine Stars)
Tamen Medrano

This
pint-sized Cameroonian is a joy to watch any day, any time not only in Akure
but anywhere across the country. I was able to watch him in three away games
last term and his acceptability in all the league venues is fascinating.
Nigerians love good football and this former Tiko United star is central to
Sunshine Stars’ free flowing brand of football.
This
will be his 5th full season in Sunshine Stars, nay the league which means he is
vastly experienced enough to lead the team in its ambitions. One things has not
changed since I first had a thorough look at him against Al Ahly in 2011: His
height and finesse. He’s as tall as Sergio Aguero and as enjoyable as Luka
Modric.
He
has also been named Best foreigner in the Nigerian League twice by the League
Bloggers Awards, in 2012 and 2014.
Be
sure to check him out.
7. Usman Mohammed
(FC Taraba)
Usman
is a central midfielder who blossomed in the colours of FC Taraba last season.
His consistent contributions combined with the likes of Olabisi Samuel, Olusola
Ajala and the defensive duo of Obinna Nwokolo and Emmanuel Njoku were crucial
in keeping Taraba up.
Usman’s
control of his team’s midfield with relative ease no matter the nature of the
pitch is superb while his ball retention skills and passing accuracy is top
notch to say the least.
Coach
Tony Ogharanduku has to be grateful if he’s able to keep this lad for another
season because he is an embodiment of character and leadership.
And
when next you see Enyimba’s Bobby Sokari, ask him why his playing time with the
Olympic Team has been limited. If he doesn’t mention Usman Mohammed in his
defense, Abeg! Don’t believe him.
8. Samson Gbadebo
(Lobi Stars)
In
his debut season in the Premier League last term, Gbadebo was one of the few shining
lights with troubled Nembe City.
It
was no surprise when Lobi Stars came calling during the mid-season break and
against all odds, he established himself as not only a regular in the team but
a favourite among Katsina-Ala fans. He racked up a couple of man of the match
awards in the team’s home games and can only grow to a greater extent under new
coach Justin Tenger.
At
a time when the league is desperately craving for young centre backs, Gbadebo
is gradually working his way up as one to dominate the league with his physical
presence and intelligence.
9. Junior Gata
(Kwara United)
The
Harmony Warriors are back in the elite division after what I termed an
unfortunate relegation in 2013. I am thrilled by the prospect of having the
effervescent fans of United taking over the social media and most importantly
the Kwara State Stadium in Ilorin once again.
One
of the stars that will surely dazzle is Junior Gata, a rising youngster who has
already been dubbed the new Ronaldo. Gata surely has enough room to operate as
a toddler with his pace and trickery down the flanks. The season seems to have
started quite early for Ilorin fans and they have seen a little bit of what
Gata will offer during the NNL Super Four decided between February 23 and 25.
10. Emmanuel Iwu
(Heartland)
Emmanuel
is one of the award winners at the last League Bloggers Award in Lagos. He is a
young, agile and athletic goalkeeper who is only into his second full season in
the league. The Taiye Academy (remember Kelechi Iheanacho) product who will be
remembered in Aba for keeping a clean sheet against Enyimba made up to ten
appearances for the Naze Millionaires last term despite the stiff competition
for places.
In
the new season, with Chinedu Udeh off to Abia Warriors, Iwu will most definitely
enjoy more playing time if he stays fit as he competes with an elder statesman
Ebele Obi (Mikel’s elder brother) for the team’s number one slot.
Many
more stars are here, many more stars will be birthed but do not wait to be told
the story like last season. Do not wait till they dazzle in the green and white
colours of our national teams. Be part of those that saw them first and I
assure you that you will get full value for your money.

ALOHA

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