The Nigeria Professional Football League kicks off finally on November 3, 2019, and since we insist on this, there are rules that must be followed to ensure we get the best of it.
As the new watchdog of Nigerian domestic football, the clubs and league can be sure that they will be called out if any of these rules are broken.
I took the time to draft these. Some may seem similar, but the rules are the rules, seven of them to ensure a good season, under the circumstances.
Fans must behave themselves
In the last two seasons, there was crowd trouble on Match Day 1. The home fans thought they should have won and when they did not, “hand touch the referee” and the game did not end well.
We watch football in Europe every other day and we are happy when our favourite clubs win away from home. The home fans in those games were also not happy that their teams did not win, but we never saw them run into the pitch to beat up the referees. We know football is an emotional game but fans must also be able to control themselves.
Clubs must be media-friendly
At least two-thirds of clubs in the Nigeria Professional Football League are not media-friendly. For them, acquiring a media officer is just something they must do to fill in a quota. So it is either, the media officer has no clue regarding how the job should be done or he is not given any incentive to do the job.
Rivers United, Abia Warriors, Akwa United (in no particular order) are currently, in my view, the top clubs as regards the media. Information is very vital and without information, these clubs may just be islands.
And talking about media, there is the small matter of team sheets.
Team sheets are usually supposed to be released to the league at least ninety minutes to kick-off and to the media one hour to when the game starts.
While some club media officers release their team sheets five hours to kick-off (I do not think this is right), there is a particular club in the east that will not let their team sheet out to journalists until about fifteen minutes to kick off.
If you insist on having it earlier than that, you are given a team sheet that has names of players who did not even dress for the game.
A team sheet is a team sheet. Without team sheets, the pre-match hype/ debates concerning games will be limited. Let us be guided.
We are tired of being robbed
Club coaches should just accept they have lost a game, tell us how they hope to improve in the next game and move on.
We are tired of hearing that we were robbed every time we lose a game on the road. Not every 88th-minute penalty to the home team is a wrong call. It seems the default post-match comment by the away coach in the Nigerian league is that they robbed his team, the goal was offside, the penalty was manufactured by the referee and that the boys did not play to instructions.
Can our coaches do it differently this time?
Coaches should be more articulate
Please do not speak in Queen’s English and do not even speak like Professor Wole Soyinka, just tell us what you did to win the game, or what the deficiencies were that made you lose the game.
We are tired of hearing that it was God that helped you win the game. We are also tired of hearing that you and the boys prayed and then you got victory. O boy we are sick and tired of being sick and tired of hearing that you told you boys that you have never lost at this ground before so they should not go and disgrace you.
Did you actually coach the team? Did you have a tactic, a shape, a plan? Tell us about it. How did the opponents try to counter your tactics, and how did you adjust to win the game? That is what we want to hear and not that you prayed to God and he helped you.
There are no enemy journalists
This one is for club officials who incite fans to harass journalists they term as enemy journalists.
No journalist hates your club. Even if there is a particular one that only writes negatives about your club, you probably gave him the ammunition. He writes what he sees. If your club has no meaningful tactics, then deal with you coach and not the journalist. If your club no longer has fans coming to watch games, then woo the fans back because it is not the fault of the journalist.
If a journalist is seen with officials of the visiting team, it also does not mean the person is working against your team. This is 2019 for goodness sake.
The pitches must be top-notch
It is actually a shame that in 2019, Nigerian football has not been able to achieve the basic, which is a pitch to play league matches on.
When action resumes, we will see a lot of funny things that the home clubs will call pitches. I will not call out any pitch before I am labelled the enemy, but we will see the pictures any time soon. If we cannot have pitches to play on then there is no need thinking that we are playing football.
Clubs should invest in Youtube and Instagram
Since there is no regular television to broadcast live games then the clubs must make life easy for us. This is just a quick fix measure, but nothing stops the clubs from showing us highlights of games on you-tube channels and Instagram handles of the clubs. That way we at least get a chance to know what happens at the venues.
In the last couple of seasons, only Akwa United have done that consistently and I hope they continue with it this season. Other nineteen clubs must copy this until the league gets a broadcast rights deal.
There are more rules to having a successful season, but I will stop here. A lot of people have lost interest in the League and since nature abhors a vacuum, are not hooked on European Leagues.
However, the report from the centres will determine if folks would give the league another try or remain where there in Europe.
These are the rules. Lets us keep them.