Date: November 3, 2019
Venue: Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba
It is exactly 201 days, today, since the last ball was kicked to signal the end of the regular season of NPFL 2018/2019 on May 16, 2019 or exactly 174 days since Enyimba were crowned Champions of the league after a vigorous Super-4 tournament in Lagos on June 12, 2019.
Amid thrills and frills, apprehension and wishful thoughts, the NPFL returns today, November 3, 2019.
Unlike the abridged 2018/2019 season which was divided into two groups, this year’s NPFL makes a return to the usual marathon format comprising 20 teams with each scheduled to be involved in 38 top flight matches.
As eight teams were relegated from the elite division last season, four more were promoted to it – Akwa Starlets (now known as Dakkada FC), Adamawa United, Jigawa GS and Warri Wolves.
While the onus understandably lies on the more financially muscular teams to wrestle the title away from Enyimba, the four newly promoted teams into the country’s top flight division will be hoping that they too can have a say.
On account of the postponement of matches involving Rangers and Enyimba due continental assignment, eight centres will have the pleasure of playing hosts to the opening matches of the NPFL.
One of such centres is one which is located on the western edge of the Niger River, Asaba, the Delta State capital, where the hosts, Delta Force, will be squaring up against the visitors, Dakkada FC, for the first time in the top flight.
These two sides last met in the country’s second tier in 2016.
Aniekeme Asuquo (now on the payroll of Akwa United) and Emmanuel Ayaya scored the goals in a 2-0 home win for Akwa Starlets at Ikot Ekpene Township Stadium – Aniekeme would later join Delta Force on loan at the end of that season.
Whereas a lot has changed at both sides, in terms of status, structure and personnel, the feeling, of making an early first good impression, remains mutual.
While Delta Force needed a last day 2-1 home win over Akwa United to retain their top flight status, Dakkada FC were not only classy in their 3-0 dispatch of Shooting Stars in the playoffs to gain a thoroughly deserved promotion into the big time, they also got the better of both Warri Wolves and Adamawa United to be crowned 2018/2019 NNL champions.
Today, with an unwelcome transfer ban hanging over their heads and with some of their star players having switched clubs, Delta Force will be hoping that what is left of their playing personnel can put early smiles on the faces of their fans. Christian Ekong who scored Delta Force’s first goal in the 2-1 Akwa United win last season has since joined the Promise Keepers while several others have also made similar cross-border moves.
Despite having an already good assemblage of players, Dakkada FC brought in some new players for their own fortification. The strength of the team has always been the high level of cohesion, unity and understanding among their players, who have played and stayed together for yonks now.
With a traveling Chairman, who attends all of the team’s matches and one who left indelible marks on the beautiful game in his heyday, Coach Aniedi Dickson, a Head Coach with cross-generational experience, Caleb Esu, a management team that boasts of time-tested retired but not tired legs and a youthful team comprising some of the best young legs in the business, Dakkada FC will truly fancy their chances.
Under the prairie afternoon son, amid the chants of a vociferous and baying crowd, under the control of vastly experienced FIFA-badged referees and in front of our eagle-eyed cameras, the feeling will truly be special.
Traveling Contingent (Dakkada FC)
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