Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Friday Night Football: A milestone for Nigerian Football by AMOS ETUK

When Akwa United hosted Nassarawa United on Friday night at Nest of Champions, Uyo
Friday, September 25,2015 was a milestone in Nigerian football as the League Management Company, the body responsible for organising the football league in the country began the Friday Nights Football in the league in line with the concept of what obtains in European leagues especially in the German Bundesliga.
It was a night of history as passionate football followers in the country looked up to the maiden fixture which was a week 31 encounter between Akwa United versus Nassarawa United and the match lived up to its billings as the continent stayed glued to Africa’s emerging league add another feather to her numerous achievements.

    The League Management Company has shown that the innovations introduced so far have helped propel the league to an enviable status on the continent and with the influx of players from other Countries especially from West Africa, the path to a money spinning platform is beckoning.
Today, the League Management Company has ensured that the welfare of players in the league is consistent with a minimum bench mark for players salaries, sanctions against clubs that fail to fulfil contract obligations, better renumeration for match officials,  decrease in hooliganism, better football pitches and wider coverage on television and the consistent sponsorship has been a major success story for the league today.
This was one encounter yours sincerely was not willing to miss as the pre-event hype was abuzz especially when you consider that our darling side Akwa united was going to write her name in gold as being the first set of teams to write history on this platform.
It was a moment were history was shared with style , a night were the continent focused on Akwa Ibom State especially on the Nest of Champions which is gradually becoming a focal destination for great football.
It was another milestone as this history has come under the administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel who has given much support to sports development since he came on board as Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State.
It was another opportunity to show Africa our biggest sporting infrastructure, the Nest of Champions that this edifice remains our pride and glory and that Akwa Ibom State is ready for the world as the game was also carried live on cable television.
It was a game where all the big wigs of Nigerian Football including Shehu Dikko, the Chief Operating Officer of the League Management Company stormed Uyo to witness this novel concept that has been warmly embraced by soccer fans.
It was a cold night as the weather was very friendly and the atmosphere was electric in the stadium which had close to fifteen thousand fans in the arena, another record in present Nigerian league attendance as the fans who thronged to watch the game definitely left happy at the growth of football in the country.
    It was one of those beautiful days where Akwa United played one of her best matches fans have watched all season as two very spectacular goals in each half made the difference as the record books have indicated this darling side as the first team to host and win a Friday Night Football fixture in the Nigerian League.
This victory comes barely two days after the launch of a spiritual re-birth in the state as the people have been urged to rise and be counted and the quick response of Akwa United with that emphatic victory sends a signal that the belief of the people can make new dynamics of victory certain for the team.
It was one night that will be cherished as the fans kept blowing their trumpets late into the night dancing to the tunes of victory as every focus remains with making another history when the 2015 Federation Cup final will be played.
One of the greatest advantages of Friday night Football in the country is that it will give the league a wider opportunity for television coverage over the weekend with many matches being played, exposure to games under flood light with the special effects and a great opportunity to ensure that existing facilities in most stadia that cannot host night matches to upgrade their facilities to meet the new set standards.
It also gives the league a wider appeal with regards to television aesthetics as sponsors are bound to emerge to be part of the history of identifying with the total package even though a renowned tele- communications giant has taken monopoly at the moment.
It also gives our home grown players the opportunity to have a firsthand experience of the feel of night games as it would be a strong platform for them when they go to Europe for greener pastures.
    One of the most interesting aspects of the new league in Nigeria is the approach towards professionalism in the management of project and this brings a new identity and experience to the players who in turn will play for history and if this is sustained, then definitely a new set target would have been successfully achieved in our football history.
What we witnessed last Friday was one of the best matches displayed by the two sides as their display was a big export for Nigerian football and we must encourage the organisers of the league for the concept and implementation even as the season is left with about seven matches but definitely the new season will witness a lot of excitement with the Friday Night Football series as fans would surely have the time to close from the businesses of the day and relax to a good game for most of the evening.
With every apparatus put in place and a stronger welfare package that would motivate players and management, the Nigeria Professional League is on course to giving their South African counterparts a better run for their money and a stronger packaging and we must support the glory of this success story that is gradually re-positioning our football.
Good enough, the CHAN tournament for the home based players is coming up and the skills displayed by both teams last Friday give a perfect window for national team coaches to identify good players for the national team as players will be aware that the country is watching the content of their skills on the pitch.
The Nigerian league is being re-defined and the concepts being introduced should be embraced as the action continues again this week from another centre and we sit back to savour this milestone. Kudos.

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