Fisayo Dairo

The best four teams in the 2015/16 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season will converge on the ancient city of Enugu, starting today December 7 through Sunday, December 11 for the 2016/17 pre-season tournament tagged the NPFL Super4.

Last season, the tournament held over the two legs in Kaduna and Uyo with Akwa United emerging the champions.

Assuredly, the best of Nigerian football artistry will be on display at “The Cathedral”, the famous home ground of reigning NPFL Champions, Rangers International. Quite befitting that the tournament holds at the end of what has been a historic year for the city of Enugu and lovers of the Flying Antelopes who ended a 32-year wait for a league crown in exquisite fashion back in early October.

The nation’s best four teams and continental representatives in next year’s CAF competitions (Rangers, Rivers United, Wikki Tourists and FC Ifeanyiubah) are using the tournament to kick-start their preparations for the new season and the commencement of a new league season.

Two of the four teams that will be on parade in Enugu have had managerial changes ahead of the new season – Wikki Tourists and FC Ifeanyiubah are now handled by Mohammed Baba Ganaru and Japanese Takeshi Nakamura – while last season’s top two sides Rangers and Rivers United have stuck with their Rivers State-born tacticians Imama Amapakabo and Stanley Eguma respectively.

The average Nigerian football fan can expect nothing but the best of football contest during this five-day competition which features four teams that have evolved with some of the best playing philosophies in the NPFL.

Rangers’ high octane passing and off-the-ball movement confounded their opponents as they steamrolled into the championship last term while Rivers United had an impeccable home run which was characterized by some of the best footballing stuffs that Port Harcourt used to be known for.

Wikki Tourists might have lost their erstwhile coach, Abdu Maikaba to Akwa United but Maikaba’s former boss, Baba Ganaru is more than capable to step up from where his predecessor stopped.
For Federation Cup champions, FC Ifeanyiubah, their array of foreign imports often treated league fans to some scintillating stuffs last season and the Super Four should avail new coach, Kenichi Yatsuhashi the chance to show all what his own philosophy is all about.

This year’s Super4 is expected to be a departure from what we have had in recent years in the sense that participating teams who hitherto always use the tournament as their first phase of preparation, have been engaged in different tournaments in different stages of their pre-season thus far.
Ranging from the Gold Cup in Ogun State, South West, North East Cup in Gombe State, North East, to Shehu Dikko Cup in Kaduna State, Northwest, NPFL teams have engaged themselves in very competitive pre-season tournaments.

Three of the Super4 campaigners (Rangers, Rivers United and Wikki Tourists) have featured in one or more of the aforementioned competitions and so are expected to be in a top shape physically and mentally. The tournament comes at a stage where the coaches already have a definite way of how their teams will look like in the next season which will make for an informed viewing.

It has been announced that all games in this edition of Super Four will be played under floodlights in the hours of 1700 and 1900, West African time. This should continue the renewed tradition of giving families, civil servants and artisans a chance of being part of the beautiful game in wonderful atmospheres.
It has been wondered why a lot has been said about the electric European nights at Anfield, Old Trafford and some other European cities until fans began to witness the difference between afternoon football and night football in Enugu during the last league season.

It is not just the colour nor the fireworks and flames from the fans that make night football (especially in Enugu) special, but there is something extraordinary about the all round mood of the players, coaches, spectators and even the TV broadcasters. A great experience awaits.