Eunisell Boot as Catalyst for NPFL Growth

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Aikhoje Ojeikere

As the 2019/20 season draws closer, we review the most exciting innovation in the domestic topflight since the advent of professional football in Nigeria and its impact on players.

Conceived by the largest independent chemical company in the region and leading production solutions company in the marginal oil fields sector, Eunisell, in 2018, Eunisell Boot celebrates the Nigerian stars in the domestic topflight.

According to Eunisell Group Managing Director, Chika Ikenga, “Too often we lose sight of the importance of the domestic league and its players, opting instead to follow the European and UK Leagues for example.

“What we forget is that a significant percentage of those players are Nigerians who started their careers at home in the local league – and even more remarkable is that our young stars rise to the top here and abroad without having the benefit of local academies or sponsors in their formative years.”

Adding that: “It’s time we got behind our Nigerian League, Nigerian clubs and Nigerian players and recognize their incredible talent, the contribution they make to the game and their achievements.

“The prestigious trophy and value of the Eunisell Boot award will spur players into performing better we believe and we are indeed proud to be associated with our home grown stars.”

For Eunisell, it’s a chance to support the domestic topflight and challenge players to unleash their creativity.

2018:

There was excitement in the land when the initial Eunisell Boot announcement was made by Eunisell.

It came at a time players were on holidays as the league was already concluded.

To the players in the domestic top flight, it was a huge relief. Junior Lokosa, then with Kano Pillars, entered the history books as the inaugural winner of the Eunisell Boot.

At a time the league had to come to an abrupt end, Lokosa had registered 19 goals for his club.

Lokosa, who made his international debut for the Super Eagles in a pre-Russia 2018 World Cup friendly against Congo DR in Port-Harcourt, was decorated at an impressive ceremony, in Lagos.

Accompanied by his mother, Lokosa expressed gratitude to Eunisell.

“I am overwhelmed by Eunisell’s determination to change the status of Nigerian footballers and the game. Today, it is Junior Lokosa, tomorrow, it will be another player.

“Winning this award has boosted my profile,” he stated.

Interestingly, this came at a time Lokosa was searching for a new challenge overseas.

Trips to Denmark and China yielded no dividend for the youngster who was desirous of taking his career to the next level.

However, the search for a club abroad was cut short with the announcement of Lokosa as winner of Eunisell Boot.

Esperance Sportif, one of Africa’s biggest clubs and African champions, moved swiftly with an offer to beat other contenders.

In only his first season at Esperance, Lokosa won the Tunisian League and the Tunisian Super Cup.

2019:

The coronation of Junior Lokosa opened a new vista in the domestic topflight about the growing influence of the Eunisell Boot.

Awareness orchestrated by robust marketing communications strategies ensured a more interesting race amongst the goal scorers in the top flight.

Unlike the 2017/18 season which was cut short, the 2018/19 season turned out to be an abridged league with teams divided two groups.

This reduced number of matches played.

However, it didn’t stop the combatants from hugging the headlines.

For the first time since the introduction of the Eunisell Boot, two players: Mfon Udoh and Sunusi Ibrahim emerged joint-winners.

The duo scored 10 goals each for Akwa United and Nasarawa United, respectively.

It was a well celebrated decision to reward both players as Ibrahim was earlier announced winner.

Both players expressed gratitude to Eunisell after their coronation at a well-attended ceremony, in Lagos.

Ibrahim hugged the headlines as he was invited to the Under23 National Team and wasted no time by scoring his first goal during the second leg against Sudan which ended 5-0.

Recognition came for both players as they were invited to the national team, the Super Eagles, for qualifiers leading to the Championship of African Nations (CHAN) and the West African Football Union (WAFU Cup).

Football is well celebrated because of the financial incentives players receive.

The Eunisell Boot is much more than the trophy, but gives the players a chance to decide their fate.

With a cash incentive of N200,000 per goal scored, Eunisell became the first brand to reward players based on the number of goal scored per season since the introduction of professional football, in 1990.

In 2018, Lokosa received N3.8million for scoring 19 goals, while the duo of Udoh and Ibrahim earned N2million each for scoring 10 goals each.

Where Are They now? No sooner that Lokosa won in 2018, he got snapped up by Esperance Sportif of Tunisia. However, the joint winners of the 2019: Sunusi Ibrahim: Nasarawa United and Mfon Udoh of Akwa United are still very much around but certainly, foreign clubs have been knocking on their doors. It is just a matter of time for them too to join the foreign-based players.

Former Ghanaian International and Enyimba legend, Joetex Frimpong, believes the Eunisell Boot is the catalyst for the growth of the domestic topflight.

“The Eunisell Boot is massive motivation for success. I expect the race to be more competitive this term as players know what is ahead of them.

“Players should do more so that fans can look forward to the next match day,” he said.

Enugu Rangers supremo, Davidson Owumi, wants players to maximize the opportunity provided by the Eunisell Boot.

“I wish we have Eunisell during our time to give us money for goal scored. Eunisell Boot will raise the standard of the game,” he asserted.

Expect to see stunning goals as the strikers continue to perfect strategies ahead of the big kick off.

In no particular order, 10 contenders for Eunisell Boot 2020 are listed below.

Sunusi Ibrahim (Nasarawa United)

Mfon Udoh (Akwa United)

Nyima Nwagua (Kano Pillars)

Sikiru Alimi (Lobi Stars)

Bernard Ovoke (Plateau United)

Abdulrahman Bashiru (Enyimba)

Amos Ogbuagu (Abia Warriors)

Chisom Chikatara (Akwa United)

Abdulkareem Mumuni (Lobi Stars)

Ifeanyi George (Enugu Rangers)