Dolphins, Sunshine headline Nigerian Premier League kick-off
Posted: 7 January 2012 Time: 20:49
Champions Dolphins will host runners-up Sunshine Stars as Nigeria's Premier League kicks off for the 2011/2012 season on Saturday.
But the League gets underway the same way it ended; amid uncertainty and controversy, and with pending issues from last season still unresolved.
Up until Thursday, clubs were still in the dark as to whether or not the league would actually kick off following calls for a nationwide strike over the Federal Government's removal of petrol subsidy.
Finally, the NPL exco announced a compromise, moving all games to Saturday to allow teams time enough to play and return home before Monday, when the proposed strike is scheduled to begin.
All but one game that is, as Kaduna United's scheduled meeting with Jigawa Stars has been put off till the Kaduna club settle outstanding wage issues with their players and former coach.
Sunshine travel to Port Harcourt under a cloud. Accused by Lobi Stars of match fixing last season, the case remains unresolved, with the Organising and Disciplinary Committee yet to come to a decision on the case.
Sunshine boss Mike Idoko, whose club faced the prospect of relegation if found guilty, threatened to open a can of match-fixing worms. The threat appeared to have put the brakes on proceedings.
On the pitch, expectations of cracking games are somehow dampened by the condition clubs, especially visiting ones find themselves.
With barely a month between the end of the last season and the start of the current one, there has been little time to apply for, and receive state-sponsored funding.
Sharks, who go to Ibadan in hopes of exercising their usual hex on 3SC, only left Port Harcourt less than 24 hours to the game, and will arrive Ibadan on match day, with just hours to spare before kick-off.
Dolphins v Sunshine Stars (Liberation Stadium) Enugu Rangers v Warri Wolves (Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium) Kwara United v Ocean Boys (Ilorin Township Stadium) Wikki Tourists v Heartland (Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium) Enyimba v ABS FC (Enyimba Sports Stadium) Kano Pillars v Niger Tornadoes (Sani Abacha Stadium) 3SC v Sharks (Obafemi Awolowo Stadium) Rising Stars v Akwa United (Dipo Dina Stadium) Gombe United v Lobi Stars (Pantami Stadium)