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BY: OLATOYE OLAWALE

Enyimba FC of Aba
Thirty years ago, exactly on the 12th day of May, 1990, the Nigeria Professional Football league, NPFL was established.

Current lockdown, like most leagues across the world has been on hold, but it was on this day that Nigeria amateur elite players changed their names to professionals

Without any fanfare, such that heralded the first North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1969 and the J-League of Japan in 1993, professional league kicked off in Nigeria on May 12th, 1990

The pioneer clubs of the league were the now defunct Lagos ACB, BCC Lions, Bendel Insurance, Bendel United (now defunct) and Enyimba FC.

Others were Highlanders of Jos, Iwuanyanwu Nationale, (now Heartland FC) JIB, Kano Pillars, Obanta United (later VIP), Ranchers, Enugu Rangers and Stationery Stores.

After years of prolonged debates, the professional league finally kicked off with a Stationery Stores versus Iwuanyanwu Nationale opener at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos.

The Owerri-based Iwuanyanwu, now renamed Heartland, dictated and controlled the pace of the away tie, winning 2-1. They kept their form and the pace until the season ended, winning the maiden edition of the championship.


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Apart from Iwuanyanwu winning the inaugural match of the professional league, two other clubs also had away wins in their first outings. Enugu Rangers beat their traditional rivals; Shooting Stars 1-0 in Ibadan, while JIB Rocks (later renamed Plateau United) won their first away game, 3-0 against Obanta United (later renamed VIP of Lagos) in Ijebu-Ode.

To make the league higher and make teams have appetite for goals, a new point-scoring device was adopted. Traditionally drawn games attracted just a point.

But the then NFA awarded two points for score draws and one for goalless draw games. The point-scoring device was in use from 1990 season to 1994. Three points are however awarded for won games.

Across ages, Enyimba have been the most successful, winning the professional league eight times. They are followed by the crowd-pulling Kano Pillars who won four times, while Shooting Stars, Heartland and Lobi Stars have each won twice.

League Management Company became the legal League body incorporated in November, 2012, by the Nigeria Football Federation to take over the nearly-collapsed Nigeria Premier League.

The first step the LMC took was to rebrand the League name, from the Nigerian Premier League to the Nigerian Professional Football League, (NPFL).

In 2012, the Nigeria Professional League had its best ranking as the topmost in Africa and the 24th in the world. The ranking was by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics.

In 2015, the League Management Company solicited financial support from the Government in order to "upgrade of existing grounds and provision of required broadcast equipment and facilities in the stadiums”.


Past Champions since 1990:

1990: Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Owerri)
1991: Julius Berger (Lagos)
1992: Stationery Stores (Lagos)
1993: Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Owerri)
1994: BCC Lions (Gboko)
1995: 3SC Shooting Stars (Ibadan)
1996: Udoji United (Awka)
1997: Eagle Cement (Port Harcourt)
1998: 3SC Shooting Stars (Ibadan)
1999: Lobi Stars (Makurdi)
2000: Julius Berger (Lagos)
2001: Enyimba (Aba)
2002: Enyimba (Aba)
2003: Enyimba (Aba)
2004: Dolphin (Port Harcourt)
2005: Enyimba (Aba)
2006: Ocean Boys (Brass)
2007: Enyimba (Aba)
2008: Kano Pillars (Kano)
2009: Bayelsa United (Yenegoa)
2010: Enyimba (Aba)
2011: Dolphin (Port Harcourt)
2012: Kano Pillars (Kano)
2013: Kano Pillars (Kano)
2014: Kano Pillars (Kano)
2015: Enyimba (Aba)
2016: Rangers International (Enugu)
2017: Plateau United (Jos)
2018: Lobi Stars (Makurdi) suspended after 24 rounds of games
2019: Enyimba (Aba)
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