Plateau United players applaud fans for their support Photo: NPFL.ng

The thrills, eye-popping goals, effortless dribbles, emotions and hard tackles are set to light up pitches across Nigeria as the 2017/18 Nigeria Professional Football League season kicks off today (Saturday).

Profiling NPFL 2017/2018 Teams: Enyimba FC
Elisha Golbe lifts the title for Plateau United. All hail the champions/ LMC Media

Plateau United were crowned kings at the end of last season.

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The Peace Boys needed the last day of the season to emerge the 19th champions of Nigeria’s top-flight League.

They gathered 66 points after beating seven-time champions Rangers 2-0 at the Rwang Pam Stadium in Jos.

After 760 games last season, four teams were relegated to the Nigeria National League.

They were Shooting Stars, Remo stars, Gombe and ABS.

On the other hand, former champions Heartland; Yobe Desert Stars, Go Round and Kwara United were promoted to the elite League.

Let’s, in no particular order, go through the profiles of the 20 clubs for this season.

Enyimba

Nickname: The Peoples Elephant

Founded: 1976

No. of  Titles: 7 (Nigerian crowns), 2 Caf champions League titles; 4 Aiteo/FA Cup

Home Ground: Enyimba International Stadium, Aba, Abia State

Chairman: Felix Anyansi-Agwu

Key Players: Ikechukwu Ezenwa,  Fatau Dauda, Stanley Dimgba, Wasiu Alalade

Coach: Paul Aigbogun

Captain: Mfon Udoh

Facebook: @EnyimbaFC

Twitter: @enyimbafc

Website: www. enyimbafc.net

The Peoples Elephant are the most successful side in Nigeria and have produced some of Nigeria’s most influential stars in recent times.

Former Super Eagles goalkeepers Vincent Enyeama and Dele Aiyenugba, Yusuf Mohammed, and Onyekachi Okonkwo among others, were some of the finest stars to come out of the side.

The Aba side have snapped up Ghanaian midfielder Tofic Umar. In October, the former African champions signed Katsina United skipper Nasiru Sani on a two-year contract after a successful medical.

Perhaps, their most treasured signing is Super Eagles goalkeeper Ikechukwu Ezenwa, who joined the side from FC Ifeanyiubah.

Kwara United 

Profiling Teams Ahead NPFL 2017/2018 Season
They were relegated in 2015. Goal.com

Nickname: Harmony Boys

Founded: I997

Titles: Nil. (Best finish was 3rd in Super Four, 2006)

Home Ground: Kwara State Stadium

Capacity: 18, 000

Chairman: Prince Thompson Oladimeji

Captain: Dare Ojo

Key Players: Micheal Ohanu

Coach: John Obuh

Facebook: KwaraUnitedFC

Twitter: @KwaraUnitedFC

The Harmony Boys were relegated in 2015, and after three years, they are back to the zenith of Nigerian football.

They topped the Northern Conference of the Nigeria National League last season to return to the topflight with four games to spare.

Heartland FC

Heartland FC
Heartland FC. Twitter

Nickname: Naze Millionaires

Founded: 1976

Titles:  5

Home Ground: Dan Anyiam Stadium

Chairman: Goodfaith Etuemena

Coach: Ramson Madu

Facebook: @heartlandfc.ng

Twitter: @HeartlandFC_ng

The Owerri-based club were relegated for the first time in 2016, but regained top-flight status last year after topping the Southern Conference of the Nigeria National League.

One of the traditional teams in the country, the Naze Millionaires will rekindle their Oriental derbies against Enyimba and Rangers this term.

Plateau United

Pleateau United/Photo: LMC Media
Pleateau United/Photo: LMC Media

Nickname: The Peace Boys

Founded: 1975

Titles: 1

Home Ground:  Rwang Pam Stadium, Jos

Capacity: 15,000

Chairman: Yakubu Taddy

Captain: Elisa Golbe

Key Players: Moses Eneji, Tosin Omoyele

Coach: Kennedy Boboye

FacebookPlateau United FC

Twitter: @plateauutdfc

After their triumph last season, the Peace Boys will be in the running for the defence of their title.

Having retained some of the key men that aided their victorious outing last season, the Kennedy Boboye side have also acquired the services of Terna Suswam, Okiemute Odah,   King Osanga and Charles Henlon for the new campaign.

Abia Warriors

Abia Warriors line-up in game against Katsina United/Photo: LMC Media
Abia Warriors line-up in game against Katsina United/Photo: LMC Media

Nickname: Ochendo Babes

Founded: 2005

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Umuahia Township Stadium

Capacity: 5,000

Chairman: Emeka Inyama

Captain:  Austin Obaroakpo

Key Players: Stephen Eze, Nzube Anaezemba and Ifeanyi Nweke.

Coach:  Rafael Everton

Facebook: @abiawarriors

Twitter: @Abia Warriors

At the end of last season, the Ochendo Babes contracted Brazilian gaffer Rafael Everton to handled the side.

They will be aiming for a better outing this campaign if they are to come anywhere near their more illustrious rivals Enyimba.

Kano Pillars

Kano Pillars
Kano Pillars FC

Nickname: Masu Gida

Founded:  1990

Titles: 4

Home Ground: Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano

Capacity: 16,000

Chairman: Muhammad Tukur Babangida

Captain: Rabiu Ali

Key Players:  Rabiu Ali, Nazifi Yahaya, Gambo Mohammed

Facebook: Kano Pillars

Twitter: @pillarsfc

Website: Kano Pillars.com

Buoyed by the increased financial war chest after the State Government announced an increase in away match bonus, the former Nigeria champions will not be distracted by continental engagement this season.

They have also got new signings to challenge for the title.

MFM FC

MFM FC TEAM
MFM FC. Twitter

Nickname: Olukoya Boys

Founded: 2007

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Agege Township Stadium, Lagos.

Capacity: 5,000

Captain: Austin Opara

Key Players: Sikiru Olatunbosun, Chukwuka Onuwa, Femi Oladejo

New Signings: Wilfred Ammeh

Coach: Fidelis Ilechukwu

Facebook: MFM FC Lagos

Twitter: MFM FC Lagos

Website: Mountain Top FC

After finishing second in their second campaign in the elite League, the Olukoya Boys are a side other sides should be legitimately wary of.

And judging by the fact that they kept most of their key players from last season, the Lagos-based club seem prepared to continue from where they left off last season.

But with their participation in the Caf Champions League, Fidelis Ilechukwu knows he has a lot to think about.

Akwa United

Akwa United line-up in game against Rangers/Photo: LMC Media
Akwa United line-up in game against Rangers/Photo: LMC Media

Nickname: The Promise Keepers

Founded: 1996

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Nest of Champions, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state

Capacity: 30,000

Chairman: Paul Bassey

Captain: Ottobong Effiong

Key Players:  Musa Newman, Adeshina Gata

Coach: Abdu Maikaba

Facebook: Akwa United Football Club, Uyo

Twitter: Akwa United FC

Website akwaunitedfc.net

Akwa United may not have finished in the top three last season, but they had an amazing run after struggling in the early stages.

And with a brilliant gaffer in Abdu Maikaba, fans of the last season Federation Cup (now Aiteo Cup) winners have every right to be hopeful.

Go Round FC

 Go Round FC

Home Ground: Krisdera Stadium Omoku, Rivers State

Capacity: 1000

Chairman: Felix Obuah

Captain: Nelson Esor

Coach: Ngozi Elechi

Twitter: GoRound FC

Website goroundfc.com.ng

Go Round FC are one of the newcomers from the lower League, the Nigeria National League (NNL).

El Kanemi Warriors

El-Kanemi Warriors /Photo: LMC Media

Nickname: Borno Army

Founded: 1986

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: El Kanemi Stadium, Maiduguri

Capacity: 10,000

Chairman:  Mohammed Zanna

Captain: George Michael

Coach:  Imama Amapakabo

Facebook: El-Kanemi Warriors Football Club Maiduguri

Twitter: El-Kanemi Warriors 

The Maiduguri-based side, who finished in sixth spot last season under Ladan Bosso, will be hoping to rise higher this term, having secured the services of Imama Amapakabo, who guided Rangers to their first league title in 32 years two seasons ago.

Enugu Rangers

Rangers line-up in game against Akwa United in Enugu/Photo: LMC Media
Rangers line-up in game against Akwa United in Enugu/Photo: LMC Media

Nickname: Flying Antelopes

Founded: 1970
Titles: 7

Home Ground: Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu

Capacity: 22, 000

Chairman:  Festus Onu

Captain: Chibuzor Madu

New Signings: Femi Thomas, Nana Bonsu, Seidu Mutawakilu, Richard Jonathan, Ugonna Ayora

Coach: Gbenga Ogunbote

Facebook: Rangers F.C Enugu

Twitter: Rangers Int. FC

Website: RangersIntFC.com

After winning the title for the first time in more than three decades, the Flying Antelopes had a dismal run, by their standards, last season.

But with the arrival of coach Gbenga Ogunbote from rivals Enyimba, coupled with the signings of a mix of experienced and young players, the Enugu club are a side to watch out for this season.

Little wonder, their faithful have found their lost hope.

FC Ifeanyiubah

Nickname: Anambra Warriors

Founded: 2015

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Ifeanyi Ubah Stadium, Anambra

Chairman: Chukwuma D. Ubah

Captain: Wilson Elu

Key Players: Godwin Obaje

Coach: Ladan Bosso

Facebook: FC Ifeanyi Ubah

Twitter: FC Ifeanyi Ubah

Website:  fcifeanyiubah.com

FC Ifeanyiubah were another side that performed below expectation last season.

But they look promising this term with the hiring of former Abia Warriors and El-Kanemi Warriors head coach Ladan Bosso.

Katsina United

Nickname: Changi Boys

Founded: 1994

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Karkanda Stadium, Kastina

Capacity: 35,000

Chairman: Aminu Balele Kurfi

Captain: Nasiru Sani

Key Players: Tasiu Lawal, Musa Suleiman, Destiny Ashadi

Coach: Abdullahi Biffo

Facebook: Katsina United FC

Twitter: Katsina United FC

Website:  katsinautdfc.com

Erstwhile head coach of Abia Warriors Abdullahi Biffo has since joined the Chanji Boys, who narrowly escaped relegation last term.

His basic task is to keep the club in the NPFL, and with his experience in the League, one expects him to fulfill it.

Lobi Stars

Nickname: Ortom Boys

Founded: 1981

Titles: 1

Home Ground: Aper Aku Stadium, Markurdu

Capacity: 15,000

Chairman: Mike Idoko

Captain: Anthony Agbaji

Key Players:  Anthony Okpotu

Coach: Solomon Ogbeide

Facebook: Lobi Stars Football Club

Twitter:  Lobi Stars FC

They are still in possession of last season’s top scorer, Anthony Okpotu, and have a veteran league coach in Solomon Ogbeide. Watch out for them.

Nasarawa United

Nickname: Solid Miners

Founded: 2003

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Lafia Township Stadium

Capacity: 5,000

Chairman: Isaac Danladi

Captain: Emmanuel Makama

Key Players:  Suraj Ayeleso

Coach: Kabiru Dogo

Facebook: Nasarawa United 

Twitter: @nasarawaunited

The Solid Miners, who are one of the formidable sides in northern Nigeria, will host champions and neighbours Plateau United on matchday one.

That should be a feisty contest.

Niger Tornadoes

Nickname: Ikon Allah Boys

Founded: 1977

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Confluence Stadium, Lokoja

Capacity: 25,000

Chairman:  Abubakar Gawu

Captain: Aliko Mustapha

Key Players: Hussaini Ibrahim, Yakubu Alfa

Coach: Erasmus Onu

Facebook: Niger Tornadoes FC

Twitter: Niger Tornadoes

Website: Niger Tornadoes 

They have struggled to keep their space in the Nigeria Professional Football League for two consecutive seasons.

Sunshine Stars

Nickname: Owena Waves

Founded: 1995

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Akure Township Staduim

Capacity: 10,000

Captain: Alaba Adeniyi

Chairman: Emmanuel Odunyi

Key Players: Osas Idehen

Coach: Duke Udi

Facebook Sunshine FC Akure

Twitter: @SunshineFCAkure

Known as the Owena Waves but popular as the Akure Gunners, Sunshine Stars are one of the enterprising sides in the Nigeria Professional Football League.

Under former Nigeria international Duke Udi, the Akure side battled to keep their top-flight place last season, after spending an unwanted time in the relegation waters.

Rivers United

Nickname: Pride of Rivers

Founded: 2016
Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt

Capacity: 25000

Chairman: Emmanuel Odunyi

Captain: Festus Austin

Key Players: Emeka Ogbugh

New Signings:

Coach: Stanley Eguma

FacebookRivers United FC

Twitter: Rivers United FC

Rivers United, like Rangers, had a poor run in the league last season, finishing two places above the dreaded relegation zone.

They have acquired new players and coach Stanley Eguma does not have much time to start winning trophies again.

Wikki Tourist

Image: Goal

Nickname: Bauchi Elephants

Founded: 1992

Titles: Nil

Home Ground: Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi

Capacity: 25, 000

Chairman: 

Captain: Ibrahim Mustapha

Key Players: Zaharadeen Bello

New Signings:

Coach: Bala Nkiyu

Facebook: Wikki Tourists FC

Twitter:  Wikki Tourist FC

Website: Wikki Tourists FC

Since Abdu Maikaba left the Bauchi Elephants in 2016, following two impressive seasons with the side, Wikki Tourists have been a shadow of themselves.

They finished in fourth spot in 2015, then bettered it in 2016 with a third place finish, which saw them qualify for the continent after nearly a decade of absence.

Coach Bala Nkiyu knows he has his work cut out for him in his first full season in charge.

Yobe Stars

Nickname: Damaturu Boys

Founded: 1991

Titles: Nil

Home Ground:  Damaturu Township Stadium

Capacity: 5, 000

Chairman:  Oladimeji Thompson

Key Players: Chidiebere Ajoku and Mohammed Rabiu.

New Signings: Itodo Akor,  Zayyad Musa,  Philip Auta and Buhari Musa

Coach: Muhammed Baba Ganaru

Facebook: Yobe Desert Stars

Twitter YOBE DESERT STARS FC

Yobe are back in the apex league after a long time in the lower divisions.

And coach Mohammed Baba Ganaru is back in the league, after leaving Wikki Tourists on the back of a dismal run.