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).
Plateau United were crowned kings at the end of last season.
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.
Nickname: The Peoples Elephant
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
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.
Nickname: Harmony Boys
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
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.
Nickname: Naze Millionaires
Home Ground: Dan Anyiam Stadium
Chairman: Goodfaith Etuemena
Coach: Ramson Madu
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.
Nickname: The Peace Boys
Home Ground: Rwang Pam Stadium, Jos
Chairman: Yakubu Taddy
Captain: Elisa Golbe
Key Players: Moses Eneji, Tosin Omoyele
Coach: Kennedy Boboye
Facebook: Plateau United FC
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.
Nickname: Ochendo Babes
Home Ground: Umuahia Township Stadium
Chairman: Emeka Inyama
Captain: Austin Obaroakpo
Key Players: Stephen Eze, Nzube Anaezemba and Ifeanyi Nweke.
Coach: Rafael Everton
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.
Nickname: Masu Gida
Home Ground: Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano
Chairman: Muhammad Tukur Babangida
Captain: Rabiu Ali
Key Players: Rabiu Ali, Nazifi Yahaya, Gambo Mohammed
Facebook: Kano Pillars
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.
Nickname: Olukoya Boys
Home Ground: Agege Township Stadium, Lagos.
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.
Nickname: The Promise Keepers
Home Ground: Nest of Champions, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state
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
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
Home Ground: Krisdera Stadium Omoku, Rivers State
Chairman: Felix Obuah
Captain: Nelson Esor
Coach: Ngozi Elechi
Twitter: GoRound FC
Go Round FC are one of the newcomers from the lower League, the Nigeria National League (NNL).
El Kanemi Warriors
Nickname: Borno Army
Home Ground: El Kanemi Stadium, Maiduguri
Chairman: Mohammed Zanna
Captain: George Michael
Coach: Imama Amapakabo
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.
Nickname: Flying Antelopes
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
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.
Nickname: Anambra Warriors
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
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.
Nickname: Changi Boys
Home Ground: Karkanda Stadium, Kastina
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
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.
Nickname: Ortom Boys
Home Ground: Aper Aku Stadium, Markurdu
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.
Nickname: Solid Miners
Home Ground: Lafia Township Stadium
Chairman: Isaac Danladi
Captain: Emmanuel Makama
Key Players: Suraj Ayeleso
Coach: Kabiru Dogo
Facebook: Nasarawa United
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.
Nickname: Ikon Allah Boys
Home Ground: Confluence Stadium, Lokoja
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.
Nickname: Owena Waves
Home Ground: Akure Township Staduim
Captain: Alaba Adeniyi
Chairman: Emmanuel Odunyi
Key Players: Osas Idehen
Coach: Duke Udi
Facebook Sunshine FC Akure
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.
Nickname: Pride of Rivers
Home Ground: Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt
Chairman: Emmanuel Odunyi
Captain: Festus Austin
Key Players: Emeka Ogbugh
Coach: Stanley Eguma
Facebook: Rivers 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.
Nickname: Bauchi Elephants
Home Ground: Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi
Capacity: 25, 000
Captain: Ibrahim Mustapha
Key Players: Zaharadeen Bello
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.
Nickname: Damaturu Boys
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.