Will Nigeria Premier League Crown return to Jos 45 years after?

Baring hard luck, Plateau United FC of Jos is on the historic path of returning the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) crown to the city of Jos after 45 years of waiting.

The history of league matches cannot be complete without mentioning the winners of the maiden edition of the competition, Mighty Jets of Jos, which won the modern day league in Nigeria in 1972.

Mighty Jets are the first champions of the Nigerian League played among six teams in 1972. Although the team played at the top level until 1985, they were demoted to the third division in 1994.

However, for the city of Jos, it will be a great feeling to have the cup back to where it took off in 1972.

After Mighty Jets, many clubs have tasted the league’s crown, many that may be considered regular winners such as Enyimba International FC of Aba and Rangers International of Enugu, both with seven titles.

Shooting Stars of Ibadan clinched the title five times alongside Iwuanyanwu Nationale of Owerri and Kano Pillars with four titles.

Plateau has, however, enjoyed rich football with some notable clubs such as Giwa FC and Plateau United.

The football fans in the state have also showed enough passion for their club in the way they usually turn out for league matches at the Rwang Pang Stadium in Jos.

Sometimes too, stadium violence that accompany any home loss during matches is something to note about the diehard fans from Plateau.

The state that lies in the Savannah belt of Nigeria boasts of one of the best altitude for sports due to its location within the rocks.

Moreover, with the 2016/2017 NPFL coming to an end, there are only three top contenders for the coveted trophy in which Plateau United is almost the best bet of them.

The season has been terrific with the traditional clubs faltering, thus making the NPFL cutthroat.

With six more matches to be played for the league title to be won; continental places are hot-up between the teams, bookmakers may refer to as rookies.

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Plateau United, also called “The Peace Boys’’ by their fans are on the summit of the table with 58 points, three points adrift of the second placed Lagos-based MFM FC which has 55 points, while Akwa United are with 51 points in the third position.

Considering the history of Plateau United founded 1975 as JIB Strikers, the club only got their promotion to the elite division in 2010/2011 season after defeating city rivals Mighty Jets.

Although the club has yet to reach this height before in their history, they won the FA Cup in 1999 but were unable to consolidate on the victory at the continental level.

The team was dumped out in the preliminary stage of the CAF Cup Winners Cup in 2000.

Football pundits are already tipping the Jos-based team as Leicester City of England replica because of the intensity in their matches, especially while playing top league teams.

The Peace Boys have been able to comfortably dispatch tough oppositions and many a time picking out unusual points as they did against Kano Pillars in the Match Day 33 encounter.

Looking at how it started for the history making-bound team; they launched the season with a definite mark when they won 2-1 away at Remo Stars in Sagamu.

This was followed by a 3-1 thrashing of former league champions, Enyimba International of Aba.

For this season, the Kennedy Boboye-tutored side remains one of the teams that have kept 100 per cent home record win with just a barren draw against Lobi Stars on Match Day 11.

The team also has an astonishing seven away draws. It played 0-0 with Gombe United, 0-0 with Nasarawa United and also played a 1-1 draw with 3SC of Ibadan.

The Peace Boys played 0-0 away draw against Rivers United in the Match Day 16, 1-1 against Kastina United, 0-0 against Lobi and 1-1 against Kano Pillars on Match Day 20, 31 and 33 respectively.

The team currently is also able to secure the highest score-line in the 2016/2017 league match with their 5-1 thrashing of Gombe United in the Match Day 24.

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At present, the club is on the verge of making the history books as outside winners of the league crown.

The table toppers, Plateau United, only need to consolidate by winning all their three home matches to gather 68 points to be league champions.

But they have some tough away fixtures ahead as they face the hurdle of ABS FC of Ilorin and Wikki Tourist of Bauchi on Match Day 35 and 37 respectively.

The Savannah Boys could, however, go on to win the league with the remaining home matches with MFM and Rivers United on Match Day 34 and 36 respectively.

Plateau United will play their last game of the season against the incumbent champions, Rangers International of Enugu at home in the Match Day 38.

Commenting on Plateau United’s exploits, a football pundit, Rotimi Arabi, said the team’s hunger to claim the title was important to their aspiration.

“The team started well and also maintains the momentum, right from the first match till the last played in Kano on Sunday, the team has shown resilience.

“The team looks hungry to win the cup, they play opposition with all intensity and they hardly allow breathing space or lapses.

“I think the coach has done a wonderful job keeping the team together; he is an experienced manager in the league too,’’ he said.

For Babatunde Olawunmi, an ardent supporter of MFM FC, the technical expertise of the coach Boboye accounted for Plateau United fairy runs in the league.

“The team has an experienced manager who is capable of turning things around for a modest club like Plateau United.

“Kennedy is well experienced; he has once coached the home-based Super Eagles and a couple of other local-based clubs such as Abia Warriors.

“If the team eventually wins the league, it will be no surprise at all because they are in good hands and not in the comparison with Leicester FC of England’s feat at the Premier League,’’ said the official of MFM’s supporters club.

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