–The shinning stars of the Globacom Premier League
The 2013/2014 Nigeria Professional Football League season came to a fitting close on November 16 with great performances from players who were instrumental to their teams’ finish.
These players ensured their teams either qualified for the CAF Champions League, the CAF Confederation Cup, created new Premier League records or simply helped their teams to avoid relegation.
Completesportsnigeria.com’s IZUCHUKWU OKOSI and JAMES AGBEREBI present the ‘Top 11’ stars of the 2013/2014 season and their substitutes. The memorable season was the 43rd of the competition and the 24th since its re-branding as the ‘Professional League’ .
THEOPHILUS AFELOKHAI (Kano Pillars)
Kano Pillars goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai was key in Kano Pillars’ march to Premier League triumph in the 2014 season.
The back-to-back champions conceded 41 goals in 38 matches and they also maintained their impressive record of not having lost at home for nearly a decade with the imposing keeper instrumental in them keeping that record intact.
Afelokhai will hope to have a good campaign in the CAF Champions League as the Nigerian champions coached Okey Emordi who was in charge of Enyimba when they won the title in 2004 seek a third shot at the trophy by a Nigerian club.
SOLOMON KWAMBE (Sunshine Stars)
Super Eagles home-based right back Kwambe makes our XI due to his work rate and recognition by the national team selectors.
Kwambe is a tenacious defender who makes darting runs down the channel and has impressive crosses to boot.
Kwambe was one of the Eagles team that represented Nigeria at the 2014 CHAN in South Africa where the team finished 3rd with a bronze medal, in what Nigeria’s first appearance at the Championship.
UGWU UWADIEGWU (Enyimba)
The left back has been a key member of the Enyimba side that finished second on the Nigeria Premier League table and won their fourth Federation Cup title in November.
It is still a shock to discerning followers of the Nigerian league why this player who is dangerous on dead ball situations and is a defender with wonderful recovery rate has not been invited to the national team by Stephen Keshi despite his obvious belief in giving some of the locally-based players the chance to play in the national team.
CHINEDU UDOJI (Enyimba)
The Enyimba captain led his team to the Federation Cup title and was one of the best players on show in both the league and Federation Cup. ‘Captain Fantastic’ has a good working relationship with his team-mates and the fans as evidenced by the mob of fans that carried him shoulder high after the Federation Cup win.
Udoji is an intelligent defender with astute recovery and timely tackles.
UMAR ZANGO (Kano Pillars)
A stalwart in the defence of Kano Pillars, the no-nonsense Umar Zango was ever present for the league champions as they warded off other teams to defend their title.
And 2014 will go down as a remarkable year for Zango as his performance for Pillars earned him a place in the home-based Super Eagles squad who made their debut at the Championship for Africa Nations in South Africa. He helped the team to finish third.
RABIU ALI (Kano Pillars)
Kano Pillars owe lots of gratitude to this graceful midfield dynamo who has been pure class for the Pyramid team. The 34-year-old Ali is an effective box-to-box midfield star who also gives his shift in the defensive side of the game.
The home-based Super Eagles line-up side will be incomplete without the presence of this player who almost by himself took Pillars to a third-straight title after impressive performances at the CHAN in January 2014. Popularly called ‘Pele’, Ali contributed 13 goals as ‘Sai ‘Masu Gida’ (Kano Pillars) swept away all opposition.
RASHEED OLABIYI (Enyimba)
Tall and creative, Rasheed Olabiyi was one of the important players for Enyimba in the just concluded 2013/2014 NPFL season which they narrowly lost to eventual winners Kano Pillars.
The former Pepsi Football Academy product played no small part in the team’s march to the Federation Cup title which they won 2-1 in the final against Dolphins, coming on for Razak Aliyu in the second half to help see out the Port-Harcourt base team.
GBOLAHAN SALAMI (Warri Wolves)
The divisive forward makes our team because he is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in the Nigeria Premier Football League. Salami, widely regarded as Nigeria’s version of Mario Balotelli due to his perceived stubborn personality.
Salami scored 16 league goals in the 2014 season.
Salami’s performance and goal-scoring form went a long way to ensure that Warri Wolves will represent Nigeria at the CAF Confederation Cup in 2015.
KINGSLEY SOKARI (Enyimba)
The Nigeria Professional Football League has unearth a lot of new players and Kingsley Sokari of Enyimba FC is one of the newest gifts to Nigerian football.
The skilful midfielder who told Completesportsnigeria.com after helping the Peoples’ Elephant win the Federation Cup when they defeated Dolphins in Lagos on November 23, that his Nigerian footballing idol is Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha, has earned a call-up with the Super Eagles (home-based) side and is expected to be part of the Flying Eagles team to the 2015 AYC in Senegal.
EMEM EDUOK (Dolphins)
The Dolphins forward scored a total of 25 goals including six in Dolphins’ game against Nembe City, four in the Federation Cup, and 20 in league.
Eduok was adjudged the MVP Of the Federation Cup and is a player that is comfortable as either a winger or striker. There is a growing apprehension about where this prodigiously talented player should play next as his career trajectory seems to only be on the way up, much to the disappointment of Dolphins’ fans.
Eduok told Completesportsnigeria.com in Lagos after the Federation Cup defeat to Enyimba that his departure from the Port Harcourt side has been rubber stamped by the Management of the club.
MFON UDOH (Enyimba)
Mfon Udoh emerged the top scorer of the Nigeria Professional Football League for the 2014 season with 23 goals. The former Akwa United striker scored further three goals in the Federation Cup.
Udoh broke the previous record of 20 goals set by Jude Aneke as the NPFL goal king and is expected to join the Nigerian legion of players in Europe in 2015.
Femi Thomas (Enyimba)
Bright Esieme (Enyimba)
Chima Akas (Enyimba)
Chinedu Efugh (Heartland)
Azubuike Egwuekwe (Warri Wolves)
Christian Pyagbara (Sharks)
Abdulrahman Bashir (Enyimba)
Peter Onyekachi (Abia Warriors)
Fidelis Saviour (Taraba FC)
Ighodaro Osaguona (Rangers International)
Christian Obiozor (Rangers International)
*What is your take on this Nigerian League top stars selection? Where do you agree with the selection and where do you disagree? Have your say now, and talk about your personal discoveries in the Nigeria Premier League. Go to the ‘Leave A Reply’ field below here and post your comment.