No swapping jerseys & the five things we learned from the opening day of the Nigeria Premier League

By Babajide Alaka

The Nigeria Premier League board, headed by Victor Rumson Baribote, should be commended after the league started on the day originally set for it, despite the fact that some clubs had vowed not to play if they were not given a share of the sponsorship fees. In the end it seems that superior reasoning prevailed.

But the league board has not yet revealed the terms signed with mobile giant MTN to sponsor the league for the next five years and categorically state what will accrue to the clubs.

The season kicked off with the Dolphins versus Sunshine Stars game played at the Liberation Stadium in Port Harcourt. Though the Nigeria Premier League is often an enigma, a number of interesting realities have made themselves clear after matchday one. looks at five things we learned on the opening day of the 2012 NPL season.

The kick-and-follow philosophy is still firmly in place. “When in doubt, aim for the lines” still seems to be the mantra of the average Nigerian footballer.

The easiest way to defend is to hoof the ball into the opposing half and this was observed in many of the opening matches. One of the things that fans cry about is the lack of skilful expression by players. Perhaps it is the fear of losing their place in the team that forces players to stay on the conservative and boring side of football.


As it was last season, when over 70 per cent of home victories were by one goal, it has continued with the start of this campaign. On the first day of the new season, three 1-0 results were completed out of a total of nine matches played throughout the country.

Only three matches saw more than two goals scored while three others ended goalless. A total of 10 goals were scored during the weekend, an average of around one goal per match.


As it has been in past seasons, many Nigerians would rather watch the English Premier League on television than go to support their local teams at the stadium on a Saturday.

The average attendance is still hovering around the 3,000 mark as people are just not interested in travelling to the local stadiums to watch matches, and this deprives the games of the atmosphere required for the enthralling spectacles to attract a greater audience and potential sponsorships.

In the Dolphins v Sunshine clash, which served as the opening match of the NPL, the referee clearly missed the colour clash with his own jersey and the kit of the visiting team, even though he was in charge of pre-match procedures and should have picked up on it.

The mistake was, however, rectified when he later changed into a yellow jersey. Once again the NPL referees were disappointing at the most basic of levels.


After most of the opening day matches, the players were not able to exchange jerseys with their opponents. Teams across the world exchange jerseys after hard-fought matches as a courtesy, but Nigeria Premier League players need to keep their match jerseys so that they can use them on the next matchday.

The teams need to make provisions so that players are able to swap jerseys with their rivals out of respect and sporting spirit, and sponsors should step in to make that possible.