- Published on Sunday, 17 September 2017 08:16
- Hits: 879
By Andrew Randa
After 38 matchdays, the 2016/17 Nigeria Professional Football League came to a climax with Plateau United lifting the title after defeating Rangers International of Enugu 2-0 at the Rwang Pam Stadium.
Goals from Emeka Umeh and Benjamin Turba made sure there was daylight between the Jos side and MFM FC who eventually lost a game they needed to win to have any chance to upstaging Plateau United.
MFM lost 2-1 to El-Kanemi in Maiduguri to start the party at the Rwang Pam Stadium as fans trooped into Jos metropolis to celebrate the title win - one, that took a lot by surprise.
A lot of pundits did not give Plateau United a chance to lift the title at the start of the season. Not many did. Traditional teams like Kano Pillars, Enyimba, and Rangers, who had won the title in the previous seasons, were tipped to take charge once again.
Plateau United barely made it to safety last season and were looked upon to consolidate on their NPFL status this term but they were not contented with that.
The management of the team had other plans and after 38 matches, they were crowned league champions, a testament to the inner workings and desire within the club hierarchy.
Npfl.ng takes a look at four reasons Plateau United are the 2016/17 NPFL champions.
1. Kennedy Boboye
When he was appointed, a lot were not sure of what to expect as his antecedents at Sunshine Stars and Abia Warriors was fresh in memory.
The former Sharks attacker went about his business recruiting players he felt will do the business for him and he was proven right. His ability to read the game and relationship with his players made the team become a formidable unit.
Boboye was also keen to stamp his mark on the team as he cut everyone to size. He enthused throughout the season that his team does not have a superstar and for good reason too - you let your guard down and you are out of the team.
Discipline was also one of Boboye’s instrument to success. He made sure everyone was up and doing and was not afraid to wield the big stick to get his point across. Mafeng Pam is a clear example.
Despite the youngster’s immense talent, he was sent out of the camp when contractual and agent issues were threatening to overshadow the team. He got back into the fold when it was sorted out. That sent out a message.
Dele Ajiboye and Benjamin Turba also got a dose of Boboye’s stance on discipline when both, though key architect’s in United’s road to glory, erred and were dropped at some point. Ajiboye failed to report back to camp after the CHAN qualifier against Benin in Kano and elected to go see his family in Ibadan.
Boboye was livid and dropped him for the next game and it took a lot for him to be re-admitted into the group. Though a lot frowned at the perceived high-handedness, it did bear fruits for Plateau United.
He made sure the players gave their all. His uncompromising stance towards discipline meant everyone put in their contribution. Throughout the season, Boboye insisted he had no ‘star’ player in his team hence despite top scoring with 49 goals, it was spread evenly from defence to attack.
Top scorer Kabiru Umar had six goals, centre-back Elisha Golbe chipped in with five while others like Benjamin Turba, Johnson Ibeh, Peter Eneji and Emeka Umeh all contributed their fair share of goals in a season a lot won’t also forget Daniel Itodo’s assists from his long throws.
2. Ahmed Ibrahim (also known as Coach Bros)
Popularly known as ‘Coach Bros’ around Jos and the country in general, he owns and runs the GBS Academy in Bukuru that has produced the likes of Kingsley Madu (Zulte-Waregem), Moses Simon (KAA Gent) and Ibrahim Shuaibu (HK Haugesund) among others.
Appointing him as the Technical Director of the team was a masterstroke on its own. He was key in Plateau United’s title win due to his relationship with a lot of the players and general knowledge of the local game.
Ibrahim has worked with young players in Jos for almost 30 years and did a lot of technical work in the background. He also introduced players from his academy into the team and they went on to be key in the grand scheme of things.
Philip Azango who took the league by storm in the early stages of the season is a protege of Ibrahim, so also Peter Eneji whom he got from Makurdi. He was also key in getting the tall youngster Emeka Umeh integrated into the squad. Those players coupled with the technical input from Ibrahim was a huge factor in United’s title win. His contribution didn’t stop at technical matters, he also used his vast connections to get financial aid for the team whenever there was any delay from government quarters.
3. The Plateau State government
This time last year, Plateau United barely scrapped through to ensure their survival in the Nigeria Professional Football League after promotion from the Nigeria National League.
The team wasn’t a priority last term as the Simon Lalong government had other issues to tackle ranging from political to governmental but after the initial phase had passed, the team became a priority.
Lalong, a former footballer in his days, made sure the team didn’t lack anything from a sporting and financial perspective. The players got their money as due and were adequately taken care of.
Team captain Elisha Golbe told npfl.ng that the motivation from the government was a huge factor in the success in the 2016/17 season.
“We had no money issues like other teams. The government was always there for the team and provided funds for us to pay salaries and allowances. That allowed the players to concentrate on playing football,” Golbe said.
“That went a long way to give us the confidence to go all out and achieve our set target which was to win the league. I’m happy we won the title eventually.
“Their support was also more than just monetary. When you have a good rapport with your employers and you know they have confidence in you, it is only natural that you will go all out to do your own part to show you appreciate what they (government) are doing.
“The governor has been our biggest fan and I’m glad we have been able to repay his faith in us by winning the title.”
No doubt, many teams will do well to tow this route.
Most times you get to hear of management being at loggerheads with coaches which usually results to in-fighting. This has not been the case with Plateau United this season.
When the Pius Henwan led board appointed Kennedy Boboye, he was given a free hand to do his job and that went a long way to ensure an almost smooth ride for the coach to stamp his imprint on the team.
The synergy among the government, the management, coaches, and players are probably the biggest reason Plateau United are the 2016/7 NPFL champions.
Everyone knew their places, none tried to usurp the other.
Henwan and his board made sure that they found a bridge to access the Government House to table their demands. In Nigeria, that itself is a long walk to perdition but Henwan found a way to navigate around that abyss and get things done on time.
When the history of Plateau United is written, Henwan and his board will definitely get a proper mention, they worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make things tick and they got their due reward - a first league title win ever in Plateau United’s history.
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