The long wait for the 2018 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is over and the thirst for domestic football can now be adequately addressed.
For the respective clubs, the journey of 38 weeks is set to begin and getting it right from the first step cannot be overemphasized.
The season’s curtain-raiser in Kastina on Saturday served a glimpse of what to expect as Kastina United and Kano Pillars settled for a thrilling 2-2 draw inside a filled stadium filled with enthusiastic fans. Much more will be expected across the country on Sunday.
Plateau United, the defending champions of the league will start their title defence away from home on Sunday.
After surprising many, including themselves to win the NPFL title last season, the stakes are high for the reigning champions who will make a 206 kilometres trip to Lafia where they will face neighbours Nasarawa United.
If the record books is anything to go by, Plateau United should be hopeful for an away point same way they started out last season away to Remo Stars in Sagamu.
Nasarawa United have failed to win a game against Plateau United in their last three league meetings.
The Solid Miners have also failed to score in all those three games.
In Umuahia, last season’s runners-up, MFM FC, will have their hands full on the first matchday when they go up against Abia Warriors now managed by Brazilian coach Rafael Everton.
MFM have had some big departures in the off-season and last term including strikers Stephen Odey and Austine Ogunye as well as Oladele Oshobe.
That nonetheless, MFM head coach, Fidelis Ilechukwu, believes he still has enough firepower in the likes of Olatunbosun Sikiru and Onuwa Chukwuka to face any opposition.
MFM in four previous meetings have only beaten Abia Warriors once.
Elsewhere, seven-time Nigeria League champions, Enyimba, have a tricky away tie against Lobi Stars, while Rangers who have never lost at the Nest of Champions will face Akwa United at the Godswill Akpabio Stadium.
Another topside, Rivers United (formerly Dolphins FC), will face the same opponent in their opening game of last season in El-Kanemi Warriors this Sunday.
El-Kanemi’s record at the Yakubu Gowon Stadium in Port Harcourt is nothing to write home about – nine visits have ended in nine defeats.
The new boys
As always, there are four fresh faces coming up from the second tier, Nigeria National League (NNL) to compete in the elite division.
The quartet for this season are Go Round, Heartland, Kwara United, and Yobe Desert Stars.
Heartland are back with the big boys after they were relegated in 2016 for the first time in their history.
They will be starting a new chapter at home inside the Dan Anyiam Stadium against Sunshine Stars.
The last time Yobe Desert Stars played top-flight football was 15 years ago, and they will be keen to make a sweet return as they face FC Ifeanyiubah in Nnewi on Matchday 1 this Sunday.
In Ilorin, Kwara United play hosts to Niger Tornadoes. The last time both clubs met in this fixture, it ended in a four-goal thriller.
The Kwara United versus Tornadoes always have goals, except for January 2007 when both teams fired blank.
The latest newbies to the NPFL are Go Round FC. They are the 17th new club set to play in the top division since 2002.
Their first test will be at the Rwang Pam Stadium where Wikki Tourists will play their home games.
After conquering the NNL, many wait to see what Go Round FC will bring to the table in the NPFL.