It was not the best of endings for the Nigeria Professional League (NPFL) when it was forced to a stop due to the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world.
Football leagues around the world were initially put on hold and later completed strictly following COVID-19 safety protocols or were cancelled outright.
In Nigeria, the NPFL was halted in March after 25 rounds of games, and in July, it was officially called off using the points per game (PPG) quotient to determine the final rankings, with neither promotion nor the relegation of any club.
While many in the football family have been lamenting the impact of COVID-19 on football in general, the captain of Plateau United Club, Elisha Golbe, has also bared his mind on the pains brought by the pandemic.
Counting the losses
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, Golbe noted that among several other things, the COVID-19 pandemic has denied a number of players the chance to export their talents to football leagues abroad.
“COVID-19 has affected the game of football negatively.
“Before the outbreak of COVID-19, many players are in top form that were supposed to go outside the country to sign for clubs in Europe, but because of that, most players are still in the country and (most) of the countries in Europe have started their league now.
“It (also) affected the players negatively because you’re just at home sitting, eating, and (sometimes) just train on your own.”
The ‘Peace boys’ of Jos were top of the NPFL log with 49 points from 25 games before the season was halted.
Because of the League Management Company’s decision to use the PPG quotient to determine the final standings, Plateau United remained the number one team but without being ceremoniously crowned champions.
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The hard-tackling defender rues the missed opportunity of lifting the NPFL trophy again.
He said: “Yes, I think for me it’s a dream come true halfway because we’re not officially declared as champions; (as) maybe they’ll hand the trophy to us”.
Golbe added: “From the beginning of the season we (had) a target (that) by end of season we’ll at least march as champions, that is to top the league with both goals and points. And we did well since the beginning of the season (as) we’ve some few matches ahead of us to the end of the season.
“And at the end of the day because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the league (was halted). So it affects us and I think we as a team wanted to be a full champion and that is why we (had) a target from the beginning (of the season).
Though there are insinuations suggesting the morale of the players has been affected by not being crowned champions, Golbe downplayed such assumptions.
He said: “The morale of the players (are) not affected because definitely the coaches, the management and I as (the) captain has been (pushing) ourselves. We’re going to represent not just only Plateau State but the nation in the CAF Champions League.
“So definitely we have a task ahead of us; so we use to psyche ourselves positively and we (always) encourage each other to make sure we give the best that we can during the CAF Champions League. So it has not affected any player negatively, neither we (will just have to) push more next season”.
Better CAF campaign
Plateau United had a poor outing that last time they represented Nigeria in Africa’s biggest club football competition but the captain of the Jos-based club is optimistic of a better outing this time around.
“Yes, the first thing we need is support from Nigerians, football lovers, and supporters. We’re not only representing (Plateau but) the nation and by the special grace of God…we’ll give our best and make sure we take our matches one after the other.
“We won’t promise to be at the top of the league or be at the semifinals – but first thing first, plan to qualify for the group stages and (then) eye the quarterfinal or semifinal by the grace of God,” he concluded.
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