Nigeria NPFL: Drenched In Relegation Waters, Church Boys Now Need Another Miracle To Beat The Drop

Written By Omolagba Oluwayemi

Looks like we might be seeing the end of an era for top flight football in Nigeria’s commercial capital city of Lagos when the current season of the Nigeria Professional Football League ends.

For a very long time the city was without top flight football but luckily got presented with double dose in 2015 when both MFM FC and Ikorodu United both picked the promotion ticket. It was a moment of joy to local football lovers across the state.

On every radio and TV station across the state you could feel the excitement, the vibes and readiness of the fans whenever they called into sports programmes and shows. Indeed, the NPFL was about to be taken by storm as the biggest commercial city boasted of two clubs going into the 2016 season.

The defunct Ikorodu United were preparing on the media forgetting that the main football will be played on the pitch. They even sold season tickets for about 50,000 naira, Lagos was about to show the rest of the states how football business should be done and on the other side, MFM FC were quietly preparing for the route they don’t know about.

Ikorodu United in particular were everywhere in the media, they even got a sponsor in Gotv at the time, but despite all of the fanfare, they didn’t survive a season in the top flight. In fact, from their very first game, one could see relegation written all over them and with 32 points at the end of the 2016 season, the “OGA Boys” as they are popularly referred to, were relegated to the NNL and that was the beginning of their end.

Defunct Ikorodu United

The Church Boys on the other hand, after their initial rush of blood almost got relegated but were lucky to beat the drop in the final day as they finished 16th, a place above the relegation zone with 45 points.

The story changed in 2017 as focus shifted to MFM FC as they were the only club representing Lagos. Media and fans pressure, criticisms came in from everywhere, even from supporters but against all odds, they finished in second place behind Plateau United and up till the final match day, they were in contention for the title.

With the likes of Stephen Odey, Sikiru Olatunbosun and Onuwa Chukwuka, the Olukoya Boys mesmerized opposition defenders. Their combination was so perfect for the team under the tactical guidance of Fidelis Ilechukwu (Kamara) and many believed that had Stephen Odey not switched to FC Zurich in Switzerland at a point during the season, they would have won the league.

The team however couldn’t sustain the momentum of playing continental and league football the following season but still finished in a respectable 11th place in 2018.

One of the trio’s moves in the game against Rangers in Lagos won CNN’s Goal of the week at the time. It was a fantastic moment to be a fan of MFM FC in 2017.

Sikiru Olatunbosun CNN Award Miracle Goal. Credit: Oluwaseun Oladunjoye

They’ve sustained their top flight status since then although they had some relegation scare last season but quickly salvaged the situation to finish 10th on the log.

Things are totally different this season for the church boys who have been in there relegation zone since match day one. Change of coach and coaching crew has not really helped as the team is still locked at the bottom of the log.

It would have been another story entirely if things had been done differently. Poor recruitment processes and of course, the man-know-man methods adopted during the transfer negotiations, handling the team over to a coach without any top flight experience and some other factors were few of the reasons the club has found itself where it is today. Athough the church leadership, which serve as owners of the club tried to salvage the situation at a point, the solution worked for a while but now they’re back to where they’ve been all season following yet another poor run of results.

We tried reaching out to the club at the start of the season with suggestions on possible adjustments that could be made in order to avoid the kind of season that they are having but all efforts proved abortive.

The club’s recruiting exercises were awful to say the least, poor for an NPFL standard team and for the management of the club at the time to have aimed for the league title before the start of the season with that kind of recruitment strategy was a big joke. Football games are not played in the prayer room but on football pitches and if prayers win matches, Nigeria would probably be the most successful national team in the world.

Its getting darker down there for the church Boys and as it stands, they will need another miracle just like they had in 2016 if they’re to remain in the NPFL come next season.

I don’t underestimate the power of miracles but whether or not the Olukoya Boys will get it this time around remains left to be seen.

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