Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) started again on Saturday with the champions Enugu Rangers defending the title they won last season, after 32 years participation in the elite league.
Who will win it this time, and how will the Flying Antelopes fare? Popular Side went out to ask 5000 fans in Abuja, Kaduna, Lagos and Imo state - and another 4720 respondents from its online poll on CheerOnNigeria Blog.... to pick their Champion for this new season and give explanation for their Choice.
In case you don’t know, popular side refers regular football fans as pundits. They are the real consumers/ followers of the sport and should know.
The predictions were made on the basis of each club's recent experience and how the teams shaped up before the opening weekend. This was the Question:
"Name the Club you predict will be the next NPFL Champions for 2016-17 season and give us reasons for your choice?"
Here are the scores of the top 5 clubs predicted to win the new season:
1. Rivers United... 2001votes
2. Kano pillars.... 1903 votes
3. FC IfeanyiUbah... 1516 votes
4. Enyimba International.... 1510 votes
5. Enugu Rangers... 933 votes
Eight teams featured in the voting, but we only present the top five here, leaving out the insignificant votes MFM, Nasarawa United and got respectively.
Only 933 fans are backing Enugu Rangers to repeat their title success - their average expected position is fifth - and it is Rivers United who came second on the league table last season, are now favorite to win this time around, with 2001 votes... Kano Pillars running up as second favorite, with almost a block vote in Kaduna, then FC IfeanyiUbah voted third to challenge for the title. So why are fans thinking this way?
1. Rivers United has a great squad, which narrowly missed the league title just on the last match day; with a 1 - 1 draw against Nasarawa United.
Rivers United pre-season build up was incredible. The team played pre-season tournament with top class European sides in Spain. And the resultant effect showed immediately as they won the recently concluded Super Four tournament; going into the league.
Rivers United has the full backing of their state governor and their Sponsors Eunisell recently rewarded the team for great performance last season... and as well renewed their Sponsorship commitment. So Rivers United are well motivated in all ramifications (great team and much funding) to take on any team this season.
2. Kano pillars' has experienced players like Gambo Mohammed, who are still in the squad. These are the same players who dominated NPFL, and were champions for three straight league seasons.
They have the Mentality of chronic champions. and you can never rule them out as one of the favorite to win the league any year. The club believe winning is their birthright.
Kano Pillars has a very tight squad this year, that has the capacity to take the battle to your home ground and come out victorious.
Kano Pillars always enjoys the full compliments of both the state governor and perhaps, the largest loyal fan base in the country. So the moviation to keep winning is always there.
3. FC IfeanyiUbah is one team you can say has the great vision beyond just NPFL title. They want to be African Champions; they want to play in the world club Championship and knock horns with Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich...
Of Course, IfeanyiUbah is billionaire club like Chelsea... and can afford to throw around cash to get the best players around the world. They currently have five Brazilian players in team... and recently engaged a Japan top coach.
The club is very radical in the way they approach their ambition to win. Never will again should call them the dark horse after they won the Federation cup last year and recently defeated Enugu Rangers to win Charity Cup. I would rather say, WATCH OUT for this club!
4. Enyimba International is just like Kano Pillars. They are the traditional league contenders. Enugu Rangers win last year may be like Liecester city fluke in the English Premier League. Enyimba are the teams that understand what it takes to win in the domestic league and in the continental level.
Although, most of the fans that voted feels Enyimba may not be in their best element, due to funding. The state governor is bundered with the funding of both Enyimba and Abia Warriors. That notwithstanding, Enyimba has experience going for them.
5. Enugu Rangers is still the defending champions, no matter what fans feels about the team. They are still basking with the motivation of winning the league last season. Enugu Rangers has what it take to repeat their success this year. Most of their winning team members are still intact, both Coaches and players.
And with the kind of attention and rewards the team got for winning last season, the players are motivated to do more, to carry their victory to continental level this season. Although, fans have began to raise eyebrow after Rangers lost both the Super Cup and Charity Cup as well as their first league Match.