Bribery, Match-fixing Looms Ahead Of NNL Final Day Matches
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The 2021 Nigeria National League (NNL) anticipated final day of the season has raised eyebrows with clubs seeking to join the elites in the Playoffs for a promotion to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) next season.
The season nears a climax with reports of alleged bribery and match-fixing in Group B1 of the Southern Conference, with clubs like Go Round FC and Ekiti United playing for a qualifying spot behind group winners 3SC and the relegation fights involving Dynamite Force, Osun United, Giant Brillars, Vandrezzer FC and Rovers FC, all playing to stay up in the division.
Go Round FC, looking to solidify their 2nd place spot on the log took matters into their hands during Matchday 20 fixture against 3SC, with supporters and club management reportedly assaulting and threatening the life of officials, thereby disrupting the match in the 4th minute of 5 additional minutes and forcing the officials to add extra 8 minutes after the match had reportedly ended 1-1. The product was a dubious penalty in the additional time to take the match to 2-1 in favour of the home side.
While the matter was taken to the NFF disciplinary committee, Go Round FC protested the outcome of the fixture which match officials (referees) in their reports said the match ended 1-1. The NNL concluded that the match ended in a draw, a decision the NFF Organizing and Disciplinary (O&D) Committee upheld, with additional fines imposed on Go Round.
The conclusion read: “Upon consideration of the overall circumstances (including logistics, the current football calendar) the justice of this case is best served by applying 15.10 of the NNL Rules (i.e. the power to order that a match, which for whatever reason lasts for less than 90 minutes, shall be replayed, or continued, or count as a complete fixture) to declare the match concluded as at the point of disruption in the 94th minute, with the scores at the time, i.e. 1-1, deemed to be the full-time scores.”
Final Day Politics
With Osun United looking likely to be relegated, a win against Go Round will require the Osogbo side to score at least 4 goals to stay up while Ekiti United needs a win against Dynamite Force to go to the playoffs.
Go Round FC vs Osun United
For them to qualify to play in the playoffs, Go Round FC faces the Herculean task of beating Osun United in Osogbo to maintain their spot. Osun United who already looked doom will need a large margin victory to stay up.
Rumours of Go Round bribing Osun United have emerged in recent weeks, with the Omoku side offering to buy back Osun United’s NNL slot if they agree to let them win. If this happens, Go Round will go to playoffs along with 3SC while Osun United will confirm their relegation to the Nationwide League.
Ekiti United vs Dynamite Force
10th placed Dynamite Force need an away win against Ekiti United to beat the drop, but, Ekiti United seems more ambitious and looks like a better team to get a victory in this fixture. A win for Ekiti United will take them to 2nd place ahead of Go Round FC, depending on the result at Osogbo.
The Southwestern states in Nigeria are reliably looking to increase the number of teams in the NPFL from the region, which means Osun United (Southwest) would be ready to do anything to stop Go Round FC (South-South) from getting a win. Clubs like 3SC and FC Nilayo (both Southwest) are reportedly throwing their weights behind Ekiti United (Southwest) to qualify for the playoffs.
Remo Stars (Southwest) also look likely to qualify for the playoffs in Group B2, making three of the four qualified teams from the Southern Conference coming from the South West. A further exposé reveals that if this first aim is achieved, the South West teams are set to have an “agreement” about which two of them should be “supported” to gain final promotion via match-fixing during the playoffs.
However, if the three manage to beat their Northern counterparts in the playoffs, that will increase the number of teams in the NPFL from the region to five, alongside Sunshine Stars and MFM FC.
Other Notable Final Day Fixtures
A win for Vandrezzer FC against Delta Force at the Soccer Temple will maintain the Lions’ status in the division, while Rovers FC also needs to win against 3SC to be completely safe from any relegation discussion.
NNL, part of the conspiracy?
Meanwhile, the league was initially scheduled to end July 3, 2021, but the breaks occasioned by the unplanned AITEO Cup fixtures led to a considerable extension. What’s inexcusable now is while the AITEO Cup has reached a known climax (August 8, 2021), the NNL has delayed scheduling the date of the final fixtures for the division. It is gathered that Go Round intends to further their desperation by challenging the O&D ruling at the NFF Appeals Committee, the highest arbitration body in the land. But should that stop the final fixtures from being played so that clubs can wrap up their season and abate the massive expenses they are incurring due to this indefinite wait?
Or is the NNL working with some clubs to orchestrate this alleged final day and eventual playoffs match-fixing?
Let’s watch closely.