It was a Saturday evening, the clouds had signs of rain in Lagos but I had a date – a date with the NPFL. The night before had the beauty of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium where Rangers defeated Abia Warriors in the first Oriental Derby of the weekend. The floodlights lit the arena with the artificial turf bearing the brunt of the play.

Like the turf at Dan Anyiam that Saturday

PHCN held me ransom and I had to bail myself with some gallons of PMS to fuel my generator. It was 3:55pm and while the sounds of my generator created a rhythmic background sound, I switched attention to my pay-TV and Supersports was the channel for my date.

The voice sounded familiar but the picture in question was like a rice farm in Thailand. Is it a system failure or what is happening? The camera shifted to a more familiar view – the stands. That was when i realized that the pond i saw on switching to the channel was a part of Dan Anyiam Stadium.

Some may call the stadium “AN ANYIAM STADIUM” since the management of the arena doesn’t think it is necessary to put a “D” before the “AN” to reflect the name of the stadium. But that is the least of their problems though. The pitch was a major concern. How has this pitch managed to host games? Surviving relegation is more important.

Enyimba rolled out with their immaculate white jerseys but within 10 minutes it looked like the type that needed the cleansing by a bleaching agent. Onuigbo’s wear needed the blood of the lamb. He was everywhere – doing what? I fantasied that Enyimba will return for the second half with new set of jerseys but that never happened. Forgive my fantasies.

There was no flow. It was bumpy. It was rainy and wet and the condition of the pitch was injurious to the eyes. The play was not as exciting as the previous Oriental Derby in Enugu about 24 hours before. But 90 minutes have to be played and a winner emerged in extra time. Heartland needed the win more than their Oriental Neighbours and current champions Enyimba. They needed a late penalty to get their first Oriental Derby win this season.

Was it a penalty? Was the tackle in the box? Was there a box? It looked virtual from the TV view. There were no visible lines. The referee made his call. We have to live by it. Can you prove otherwise? Maybe if the lines were more visible, we could have not spent our energy worrying about it. Well, Ocheje couldn’t keep Ejike’s spot kick.

And what is this trend of goal keepers going to take instructions from the bench after a penalty has been conceded? The referee points to the spot, players express feelings about the call, goalkeeper disappears to the sidelines to take instructions. This keeps the penalty taker waiting till the goalie is back to his line. Same event happened in Enugu and played out in Owerri. Should it be so? Little wonder a penalty goal is scored about 4 minutes after the kick was awarded. More of the 90 minutes was spent in no-football.

I didn’t enjoy the game. It was hurting to the eyes. Quality was poor but i had to watch. A gaffer even had a foreign kit on in the first half. I switched off my generator and pondered.

Do we have good natural pitches in the NPFL? Artificial pitches are good for the cameras and views but players prefer the natural ones – without bumps. Europe have moved away from synthetic and have embraced Naturals and hybrids as low as 2% synthetics. Even some of our natural pitches can be flooded – Drainage problems.

Congratulations to Heartland. It was a step to surviving relegation. Try again Enyimba. We have ~13 games to the end of the season.

There were Federation Cup games in midweek and there will NPFL action this weekend amidst the preparation for the LaLiga exhibition.

Enjoy your Friday.

@AmosCP

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