The conveyor belt keeps rotating for the Nigerian League

Emem Eduok, now with Esperance
If you are one of those who watch the Nigerian league or at least follow it via facebook or twitter, I promise that you may be a bit disappointed when the new season kicks off on March 7, 2015.

For people like myself, Emeka Nwani, George Akpayen, Ojeikere Aikoje, Carl Orakwue, Andrew Randa and a host of others, we will continue to enjoy the league because that’s the way we were made.

However, if you have followed the league from a distance and suddenly began to get interested, you will ask some questions

Where is Emem Eduok?

Many of you did not know Emem Eduok until the just concluded football season.

Five years ago, he played for Akwa United is a 15 year old then signed in time for the 2010/11 season which Dolphins won.

He had to struggle to play in a team that had the likes of Emma Nwachi, Chidi Osuchukwu and Adamu Mohammed but he took his time to learn until his big chance came.

Emem got his first league goal in match day 3 against Sunshine Stars in Port Harcourt.

Known for his speed and trade mark bursts of pace down the flanks, good with both feet and his head and his uncanny knack to wriggle out of tight situations on the pitch.

His claim to fame was scoring all six goals in the game against Nembe City in Port Harcourt on October 22, 2015, a goal scoring record by any Nigerian, anywhere in the world. He was also the one who first equaled Jude Aneke’s 20 goal a season records before Mfon Udoh surpassed it

Emem eventually scored 25 goals in all competitions last year, 20 in the League, 4 in the Federation Cup and one for the national team.

In case you heard about Emem Eduok last season and want to see him play, you won’t because he has signed for Esperance in the Tunisian League.

In fact, he has already scored 5 goals for his new club, 4 in friendly games and 1in the league.

What about Osaguona Ighodaro?

Osaguona Ighodaro was not a very popular player when he was at Shooting Stars but his stock began to rise at Rangers International.

Lanky, Nwankwo Kanu-esque and can score goals both within and outside the box.
Osaguona Ighodaro is now with Raja Casablanca

In a Rangers squad that had Christian Obiozor, Osaguona soon began to score goals until the national team assessors noticed him and he got a call up, playing in the AFCON Qualifying game on the road to South Africa.

He got his first goal in the 3rd match day of the League and on match day 15 he scored a hat trick against Gombe United.

By the end of the season he had 16 League goals to his name.

Do you want to watch Osaguona Ighodaro play this season? Sorry you can’t because he has moved to Morocco where he now plays for Raja Casablanca.

We cannot see Gbolahan Salami too

One of the most loaned out players in the Nigerian League is Gbolahan Salami but last season he finally got into the form books, playing for the Super Eagles and his club, Warri Wolves.

He has played for Shooting Stars, Sunshine Stars and Enyimba, all on loan and was more recognized for his uncanny knack for causing trouble than his goals.
Gbolahan Salami now plays for Red Star Belgrade

He even got the sobriquet, Nigerian Ballotelli.

However, at Warri Wolves he began to score goals and became a main stay at the Super Eagles in 2014.

Salami got his first league goal in match day 5 and at the end of the season had 16.

Though more of his goals were from the penalty spot, he scored them anyway.

At the Super Eagles, he led the lines at the CHAN tournament in South Africa in January 2014 and after the World Cup he came in as a substitute in the AFCON Qualifier against Congo in Calabar and scored.

At the end of the season, Gbolahan Salami had amassed 18 goals in all competitions, 16 in the league and two for the national team but he will not play the league in the coming season because he is now a player of Red Star Belgrade in Serbia.

Peter Ebimobowei is gone too

One of the best scorers in the Nigerian League in recent times is Peter Ebomobowei.

Ebibomobowei is with Al Ahly
He got 18 league goals last season and none was from the penalty spot.

He is big, strong, fast and can score with both feet and his head.

If not for Ebimobowei’s goals, Bayelsa United would have been relegated.

He got a nomination for Player of the Season at the League Bloggers Awards but that honour went to Mfon Udoh.

It is too bad that Ebimobowei will not strut his stuff in the league next season because he now plays in Egypt for Al Ahly Nationale.

A ray of hope

At least, the league’s top scorer, Mfon Udoh remains but not because he wanted to.
League top scorer, Udoh remains with Enyimba
Mfon got 26 goals in all competitions last season; 23 in the league and 3 in the Federation Cup. He tried his luck in Belarus and Egypt but eventually stayed put at Enyimba.

Christian Pyagbara got four goals in one game against Lobi Stars in Port Harcourt while playing for Sharks FC.

He ended with 14 goals and crossed over to City rivals, Dolphins FC.

Between Pyagbara and Udoh, the league has just two stars that people can look up to from last season.

Can the league cope with these loses?

If the coaches work hard and look within their ranks, at the end of the season, the league may unearth new players who will be major talking points by match day 30.

At Dolphins there is Victor Alegbe, while Warri Wolves have Oghenekaro Etebo and Sikiru Adewale.

Kano Pillars have taken Christian Obiozor from Rangers and he looks a decent buy already. At Enyimba, Peter Onyekachi, who crossed over from Abia Warriors seems like one who can do the business but truth must be told that a League that loses its best players every year will lose its appeal, especially to those who are not fanatical about it.
Dolphins' Victor Alegbe
Yet there may still be other players who were not to drawer last season who may just make their mark. That is the beauty of the Nigerian league.

Nigerian League clubs face financial competition from clubs all over the World and even in Africa; competition that they cannot win so players will leave every season.

The coaches must however, ensure the conveyor belt continues to work so more players come into the fray.

Are you one of those who don’t watch the Nigerian league but just follows on social media?

Did the exploits of Mfon Udoh, Emem Eduok, Osaguona Ighodaro, Peter Ebimobowei and Gbolahan Salami make you think you should begin to watch?

Don’t despair. The Nigerian league has never stopped producing talents. There will be many more coming out from where those came from.

Additional research from Fisayo Dairo
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