The Myth, Challenges of an away game in the NPFL

Africa Sports General Posted on 2022-06-10 15:53:23

The Myth, Challenges of an away game in the NPFL

Over a decade now, there is still largely an  overwhelming sense that away matches are literally defeat-bound to visiting teams.

Home advantage is an established concept in football. The strident home support, an uncomfortable trip for the away team, and added motivation not to lose on  turf all contribute to the likelihood of a victory for the home team.

In Nigeria, the trend of  consistent victory  for home teams is due to a combination of several factors but not least is the constraints of logistics.

Often, trips in the country are nominally by road given that most clubs don not enjoy the financial muscle to fund aircraft transport. However, road transports in the country are nightmares by all factors considered: bad roads, security hazards, and even risks of accidents.

Inevitably, this affects the performances of away teams as it become characterized by sloppiness, which is understandable as players suffer a nagging sense of fatigue and exhaustion from days on the road.

Arriving just before kick-off after long road trips, with an exhausting feeling, is far from ideal preparation for players. In 2012, two matches were postponed when first Sunshine Stars and then Wikki Tourists were robbed on their way to the games. Teams do make it to the grounds after the road hassle and that is when they must contend with fans and referees.

In the 2017 season, only 5% of the seasons games were won by the away team. Six out of twenty teams did not win a single away game all season. Plateau United, the champions, won only two away games but won seventeen of their nineteen home games.

Other Contending Factors

Fan violence plays a huge role in the myth of away wins. Over the years, referees have had to contend with violent and entitled fans who believe their team must always win.

While many Nigerian football fans may scoff at the idea that fan violence is prevalent, one outstanding factor is that it is common enough to have created a culture of fear among referees  and players.

In contrast, teams in some parts of Europe, Asia, and the Americas do not have to leave for match venues days earlier than the kick-off date because they have easy means of getting to their centers. Such means of transportation as the effective rail system, affordable aviation service and smooth water transportation make it easy for teams to get to their destinations without any hassles. For teams in most African countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, which does not have easy means of movement.

Movement from one venue to the other has become nightmares for  club managers  due to the bad nature of the roads and the danger posed by armed robbers and insurgents. Whereas in the past, the managers had only the bad state of the roads to worry about,  attacks from armed robbers and other criminal activities on the highways have added to the clubs’ worries. This poses a question of if it is getting worse or better.

These issues have affected the popularity of the local league, and may also be impeding the development of Nigerian players. Players are less motivated when they know the outcome of the match has already been fixed.

Football does not, of course, exist in isolation. The sport is affected by problems that bedevil the country in general. That is true for corruption and funding difficulties, and also when it comes to political strife. 

COVID-19 restrictions have not affected the NPFL as much as one thought in the face of the referees being fairer and the absence of an intimidating home crowd.



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