That Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is one of the most competitive leagues is an understatement. Which other league will a team amass 50 points and still be relegated? The magical 40 points which assures EPL safety is not applicable in the NPFL. 

It will take some doing to emerge champions in such a league as the NPFL. A league so tough that the bruises on the strikers testify. 

Since the advent of Shehu Dikko as LMC chairman in December 2014, the league has even taken a notch higher in competitiveness. One thing that cannot be taken away from the league organisers is that since this regime, the league had never produced a contentious champion. 

There had never been any winner that wasn't deemed the best of the rest all season. The key factor that contributes to these worthy champions every season is the rise in the number of away victories. 

In the past, away victories were rarities. Teams won the league more on the basis of their home invincibility. But measures have been put in place making it easier for clubs to pick points on away soil. 

It is therefore not surprising that the winners of the league during this period were among the highest away winners during the season. It has become a norm and when teams start picking points regularly from the away fixtures, they become favourites for the title that season. 

The stats will back this...

In the 2014/15 season, 31 away victories were recorded and champions, Enyimba had five.

2015/16 produced 23 away victories with table toppers Rangers grabbing three. The entertaining Flying Antelopes side parading the famed CANE attacking quartet of Bobby Clement, Godwin Aguda, Obinna Nwobodo and Chisom Egbuchulam broke a 32 year jinx to win the title. The level playing ground provided by the league organisers made their dominance count on the league table. 

Then in 2016/17, away teams won 19 times. While Sunshine Stars won the highest (3), league winners Plateau United won twice. It was the year Daniel Itodo's long throws were tormenting opposition defenses home or away. On any ground, Plateau were threatening and no eyebrows could be raised when they secured the title even before the last match day. Once again, this was a historic triumph made possible by a league where the best thrived.

Before the annulment of the 2017/18 season, 12 away victories had been witnessed with league leaders Lobi Stars, Akwa United and Niger Tornadoes having two each.

The abridged 2018/19 season recorded 32 away victories. Rangers, Akwa United, Kano Pillars and Abia Warriors had the highest (3) while Enyimba who triumphed at the Super 6 had one away victory. 

The Covid19 pandemic truncated the 2019/20 season but before then, 32 away victories had been recorded with Plateau notching a season high 3. 

Then in 2020/21 season, an Enyimba team that didn't know where was home or away soil, won seven away matches out of the season's 36 away victories. Champions Akwa won thrice. 

The just concluded 2021/22 season saw 30 away victories with winners Rivers United picking five. Again, from match day 1, there was no doubt that the the title was headed to Port Harcourt. 

Now, can you imagine a team winning seven out of 19 away victories in the NPFL? Enyimba drew five more matches away meaning they only lost seven games on the road all season. This feat of 2021 could only have been possible under such an atmosphere as provided by the Dikko-led LMC.

It was an atmosphere that made the away teams fancy the chances of winning more. Extra checks introduced by the LMC like the match delegates, match assessors joining the match commissioners boosted officiating and transparency at venues.

- Clement Nwankpa Jr

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