By: Abiodun Adewale.
The accumulated fixtures of reigning champions, Rivers United, in the abridged 2022/23 Nigeria Professional Football League season might take more than the stipulated time to complete as affected clubs have kicked against the first of the three outstanding matches.
The IMC had rescheduled the match-day 15 encounter between Rivers United and Wikki Tourists billed Bauchi for Wednesday May 10, and both teams were quick to counter the arrangement, with different reasons.
The away side, Rivers United, whose continental engagement forced the fixture to be rescheduled cited the inconvenience of travelling from Port Harcourt to Bauchi to honor the encounter within three days.
“We are consequent upon the above, stating how untenable honoring the above
match on Wednesday will be, an acceptable day will be Thursday 11th May, 2023,
recall the distance between Port Harcourt to Bauchi is about 932km, transversing this distance within Monday, Tuesday and now play on Wednesday will really be tasking on the players due to fatigue,” Rivers United wrote to the IMC.
They have only played 13 matches in the league this season, three less than every other team and currently fourth in Group B with 23 points. Wins in their accumulated games will see them back in contention for a Super 6 spot.
It’s however more complicated for hosts, Wikki Tourists, who need the result of the game to boost their chances of surviving the drop. Their outcry is hinged on the sequence of the outstanding matches Rivers United have to honour before they play them.
“According to the NPFL fixtures, Rivers are supposed to play match-day 12 (Sunshine Stars) before Wikki Tourists, therefore we hereby tender our complain that all matches should be played according to the fixtures of the league for fairness and integrity,” Wikki also wrote the IMC.
The league body however reiterated that the fixture was rearranged in order to complete the season within the timeframe given by the NFF.
“Please note that according to Rule B13.8 of the framework and rules of the league, the NPFL has the power to at any time change the date upon which a league match is to be played.”
While both clubs go back and forth over the fixture, the IMC is also yet to fix dates for the other two outstanding matches of Rivers United against Sunshine Stars (match-day 12) and Doma United (match-day 16).
The league body has proposed that actions in Group B will be on hold after match-day 17, to allow Rivers United honour their remaining fixtures while Group A games will go on according to the league calendar.