On an afternoon in December 2023 and inside one of the Conference rooms of the imposing Sadralia Hotel in Jabi, Abuja, the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) Youth League for U-17 players was birthed.

Hon Gbenga Elegbeleye, the Chairman of the NPFL, while inaugurating the Organising Committee headed by Pastor Emeka Inyama, explained that the idea was consistent with FIFA’s developmental football plans which requires every club in the elite cadre of leagues in member Federations to have junior teams.

While the NPFL has been organising in partnership with LaLiga, the U-15 League, a closer examination will reveal that majority of the clubs are yet to properly set up the teams as part of their Youth development


This time, the clubs were made to appreciate not just the importance but also the serious approach adopted by the Board through the Organising Committee.

“Participation in the Youth League is compulsory as there would be consequences for any club that failed to present its own home-grown team”, Pastor Inyama warned in the weeks leading to the zonal qualifiers in five centres.

Five teams emerged from the zonal qualifiers which held in Lafia, Kaduna, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Ado Ekiti. Those five, namely Plateau United, Katsina United, Rangers International, Remo Stars and Rivers United are in Benin for the Championship finals starting from Saturday, February 24 at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium.

Rivers United and Remo Stars junior teams will open the championship in the first fixture that starts at 2pm. The second fixture of the day will be between Plateau United and Katsina United at 4pm.

It looks to be a carryover of the rivalry in the senior cadre when Rivers United, winner of the South South zone takes on the Ikenne Billionaires, Remo Stars.

Adams Jesse Odoba-Yacham has keenly followed the competition from the zonal stages and watched all the games in Lafia, host city of the North Central zone.

He reckons that for Rivers United, a solid defence block led by Paul Jr Paul would have to contend with the strike force of Remo Stars spearheaded by Aribo Faith, the captain.

Fans would sit back from 4pm to watch Katsina United, the Northwest/Northeast zonal winners in the Kaduna zone file out against the North Central champions, Plateau United.

Again, Odoba-Yacham thinks Coach Sunday Boyi would build his assault against Katsina United around the trio of Dayong Elisha, Pede Ezekiel and the inspirational captain Abdul Musa.

Inyama is very appreciative of the support from the Edo State Government which has partnered with the NPFL to host the finals. He reiterated the importance of the youth league in creating a synergy between grassroot and professional football.

“The Government of Edo State has been very supportive of this initiative which is not surprising because the state has been a hub for sports in Nigeria”, Inyama told NPFL Media.

All the five teams will play each other over the next six days to determine the winner with the highest points.

David NPFL
February 22, 2024
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