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Intrigue, Excitement And Growth: The 2022 Turf Arena 11-Aside League In Retrospect

 

The second edition of the Turf Arena 11-aside Mini League will be coming to a climax this Sunday 26th June 2022. The 12 team league competition is the brainchild of Turf Arena Sports Centre owner Mr. Mohammed Kamal-deen whose full-sized pitch has been a “Holy Grail” for a good number of grassroots matches in the city and also the league venue for all the matches played this season. The competition which began last year as a trial project to engage teams who often play at the centre to give them something to look forward to according to Mr. Kamal-deen himself has grown little by little over the last one year. Previously, the league ran across three months in a regular league format with all 12 teams playing each other in an atimes exhausting schedule period which saw Niger-based side Jubril Academy emerge as winners in the league’s inaugural season albeit in controversial circumstances on the final day of the season.

For the 2022 edition, the league’s LOC adopted an abridged format to cope with time as well as limit certain teams manipulating results by separating 12 teams into two groups, seeding defending champions Jubril Academy, top Abuja based sides HB Academy, Olympic Hybrid and Garden City Panthers to avoid these top sides being in the very same group at a press conference held in early May.

Jubril Academy the defending Champions were expected to go far as well as the aforementioned trio but that has not entirely been the case thus far. All four made bright and decent starts from the opening day, but the tables would begin to turn as home side Turf Arena FC thanks to the exploits of striker Sylvester Ohiemi, midfield star Daniel Simon who between them have a combined 11 goal contributions that powered thier side to the top of their group unbeaten. Turf would beat title-favorites Olympic Hybrid 1-0 in a rather tense affair along the way to raise hopes of a previously held unlikely title tilt.

The revelation of the season however have been Pride FC who came from a defeat on opening game to shock defending champions Jubril Academy in the next game and hammer sister club Konsole FC 5-0 in the game after. The side’s efficiency in front of goal and midfield stability would see them finish above nearest rivals HB Academy who ironically beat them in the opening game of their group 1-0. Thanks to the brilliance of their striker Kufu Hussieni Sani whose 5 goals and 3 assists alongside super-sub Michael Esiobi 3 goals off the bench mostly notably scoring a double after his side went a goal down against former Nigerian U-17 coach John Obuh’s Garden City Panthers on Match Day 4 to win 2-1. Fair to say Pride began to look every bit like a title winning side.

HB Academy have had a rather steady run aside the loss to Garden City Panthers on Match Day 3. They didnt live anyone in doubt of thier quality and showed it the most in the semi finals against the then unbeaten Turf Arena with the talented Victor Udoh scoring the first of the game’s two goals as a previously solid Turf backline led by the experienced center back and captain Abdullah Bwala crumbled when it mattered most. HB Left back Isaac James has caught the eye for most of the tournament with his forward runs and well-delivered crosses into the box in an esentially young side.

Olympic Hybrid came into their semi final clash with Pride FC as favorites with the quartet of midfield dynamo Victor Essien, striker Ahmed Adebayo, defensive midfielder Shedrack Cyril and skipper Kelvin Agu in goal proving to be the spine of the side throughout the league season. They would prove thier pre-tournament pedigree by beating surprise the season’s surprise package 2-0 with star striker Ahmed Adebayo scoring both goals to put himself just a goal behind current top scorer Sylvester Ohiemi of Turf Arena who is on 7 for the season as both look set to scramble for the top scorer gong.

The final and third place will prove to be decisive for individual as well as team honours generally Kufu Sani is just behind Sylvester Ohiemi and Ahmed Adebayo with just 2 goals. Turf Arena’s Daniel Simon’s 4 assists for the season is only threatened by Kufu Sani’s 3 assists for Pride FC and both face each other in the third place game to decide the most assist record. Hybrid and HB Academy promises to be quite the sight as both who have a committed philosophy to playing good football will surely be putting thier status in the city on the line at the blast of the last kick off for the season tomorrow.

A finale that is sure to bring curtains to what has been an unpredictable and dramatic 8 weeks of grassroots football.

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