The Nigerian Professional Football League has been a steady source of talented players since it took its current form in 1972. Nigerian clubs are typically owned by the local regional government, which makes teams and their respective fan bases divided on ethnic and political lines. As a result, crowds can be hostile and make home advantage unusually enhanced. In an extreme example, in 2013 Enyimba didn’t allow a single goal in a home match. A reason is that referees do not get regular salaries and receive pay and indemnities from the home team. Bribery is commonplace, with locals on the club payroll whose specific job is making sure the referee favors their team by any means. Many pundits, leaders, and experts on Nigerian football agree that encouraging private ownership and investment is the best way to improve domestic football’s integrity and attendance.
Clubs from the south part of the country have historically had the most success in the NPFL. Enyimba (8 titles), Enugu Rangers (7), and Heartland F.C. (5) are the standard bearers from the South, while Plateau United have been surging into relevance in recent years with two titles in the last four seasons. While the southern clubs of Nigeria maintain a high standard, players who go on to success domestically and in Europe come from all of Nigeria’s regions and ethnic groups. Many different clubs in the Nigerian football league system produce players who go overseas, rather than a dominant few clubs who have exclusive access to talented youth.
Football academies play a significant role in developing players to go to Europe. In the last several years European giants such as FC Barcelona, Juventus, and Chelsea have established youth academies within Nigeria. These footballing schools will only increase the rate at which Nigerians will export players to Europe, and young Nigerians are realizing more and more that moving to Europe from academies is the more effective route instead of playing in the NPFL.