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Nigeria Premier League History – All You Should Know

Football is a global sport with domestic leagues in almost every country. In Nigeria, we have the Nigerian Premier League. While many people are aware of this, not many support the teams. The majority of Nigerian football lovers invest their support in European clubs.

If you’ve taken an interest in Nigerian football, this article will be discussing the history and other important stuff you should know about the Nigerian Premier League. 

About The Nigerian Premier League 

The Nigeria Premier League, presently known as the Nigerian Professional Football League, is a men’s professional football league in Nigeria that has recorded multiple champions over the years. The league is currently sponsored by Globacom and was founded in 1972. Mighty Jets won the first league season. 

Enyimba won back-to-back CAF championships in the early 2000s. At the time, the league was probably one of the strongest in Africa. Enugu Rangers, Shooting Stars, and Heartland FC have also reached the finals on a few occasions, making the league renowned in Africa. 

Enyimba is the most successful team in the Nigeria Professional Football League, having won over eight league titles, followed by Enugu Rangers, who have won seven. With five league titles, Shooting Stars and Heartland are the closest ties at number 3. Kano Pillars have only recently risen to prominence, winning three consecutive titles. 

The league is the highest level of men’s professional football in the Federation, with 20 clubs competing from all around the country. The League’s standings at the end of each season see the top team finish with fewer points than the chasing pack, making it very competitive. 

Nigerian league teams have also competed in the CAF Champions League, the continental showpiece. The only team to win the competition is Enyimba. On a few occasions, Heartland, Shooting Stars, and Enugu Rangers came close. 

Who has won the Nigerian Premier League The Most 

  • Enyimba 

With eight league titles, two CAF Champions League titles, four FA Cups, four Super 4 Cups, and two CAF Super Cups, Enyimba is Nigeria’s most successful football club. Nigeria gained two slots in the competition thanks to Enyimba’s pedigree, as well as two slots in all CAF club competitions. 

In recent years, the Aba Elephants, as they are affectionately known, have attracted interest from both within and outside the country. They won the league in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009–10, 2015, and 2019. 

  • Enugu Rangers 

The Flying Antelopes, who previously shared seventh place with Enyimba, have won seven Nigerian league titles. Rangers had to wait another thirty years after winning the league title in 1984 before winning it again in 2016. 

With a record six FA trophies, Enugu Rangers is the most successful team in Nigeria’s oldest league. In 2018, the club won yet another FA Trophy. Enugu Rangers won the NPFL in 1974, 1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1984, and 2016. 

  • Shooting Stars 

Ibadan’s IICC Shooting Stars are another notable Nigerian football team. However. Shooting Stars haven’t been among the best performers in the country in recent seasons. 

The club was demoted from the Nigerian Premier League and they’ve struggled to recover since then. Nevertheless, they won the league in 5 years including 1976, 1980, 1983, 1995, and 1998. 

  • Heartland FC

Heartland FC is another top football team in the country, with five championships under its belt. They won the league for four years in a row. The Heartland Naze Millionaires had previously been Nigeria’s top performers at continental level. 

The Spartans were once relegated from the top division in the but are now back with capacity. Heartland has won five league titles, three FA Cups, and two Super 4 Cups. They won the NPFL in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1993. 

  • Kano Pillars 

Kano Pillars, which is financially funded by the government of Kano State, is Nigeria’s most popular club, with fewer stories of unpaid wages and salary. Kano Pillars has had a meteoric rise in Nigerian football, winning the league in three consecutive seasons. 

In 2008, Pillars won their first trophy and has since won 3 more in 2012, 2013, and 2014. 

  • Rivers United 

Previously Dolphins FC, Rivers United have won the competition three times. In addition, they’ve won the FA Cup 4 times. They won the NPFL in 1997, 2004, and 2011. 

  • Notable Mention 

Bendel Insurance and Julius Berger have both won 2 NPFL titles.

List of Past Winners 

Here is a list of all previous winners of the Nigerian Professional Premier League –

  • 1972 – Mighty Jets
  • 1973 – Bendel Insurance
  • 1974 – Enugu Rangers
  • 1975 – Enugu Rangers
  • 1976 – IICC Shooting Stars
  • 1977 – Enugu Rangers
  • 1978 – Racca Rovers
  • 1979 – Bendel Insurance
  • 1980 – IICC Shooting Stars
  • 1981 – Enugu Rangers
  • 1982 – Enugu Rangers
  • 1983 – IICC Shooting Stars
  • 1984 – Enugu Rangers
  • 1985 – New Nigeria Bank
  • 1986 – Leventis United
  • 1987 – Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Heartland)
  • 1988 – Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Heartland FC)
  • 1989 – Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Heartland FC)
  • 1990 – Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Heartland FC)
  • 1991 – Julius Berger
  • 1992 – Stationery Stores
  • 1993 – Iwuanyanwu Nationale (Heartland FC)
  • 1994 – BCC Lions
  • 1995 – 3SC Shooting Stars
  • 1996 – Udoji United
  • 1997 – Eagle Cement
  • 1998 – 3SC Shooting Stars
  • 1999 – Lobi Stars
  • 2000 – Julius Berger
  • 2001 – Enyimba
  • 2002 – Enyimba
  • 2003 – Enyimba
  • 2004 – Dolphin
  • 2005 – Enyimba
  • 2006 – Ocean Boys
  • 2007 – Enyimba
  • 2008 – Kano Pillars
  • 2009 – Bayelsa United
  • 2010 – Enyimba
  • 2011 – Dolphin
  • 2012 – Kano Pillars
  • 2013 – Kano Pillars
  • 2014 – Kano Pillars
  • 2015 – Enyimba
  • 2016 – Enugu Rangers
  • 2017 – Plateau United
  • 2018 – No winner as the league was suspended following new CAF Rules.
  • 2019 – Enyimba
  • 2019–20 – No winner as the league was canceled due to COVID
  • 2020/2021 – Akwa United