NPFL Invitational: Zikiye prepares for another try at pre-season title

Published on: 27 November 2017

For the second time in four editions, the NPFL Invitational Tournament will be having six teams in attendance - the customary four continental representatives joined by hosts Kano Pillars and a the national team that will represent Nigeria at the Africa Nations Championship (CHAN).

Though there will be a change in format from the 2015 edition which was a round robin tournament, the competitiveness and aim of the competition should still remain the same if words of an experienced campaigner, Jonathan Zikiye is to be taken seriously.

Zikiye who will represent MFM FC (CAF Champions League hopefuls) in this year's tournament featured for Dolphins FC, now Rivers United in 2015 and had an enviable record of being the only player in the entire tournament to complete full 90 minutes in all the five matches in Abuja.

"Going to another NPFL Pre-season tournament brings back memories of 2015 which I am happy about. It is a tournament that helps teams to know their strengths and weaknesses towards the new season," Zikiye told from his MFM's base in Lagos.

"We have started serious preparations and I know I am going to have another wonderful and different experience this time because this MFM team is filled with players with passion and hunger for success so we are not just going there to make up the numbers," added the left-sided defender who played for Wikki Tourists in the last edition in Enugu.

In terms of having a different experience this time, Zikiye's Dolphins finished last among the six teams that featured in 2015 after a late and poor preparation by his side led by Stanley Eguma.

He recounts vividly some of the issues with his team then and how helpful it was for his team and himself in the end.

"We got to Abuja not too fit then as we have just resumed from a long break before the Super Six tournament. So, things didn't really go our way, we struggled so much with games and coupled with the fact that there were no much rest days in between games.

"But it was a good experience as we used it to know our weaknesses before the continental championship and on the other hand, I had a great tournament playing all the games and had an opportunity to captain my team in one of the games," explained the former Nembe City star.

MFM FC are just back from participating at a pre-season tournament which they exited at the group stage but Zikiye maintains that his team will be ready to challenge for the "tougher" one in Kano.

"We went to Ilorin for Gold Cup and we're back in Lagos. Like I said earlier, these tournaments are dress-rehearsals to the new season. The one in Kano will be tougher than the one we just finished so we have started serious preparations so as to compete very well.

"We have a sound coach with players willing to give their best at all times so I am sure of a good outing in Kano," he concluded.

Zikiye's MFM FC will join current league champions Plateau United, 2015 league winners Enyimba, AITEO Cup champions Akwa United, 2014 league winners Kano Pillars and Nigeria's Super Eagles B at the week-long tournament scheduled for the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano as from December 11