Positives from demystification of Pillars in Kano

Kano Pillars’ Suleiman Usman and Tope Orelope of 3SC battling for ball possession during a recent Glo Premier League game in Ibadan. Pillars lost their 12-year-old unbeaten home record when Nasarawa United beat them 1-2 in Kano…at the weekend. PHOTO: LM

Kano Pillars’ Suleiman Usman and Tope Orelope of 3SC battling for ball possession during a recent Glo Premier League game in Ibadan. Pillars lost their 12-year-old unbeaten home record when Nasarawa United beat them 1-2 in Kano…at the weekend. PHOTO: LM

For some, it was long in coming and for others, it was to stay for ever but when it did come, the foundations of Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) were literally shaken by the deafening silence that emerged from the Sani Abacha Stadium, Kano after the Matchday 25 clash between reigning league champions, Kano Pillars and Nasarawa United.

Indeed, it was a loud silence most of the fans that were inside and around the stadium were not accustomed to.

Not in recent history. This match turned the usual evenings of back slapping to arms folded across chests and hands joined at the top of the head in lamentation of the great fall of the Pillars from Kano, the Sai Masu Gida on which the joy of football in the ancient city hinged.

It was indeed football – a game we so treasure for its excitement, unpredictability and surprises manifested all three tendencies.

Soon after centre referee, Uloma Nwogu (yes, a woman), from Anambra State brought the Pillars/Nasarawa game to an end, the biggest record remaining in Nigeria, nay African football, became another closed chapter.

Kano Pillars’ record of 202 matches unbeaten at home would not be stretched further as the Solid Miners ran away 2-1 winners over the Sai Masu Gida.

Between their last home defeat in the league on June 21, 2003 and August 23, 2015, Pillars have made their home grounds a no-go area for visitors on the pitch.

From the Sani Abacha Stadium, to the Kano Pillars Stadium, and even the Confluence Stadium in Lokoja, (where they defeated Enyimba in a title decider in 2013), Pillars had maintained the aura of invincibility with a bold swagger.

As years rolled by, lovers of the Nigerian league continued to wait anxiously on how long this run would continue and just as it is the norm across the globe when teams have such enviable records, fans of their opponents and neutrals alike just want an end to it as soon as possible, after all it is not one man’s game.

I digressed. The importance of teams’ invincibility can neither be overstated nor under-appreciated here as many teams across the globe have had this feel at one time or the other.

Arsenal went through the whole 2003/04 season in the EPL unbeaten and by the time they lost at Manchester United the following season, there was a huge sigh across England. The same can be said of Chelsea when the enigmatic Jose Mourinho made Stamford Bridge a fortress during his first spell in charge of the team. They all came to an end didn’t they? It is in this light that some have over the years seen the run of Kano Pillars.

Nasarawa United led at half time through Manir Ubale and Yaro Bature’s goals, but when Rabiu Ali halved the deficit almost immediately after the restart, many thought it was just another “nearly” day. Rightly so because Pillars were within seconds of losing to Sunshine Stars early last season before Gambo Mohammed scored in the dying moments to force a draw after going 2-0 behind. Alas, this was the day many had looked forward to.

The ex-factor also had a huge part in Sunday’s result as it took Nasarawa United, a team prepared by Pillars’ current coach, Mohammed Babaganaru to end the unbeaten sequence. Talk of biting the finger that fed you, yeah but it happens often times in football. Having spent some years in Kano as a part of the invincible record, Babaganaru left for Nasarawa United at the start of the 2013/14 season and was three points away from leading them to a continental competition but for a draw against Warri Wolves on the last day of the season.

Babaganaru could not reject the lure of a return to Kano and he left the Solid Miners for Pillars at mid-season, this term in what was a somewhat tumultuous circumstance. Nasarawa United’s victory then served some poetic justice, especially when the first goal came from a former Pillars star, Manir Ubale, who scored Pillars’ league-winning goal against Enyimba in Lokoja under Babaganaru on the last day of 2012/2013 season.

It is no doubt the end of an important record, which one has to commend Pillars for because only Spanish giants, Real Madrid, are known to have at some point gone 221 games unbeaten at home, could better this record. But at the same time, Nasarawa United’s feat is the peak of what we have been witnessing in the Glo Premier League in recent times. The win-at-all-cost syndrome at home has eroded a great deal and teams now go to away venues with utmost confidence on achieving a decent result.

Which club will be the next to follow Pillars’ steps? Could Sunshine Stars, having won all their home games to date this season be serious about starting something to be indelible on Nigerian football? Enyimba neither conceded nor lost any game at home in 2012/13, but succumbed early last season but at the moment, we look at Sunshine’s direction.

• Dairo writes for npfl.ng.

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