Kano Pillars, Enyimba Take Rivalry To Abuja
Dolphins, Wolves Also Aim For Title
THE ‘Peoples Elephant,’ Enyimba of Aba, will from Saturday begin another battle to prove that they, rather than Kano Pillars, are the best clubside in the Nigerian league.
Last season, Pillars, for the third consecutive year, retained the Glo Premier League title, beating Enyimba to the laurel by just one point. But despite the feat, Enyimba still believe that Pillars are not the best team in the land.
According to officials of the Aba team, Pillars would not have won the title if their home games went through the same scrutiny others’ matches were subjected to. So, Abuja presents a good avenue to determine the real champions of Nigerian football.
Aside Enyimba and Pillars, Dolphins and Warri Wolves, which are among the strongest teams in the land, will also in Abuja to vie for the Super Six title. They are joined by the national Under-20 and Under-23 teams, in the championship, which is also aimed at ensuring that the participating sides are in competitive mood for their various challenges this year.
Speaking on his side’s expectations at the Super Six tourney, Enyimba Coach, Kadiri m Ikhana, said his team would successfully defend the trophy they won last year despite the presence of Kano Pillars and other teams in the competition.
Enyimba, which won the 2014 Federations Cup, just resumed training after resolving undisclosed issues that kept them away from camp. But Ikhana is in no doubt that his team will come good.
“I have to confess that it has been rough with the team but then we have resolved to successfully defend the title we won last season. More importantly, the tournament is coming at a very good period because we will use it to assess the team and plan our match strategies ahead the CAF Champions League match on February 13 against Buffles of Benin Republic,” Ikhana said.
Ikhana admits that Pillars are the toughest opponents for Enyimba, noting that they have been preparing very well since last year unlike the other clubs in the tournament.
“If you ask me the best club at the moment, I would say Kano Pillars because they have had an excellent preparation and when a club prepares well, it is easier to win but then, Enyimba cannot be ruled out because we also have retained most of the players that were with us last season. We will count on their experience and team spirit to do well,” Ikhana, who led Enyimba to Nigeria’s first ever Champions League win in 2003, added.
Also looking forward to rewarding outing in Abuja, is Kano Pillars’ goalkeeper and captain, Joel Theophilus Afelokhai, who believes the competition will put his side in a good stead for the 2015 CAF Champions League.
Afelokhai, who said his club want to win the Super Six title, reveals that Pillars will not under rate any of their opponents, noting, however, that with the calibre of players recruited by the Kano team this term, he was optimistic that they will excel at the competition.
“We are having a new team made up of the old players and the newly recruited ones, everyone that is going to wear the jersey of the club must fight for a place in the team because of the healthy competition among the players. I believe we can win the Super Six to keep us in good fame for the Champions League challenge,” he said.
Meanwhile, there is excitement and high expectations in the camp of Dolphins FC, as the Glo Premier League Super Six tournament kicks off today.
Dolphins, last season’s Federations Cup losing finalist and 2015 CAF Confederation Cup hopefuls, regrouped last week ahead of the tournament, which serves as the opener to what promises to be a busy 2014/15 football season for the club.
Veteran goalkeeper, Sunday Rotimi, who is the captain of the team, and Jonathan Zikiye, are already looking forward to an impressive outing in the 10-day tournament.
For Rotimi, a former Sunshine Stars goalkeeper, the competition will serve as the perfect build-up for all teams involved in continental campaigns. “It’s been long I participated in a tournament of this magnitude and I think it will help the teams in terms of match practice. It’s going to be a tough tournament because I believe the clubs involved are the best in the country presently,” Rotimi noted.
On a personal note, the former Super Eagles goalkeeper said hopes the current Dolphins’ squad will make the most of the expanded format and possibly come out tops at the end of the round-robin tournament.
“It is also laudable that we have six teams in this year’s competition seeing that those national teams have competitions soon too. But we will continue to work hard and ensure that we don’t only go to the tournament to participate but in the end win the trophy.” Rotimi added.
In the same vein, his teammate and defender, Zikiye, is also relishing his maiden appearance at the tournament. The former Nembe City star is of the opinion that the pre-season tournament will be keenly contested for.
“It is a good opportunity for us as a team and it will be a wonderful experience for me as an individual, being my first time of playing in such tournament. The opposition will be stiff seeing that we will have some of the best clubs in the country and two national teams participate at the tournament.”
“So I think it will be a nice experience and tough challenge as well,” Zikiye posited.
The Stanley Eguma-led side will face Kano Pillars in the opening fixture of the Super Six tournament today.
Warri Wolves were expected to arrive in Abuja yesterday determined to go one better and win the Super Six tournament.
The side have put last year’s loss in the final to Enyimba behind them as they prepare for the competition.
Wolves will bring more than 30 players to Abuja.
The club in a statement by the Media Manager, Etu Moses, said the team, comprising youth and experienced players, were in high spirits, as they could not afford to fail.
“The players are even happy that they will be playing with the U-20 and 23 as that will stretch them and prepare them for the CAF Continental assignment, which comes up in February in Burkina Faso. We are leaving Warri for Abuja on Friday with 35 players and ten Officials for the Super Six.
“Our players are well relaxed having played some local teams here but they are very excited that they will be playing against the under 20 and under 23 as they believe that these matches will prepare them well for the task ahead,” Moses said.
He also disclosed that the team would leave Abuja after the tournament for Shagamu and Ibadan where they hope to play some friendly matches all in a bid to correct the lapses noticed in the Super Six tourney.
Speaking on the competition, organisers of the tournament, the League Management Company (LMC), said it was at the instance of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), which wants to it to adequately prepare the teams for the continental championships commencing from February this year.
The pre-season tournament will feature the top three clubs on the log of the 2013/14 season plus the Federation Cup winner and will serve as tune-up for the clubs to test their newly signed players and also perfect their competitive game plans for continental club championships due to commence in February.
The four clubs are league winners, Kano Pillars, Enyimba, Warri Wolves and Dolphins, runners-up to Enyimba in the Federation Cup.
The tournament will be played on a round rubbing structure with each team playing five matches over five match days within a 10-day period.
Accordingly, three matches will be played on each match day. All the matches of the Glo Premier League Super Six will enjoy live coverage from the LMC Broadcast partners, SuperSport.
Enyimba International won last season’s tournament that also featured Kano Pillars, Bayelsa United and Warri Wolves.