The punishment meted out to Kano Pillars and captain Rabiu Ali for their unenviable act during the NPFL Championship Playoff last season drew different opinions among football enthusiasts in the country.
The incident stole the headlines and somehow pulled attention away from the possible consequences of the 12-game ban handed to Ali and the three-game stadium ban being placed on the club.
Five months after the crowd disturbances and harassment of match referees that marred Pillars’ 1-1 result against Rangers, the Pyramid Boys are busy licking the wounds in the new Nigerian Professional Football League season.
Having accrued one point from their first three games, the four-time NPFL champions are currently enduring their poorest start to a season in the elite division since the 2005-06 season when they amassed same number of points from their first three games.
However, the sharp contrast is how the Ibrahim Musa-tutored side has failed to score in any of their three games this season unlike the two goals registered during the said three winless matches in 2006. In fact, the Pyramid Boys have failed to score in 4 hours 47 minutes of play, their longest run of action without a goal in the NPFL since April 2017 when they went 5 hours 26 minutes.
Goals win you matches in the game of football. But with the goals not forthcoming for Kano Pillars and Ali still sidelined due to suspension, the team’s struggles are not entirely surprising. Perhaps, the coaching crew did not realize Ali’s importance to the team over the years, or their effort to replace him was not enough.
Ali is a lethal midfielder and razor-sharp with his delivery in the past seven seasons for Kano Pillars, with the club legend scoring at least 10 goals in four consecutive seasons between 2013 and 2016.
But the mercurial midfielder had his worst goal scoring rate during the 2017-18 season when he netted just one goal before the season was abruptly ended after Matchday 22. While Ali was enduring a horrid time in front of the goal and the team was expected to suffer for it,
Ibrahim Lokosa, who had joined the team about seven months earlier, seized the opportunity to attract the goal-scoring spotlight from football enthusiasts in Nigerian and across the globe. The Esperance de Tunis striker would go on to score 19 goals in the season that also had him dislodge Ali as Pillars’ first choice penalty kick taker for the season.
Lokosa’s emergence was a pointer that another talisman can spring up from the team that has Rabiu Ali, as this was further buttressed by the exploits of Adamu Hassan and Gambo Muhammad at some points during their respective stint as teammate of Ali at Kano Pillars.
Ibrahim Musa and his current coaching crew had five months to develop or recruit another player in the mold of the guys stated earlier and prevent the current debacle that may cost him the job at Pillars.
Unfortunately, results at the start of this season are not suggesting there was a proper plan during the off-season to avoid an impending poor start to this campaign. Perhaps, the perceived laxity in the recruitment of quality players was helped by the club’s early exit from the CAF Champions League this season.
Nevertheless, there is a bit of solace and inspiration for the current crop of players in the Kano Pillars squad as the set of 2005-06 squad eventually finished fourth in the Group A of the abridged season, having successfully pulled off a late charge for the title and finished just two points outside a Championship play-off spot.
Will the four-time champions take a cue and snap out of their slumber to give a good fight this season? Will Musa extend his stay as Kano Pillars head coach beyond the reported three-match ultimatum handed to him by the management of the club?
Hints on answers to these questions will likely be revealed when Pillars host Wikki Tourists in their final game of the three-match stadium ban on Sunday.