Kano Pillars are a well known club in the Nigerian Football circles and have been a dominant force in the last half decade. The Kano based side are two time winners of the Glo Premier League have always been in and around the upper rung of the log consistently for the better part of half a decade.
This doesn't come as any surprise to most ardent followers of the local league because Pillars have a very good structure on ground albeit from a Nigerian context. Formed in 1990 as an amalgamation of major clubs in the Kano axis like WRECA FC, Kano Golden Stars and Bank of the North FC to form what we know today as Kano Pillars Football Club of Kano.
|Kano Pillars line up (pic courtesy Bakare Idowu)|
Popularly called the 'Masu Gida' boys which translates in Hausa Language as 'owners of the house' have become a major force to be reckoned with in Nigerian football fraternity. Supported by a willing government and also funded and supported by various branches of the local supporters club in all the various local Governments in Kano State, it is a not hard to see why they continue to be among the top teams in the Country.
Pillars have produced a lot of players that have gone on to make Nigeria proud. The likes of Akin Akinseinde, Ahmed 'Yaro Yaro' Garba, Sani Kaita, and most recently Gabriel Reuben and Ahmed Musa all come to mind.
Kano Pillars won the League last season and are on course right now to retain the league title They started the 2013 Glo Premier League like a house on fire chalking up away wins at Wikki Tourists and got another against ABS of Ilorin, coupled with vital away points, they are sitting on top of the log as the NPFL went on a halt time break
Except a miracle happens, it is safe to conclude that Kano Pillars win be in the thick of things when the title run in starts heating up and it wont be out of place if one suggests that the Yellow and Green will retain the title.
The other teams in the GPL have their work cut out for them ,if they are to wrestle the title off Pillars when the season comes to a climax.
On the light of this, Lizzy Michael takes a look at five ways Kano Pillars can be neutralized and stopped. Some might be tactical, others mental and cultural.
1. The 12th man: Kano Pillars unarguably have the most vociferous supporters in the land who are dedicated to the team. The Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano where they play their home games has a capacity of 25,000 and the stadium is usually fun to capacity on match days. A poll recently taken by Soccer Press puts the average attendance at a home game to about 19, 520, which no team in the NPFL can boast of. The have local chapters in all the local governments of the state that are represented on match days.
This had culminated to Kano Pillars having the longest winning streak of about 10 years at home. This is almost unbelievable, but that is the case, the fans make the atmosphere vibrant and intimidating to visiting teams. The supporters never stop, singing, chanting and supporting the team till the end of matches.
This was reflected during their rescheduled game with Heartland at the Fifa goal project of the National Stadium, Abuja where despite playing away from home, thousands of fans trooped into the ground in their yellow and green attires to cheer the team. Kano Pillars need to be beaten at home, they are beginning to conquer their away hoodoo as their away win has been piling up. It's almost a certainty they will almost pick points at home.
This is their stronghold, and if they are to be toppled, teams need to start picking points at the Sani Abacha Stadium, but with a 25 000 strong crowd behind them cheering, any bets to where the chicken will roost?.
|Theo Afelokhai & Umar Zango discuss strategies. ( pic courtesy www.supersport.com)|
2. Theophilus Afelokhai: I usually don't like singling out players for praise, but this time i will deviate from the norm. Theophilus Afelokhai has been phenomenal between the sticks for Pillars for the past two seasons after relegating Sani Haliru to the bench. The former Under 23 goalkeeper has been one of the main actors in Pillars title winning side of 2012 and is again spear heading this season's run towards the Championship.
He has saved points for Kano Pillars Pillars with assured goalkeeping and sharp reflexes. It is often whispered quietly in the corridors of football semantics that if you are going to win the League, you need a goalkeeper that can earn you at least ten points in a season and Afelokhai fits this description.
Blessed with a good height and awareness round his territory, It is a surprise he isn't in the national team set up. For Kano Pillars to be neutralised, teams have to pray that he has bad day at the office, because he is usually the last man in the a very tight Kano Pillars defence.
|Rabiu Ali ( pic courtesy Bakare Idowu)|
3. Stop Rabiu Ali:- The Kano Pillars midfield conductor on a good day can ruin any team on his own. He is the main man in the Pillars midfield who pulls the strings and gives he assist to the likes of Kabiru Umar, Bello Kofar Mata and Gambo Mohammed to do damage. Ali's deceptive frame can make him go unnoticed in a game, but he has an uncanny way of making opponents pay for such.
Goal scoring is another repertoire to his game and he weighs in with his fair share of goals to complement what the attackers get. The former Nasarawa United and Zamfara playmaker operates primary as a offensive midfielder but can also drift to the left or right side of midfield which makes hi difficult to mark.
If he is not playing, Kano Pillars are usually no much of a threat. His vision and wide range of passing is always a constant menace to opposing defenders and if Pillars are going to be stopped, this channel has to be closed and make sure service doesn't get to the attackers to do damage.
|Ikechukwu Ibenegbu of Heartland tries to outwit Pillars Ado Ali ( pic courtesy soccerpress.net)|
4. Breach the defence
This mind sound a bit of a cliche' but that is exactly what teams must do if they want to topple Kano Pillars. Teams need to study how Pillars set up their defence and need to find ways round it. Coach Baba Ganaru prefers the conventional four man defence of two center backs and two full backs.
Last season, Papa Idris, Umar Zango and Musa Mustapha held sway in the center of defence. But with Papa Idris moving to Kilmarnock in Sctoland, Ado Ali was brought in from Sunshine Stars to add steel to the defence. An average match will see Umar Zango at left back, Samuel Tswanya, bought from Enyimba of Aba fills in at right back while Ado Ali and Musa Mustapha are the usual pairing in the heart of the defence.
Tswanya is always looking to attack from the right flank like an auxiliary winger and that leaves a lot of gab, especially if Eugene Obi or Rabiu Ali doesn't cover up properly. That avenue is one that can be exploited by a well organised attack by the opposition. Aerial balls are no threat for Pillars.
They have the highest percentage of headers won in the final third in the top flight of the local game. Musa Mustapha and Ado Ali or Umar Zango ( who also deputizes there) are al six feet tall or more. Teams will do well to keep the ball on the ground and look to attack through the channels rather than through the middle.
As evident in the heavy defeat away to Kwara United, Pillars are beatable, you just have to get the right combinations. Will they be dethroned? That is a very tall order as the mid-season acquisition of Phillip Asuquo and Tony Edjomariegwe will certainly made the 'Masu Gida' the odds on favorite to retain their title.