This article was originally published on supersport.com and reproduced here
The Kano Pillars bench erupted in joy as Lobi Stars defender Anthony Agbaji, in an attempt to block a cross by Ezekiel Mbah, slotted into his own net to put Pillars three nil at the Aper Aku Stadium in Makurdi in a week 19 Glo Premier League match.
Pillars were in dream land. Rabiu Ali and his team mates were well on their way to a famous win on the road. Three goals up with half an hour left to play, it was destined to be Pillars day. Nothing could go wrong.
But it did.
Lobi Stars rallied back from the three goal deficit to hit three past a hapless Pillars side who’s capitulation could be likened to a spring chicken on a maize farm. They crumbled like a pack of cards.
Despite the surprise draw at Lobi, one would dare say it went according to script. The Kano side have been a pale shadow of themselves this season.
The defending champions have been in sixes and sevens throughout the campaign and the draw at Lobi was the final straw. Libya returnee Anthony Okpotu's equaliser in that game sealed coach Okey Emordi fate. He was shown the exit door hours later
Life can be cruel, football can be much worse than that.
Barely a year after leading Pillars to a third straight title, Emordi (above) has turned villain in Kano. Fans, used to victories and some swash-buckling football are now recipients of drab uninspiring football at the Sani Abacha Stadium.
So where did Kano Pillars get it all wrong?
The reigning champions maintained the core of the squad that won the title last season and recruited quite well at the start of the season.
Godspower Anefiok and Ubong Ekpai moved to Kano and so did star defender Reuben Ogbonnaya. Nasarawa United’s Tony Edjomarigwe took the short trip to Kano and they also added Christian Obiozor who shone like a million stars at the Super Four tournament in Abuja prior to the commencement of the season.
John Lawrence and Emmanuel Fabiyi were also brought in to give first choice goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai competition in the goalkeeping department
It was supposed to be a glorious season for Pillars. A stroll to the title, alas it all went North when the chips were down.
The Kano side also did well on their pre-season tour of Ghana and were in buoyant mood as the Glo Premier League beckoned.
But before that, there was the ‘small’ matter of the CAF Champions League. Pillars took out South Sudanese side Al Malaika before losing 5-2 on aggregate to Moroccan side Mohgreb Atletic Tetouan.
The signs were ominous
Kano Pillars were involved in a robbery incident along the Abuja-Abaji axis on their way to Owerri to honor a week two game with Heartland. Several players were injured in that incident, and some of the players, like Pillars, haven't fully recovered from that.
Gambo Mohammed( above ) , who had led the front line for Kano side in recent years has not played again since that incident.
Aligned with that is the curious case of Christian Obiozor (below) who left the groundnut city under a mist claiming Pillars had reneged on promises made to him. Ironically, Obiozor has been firing on all cylinders since his move to Enyimba, helping the Elephants to second place on the log at the end of the first half of the season
This was like a stab to the heart of Okey Emordi who wasn’t involved in the transfers during the off season. Asides that, the former Enugu Rangers coach never got the support of the home fans.
Other signings like Tony Edjomarigwe and Reuben Ogbonnaya have failed to shine, the latter mainly due to a bevy of injuries and gun shot wounds he sustained during the ill fated trip to Owerri while Edjomarigwe, who shone like a million stars at Nasarawa United has been a shadow of himself.
For most ardent observers of the league, the sun in Kano has refused to shine and results leading to the week 19 3-3 draw with Lobi clearly pointed out the end was near for Okey Emordi
The 2-2 draw with Dolphins in week 14 in Kano was difficult for a lot of Kano Pillars fans to swallow and indeed a lot called for his head.
Pillars were total control and at 2-0 up courtesy goals in each half by Adamu Mohammed and Godspower Anefiok, the unthinkable happened.
Unthinkable to Pillars fans because such at the Sani Abacha Stadium was a rarity, but
Dolphins rallied back to tie the game at 2-2 and could possibly have won it.
“He has tried his best but it is now obvious that he cannot lead the team,” Auwal Ibrahim, a trader and a supporter of Kano Pillars told supersport.com
“Did you see how we drew with Dolphins? It would have never happened before.
“That accident really affected the team, but I thought we should be over that by now.”Ibrahim queried.
Points were also dropped at home to Wikki Tourists. The much touted fortress had become a fertile hunting ground for teams in the Nigeria Professional Football League.
Pillars were on a downward spiral.
Kano State Governor Dr Abdullahi Ganduje last week inaugurated a new management board for Kano Pillars headed by Alhaji Kabiru Baita in a bid to reposition the team
The management swiftly replaced Emordi with a ‘son of the soil’. Ahmed Garba, popularly called ‘Yaro Yaro was handed the reins tentatively.
It is left to be seen if the new board and technical crew can lead Pillars back into contention and win a record fourth consecutive title.
For a lot of Kano Pillars fans supersport.com spoke to, they haven’t given up on that dream.
They hope the team can bounce back in the second half of the season and replace their anguish with joy.
They insist it’s possible, considering only seven points separate them from leaders Sunshine Stars of Akure.