As the curtain falls on the 2015/2016 season of the Nigeria Professional Football League today and a number of crucial games get decided, the game between Kano Pillars FC and Niger Tornadoes would be one of pride.
The Ma Su Gida has missed out on continental football for the second season running and the Ikon AllahBoys have long escaped relegation, but Pillars and its fans won’t forgive or forget that, back in May, they were humbled 2-1 at home at the ad hoc home of their foes, Confluence Stadium, Lokoja, Kogi.
Though they would be hoping to pick a point away this season – something they have failed to do in 37 weeks of action – and would be aiming to do so, Tornadoes would not be expecting any favours or mercy today; neither would Mohammed Babaganru and his charges be willing to offer any.
Since 2009, both sides have met seven times, with both sides clinching two wins each. Three of the games ended in a draw. Pillars have done badly at home and, at least, on paper, is the better side, compared to its foes who have struggled on the road. The premise, therefore, is this; would Tornadoes, who have tied down victories against some great sides at home, finish the season with a pride-swelling away win or, even, a draw?
Tornadoes have swept to three victories and fallen to two defeats in its last five games – Niger Tornadoes 2-0 Lobi Stars (H), El-Kanemi Warriors 2-0 Niger Tornadoes (A), Niger Tornadoes 1-0 Enyimba (H), Niger Tornadoes 0-2 Heartland (A), Niger Tornadoes 3-1 MFM FC (H) – while the Ma Su Gida has fallen thrice and managed two victories in its last five. A 0-4 humbling away to Shooting Stars, a 2-0 win over Sunshine Stars, a 1-4 mauling by Ikorodu United, a sweaty, slim 1-0 win over El-Kanemi Warriors of Maiduguri at home and a 0-1 loss away to struggling Heartland would not make the home fans very confident of their beloved team when they file out against Tornadoes at 4pm this evening.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sports, the media officer of Tornadoes, Daniel George, disclosed that the Inko Allah Boys have their pride at stake.
“Before now, we had the opportunity to pick the available points on the road against Nasarawa in Makurdi, Rivers United in Port Harcourt and many other instances. The good thing, though, is that we will be making amends for those chances today against Pillars. Yes, they are a good side and we respect them; but that is as far as it goes. We are the only team yet to pick a point on the road and today is that day.
“When we beat them back in May, we were like the underdogs. Today, we have a youthful side willing to take the chance to beat them again,” George said.
For the media officer of Kano Pillars, Idris Malikawa, he conceded that his side has not been fantastic this season and has missed the chance to go continental twice in a row, but would be on a mission to regain their pride and the love of the fans when it takes to the pitch of the Sani Abacha Stadium at 4pm today.
“Football is treacherous, sometimes, but, you must have in mind that when you take to the pitch, it can be one of three outcomes; a win, loss or draw.
“Yes, our fans are unhappy about our position in the league and we have to give to give them something to be happy about today by getting a win. Today, by God’s grace, is our and we will be picking the three points on offer,” Malikawa said.
He commended the League Management Company (LMC), the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Nigerian Referees’ Association (NRA), the clubs, coaches, fans, sponsors and all other stakeholders who helped to make the season an unforgettable one.
“However, there is need for the LMC and all other stakeholders to do more to improve the league. We have come far, but we still have far to go,” he said.
We are not under pressure – Wassa
Tornadoes play-maker, Gabriel Wassa, weighed in on the pre-match war of words, but insisted that he and the other ads on his team would not be under pressure against the ma su gida this evening, but would go out, play well and let their effort manifest itself in any way possible.
“Whether we win or loss today, it won’t be because we did not play well. We will give this game our best. The Sani Abacha Stadium has got a great atmosphere, but we are here to play and after a not-so-good run of form, Pillars should be the ones under pressure, not us. For us, this is like a novelty game.”
Wassa confessed to having missed injured Solomon Owello, but assured that Yakubu Alfa, who would be starring in his stead, would come good.
“Alfa has not been available for some games, but we can work well with him. We are a team. We have not done badly; since the beginning of the season, we have played in Lokoja, which is not even our home. So, we have been away all season. The act that we are amongst the first 10 is something to celebrate, seeing as were once threatened by relegation,” said a grateful Wassa.
Solomon Owello would not be starring today. Former youth international, Yakubu Alfa, would be taking his place.
“Owello took a knock during training and won’t be available till next season. We have got Gabriel Wassa and others to give Pillars the fright we have in store for them today,” disclosed George.
Pillars will be missing the services of Gambo Mohammed, Chris Madaki (on-loan from Giwa), Ibrahim Pius, Adamu Murtala, amongst others.