It is not everyday that a team qualifies for the final of the most prestigious trophy in the country’s football and so Kano Pillars want to make the best of the opportunity presented by their involvement in the Aiteo Cup final.
Pillars will battle with Enugu Rangers on Wednesday in Asaba for the only domestic title that has eluded them in their history.
To prepare for the final against one of the most decorated sides in Nigerian football, Enugu Rangers, Kano Pillars have moved to Benin City, where they believe they can train peacefully without the distractions that usually dogged such sessions in football mad Kano.
A team of 22 players, some backroom staff and coaches arrived in Benin at the weekend to get ready for the match scheduled for the Stephen Keshi Stadium in the neighbouring Asaba, Delta State.
The team was led by Kano’s Deputy Governor, Dr. Nasiru Yusuf Gawuma, whose job is to ensure that the former Nigerian champions lacked nothing that would make them excel on Wednesday.
Part of the measures earlier adopted by the government to put the team in the right frame of mind include the payment of all outstanding dues, including 11 match bonuses, to players and officials of the club, as well as a promise that their lives would never be the same again if they won the competition.
Wednesday’s final would be Kano Pillars second attempt at the trophy, which they lost to El Kanemi in their first try in 1991.
According to Kano Pillars’ Media Officer, Idris Malikawa, the government is paying much premium on the cup hence the total support to the players and officials.
“It’s a big boost for the team as we prepare for the AITEO Cup final against Enugu Rangers on Wednesday. All the allowances and bonuses owed the team amounting to N7 million have been cleared and no one is owed in the club now,” Malikawa said.
The Guardian learnt that the government has made arrangements to ensure that as many supporters of the club as available would be in Asaba to support Pillars.
An official of the club told The Guardian “we are coming to Asaba with more than 20 buses because our fans want to be part of history.
“We learnt that Rangers are embarking on massive mobilisation of fans to cheer them, which is alright because they will see as many of our fans as they bring into the stadium.
“All we pray for is a peaceful atmosphere for good football. If that is provided we will beat them. They should ask Enyimba what happened to them,” the source, who pleaded anonymity, said.
While Pillars are looking for their first Aiteo Cup win, Rangers want to reclaim the title they last won in 1983 when they beat Pillars’ neighbours, Ranchers Bees in Lagos.
The final has an added incentive, as it would present an avenue for the winners to play in the continent as Nigeria’s second entrant in CAF competitions.
League champions, Lobi Stars have already picked the lone Champions League slot, leaving Pillars and Rangers to battle for the Confederation Cup ticket.
CAF reduced Nigeria’s spots in its competitions to two instead of four due to the country’s poor performance in past competitions.