Tukur Babangida: Kano Pillars will put up better fight next season

How satisfied are you with the performance of your team in the just concluded NPFL season?

I am not totally satisfied with the performance of my club. Our target was to win the league title or at least a continental ticket. Unfortunately, we couldn’t achieve any. So in this regard, I am not a happy man. On the other hand, since I try to thank God in every situation I have found myself, I have to thank Him that we are still in the Premier League. Pillars are among the top ten clubs. We couldn’t get what we wanted but we maintained our place in the league so we live to fight another day.

How much support did Kano Pillars receive from the government and people of the state?

I want to most sincerely thank the government who are the owners and financiers of the club. They have given us all the necessary support. My players can testify that we do not owe them any of their entitlements. The government through the management committee has paid to date their salaries, bonuses, transfer fees and other allowances. We owe them nothing. Instead they are the ones who owe the state for failing to win the title.

With such massive support from government why did Pillars fail to win the title or at least a continental ticket?

As I said earlier we had set a target but we failed to meet it. The blame cannot be on only one person. In a matter like this, four actors are involved. The financiers or sponsors of the club, in this case the government of Kano State did their best by making sure they meet up with their financial obligations. The team lacked nothing. Then on the part of the management committee which I am the chairman, we did all that we could to encourage the players so as to achieve our set objective. We gave priority to their welfare. They were flown to some away matches like in Uyo and Calabar. We doubled their match bonuses as incentives just to encourage them. In addition, they are provided with decent accommodation. You can only get your own accommodation, if you do not like the one we provided. We provided them with the best medical care. It will interest you to know that we got a highly sought after consultant from the Muritala Mohammed Specialist Hospital Kano to attend to the health needs of the players. In addition, we got highly experienced nurses from government to attach to the team. Then we have technical crew and that’s where we had a problem because our technical adviser resigned after losing one of the matches in Kano and that seriously affected us. At that time we were number 14th on the table. However, we felt going to look for another technical adviser at that time to come and start afresh would be counter-productive, so we decided to encourage those on ground to see if they could assist us out which I believe they did their best. From 14th they brought us to eighth position. Then we have the players. We all know how players behave. There are some who are committed and there are some who do not show any commitment. We registered 35 players but there are those who are committed and those who are not. So all the four key actors played their roles to the best of their abilities.

Are you going to overhaul the team or keep faith with the present crop of players?

From what we saw in the season that just ended, it is left for us now to review the recruitment we did and see where we can correct our mistakes. If there are players who are not committed there is nothing we can do than to let them go. For me it is better to have average players who are committed than to have skilled players who are not committed.  

You have said your target for next season is to win the title. Are you confident the present technical crew will do the job or you are going for more experienced coaches?

The coaches did their best with the players they met on ground. So taking a decision concerning the technical crew now is too early. The technical crew will submit its report for the management to study and decide whether or not to continue with them. We shall look at the technical and administrative report before taking any decisions.

When Pillars dropped to the 14th position did you entertain any fear of relegation?

To be honest I was not comfortable. We lost one home match and didn’t get any away win. If we had lost another home match, then we would have been in serious trouble. I lost one match at home and drew two which means we lost seven points at home. Then we managed to win four points away from home. Now if you add the seven points we lost to the four we got away, that will be 11 points plus the 54 points we ended with that would have been 61 points. Pillars would have been among the title contenders. So we have to correct our mistakes and fight for the title next year.

It has been alleged that some club chairmen cut corners to get results and that is not helping the league to grow. What is your take on this?

You see whenever we meet we discuss matters like this. Even the last time we met, we told ourselves that we shouldn’t allow such things to destroy our league. We discussed the need for all of us to embrace fair play. There is absolutely no need to influence the referees or league administrators. We should allow things to take their natural courses. As a matter of fact, experienced football administrators like Felix Anyasi have been at the forefront of the campaign. We cannot blame the NFF or the LMC. Once the fixture is out, it is out. It should not be tampered with. Once referees are appointed, they are appointed and there should be no manoeuvring. We should only expect them to be fair in their officiating. These are our expectations. However, you see human beings are not the same. There are some good ones and bad ones. And that was why some referees were suspended. So my own advice is that we have to be fair in all our activities. We have to embrace fair play. If I win I play well, if I don’t win, I didn’t play well. Football is about fair play. 

You mentioned LMC earlier. Are you satisfied with their management of the league?

I can say Kudos to them because you see to my understanding, LMC are in charge of making the fixtures, looking for sponsorship and administration of the league.  LMC is not the body that appoints referees and the match commissioners.  LMC is not in charge of Organising and Disciplinary Committee. These important committees are left for the father of football which is the NFF. So as far as I am concerned, the LMC have done a good job. Nobody can blame them for lapses in officiating and fixtures. Matches are sometimes shifted due to unforeseen circumstances. So in my own assessment, they have done well and I believe they won’t rest on their oars.

Would you say Plateau United FC are worthy champions of the league?

I congratulate Plateau United and the other clubs that have won continental tickets. Plateau United deserve the title. Since they climbed to the top of the table, nobody pulled them down. Some went so close but did not stay up as they dropped lower almost immediately. What interest me the most is that last year, both Plateau United and MFM struggled against relegation but this year, they are winners. It means they rectified their problems. On the other hand, last year’s winners, Enugu Rangers and Rivers United went to sleep and were threatened by relegation this year. 

How much pressure do you face as chairman of an ambitious club like Kano Pillars?

There is so much pressure because of high expectations from the government and football loving people of Kano State. When I was brought in as chairman of the management committee people were happy and expectations were also high. However, in my inaugural speech, I said I was not happy because of the high level of confidence the people had shown in me. They thought and believed I was coming as the messiah. That was exactly the case when President Muhammadu Buhari was elected. Everybody thought the messiah has come. They believed someone who will save the club has come. That was over confidence. Many of them just felt Pillars will brush aside other clubs to win the title. Even some club chairman had the same feeling. So such huge expectations come with so much pressure.

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