Kano Pillars first choice goalkeeper David Obiazo says winning the Aiteo Cup was always the “target” for the Masu Gida after the 2017/2018 Nigerian Professional Football League was abruptly truncated.
Pillars who have never won the Aiteo Cup take on 5 time Cup champions Rangers International of Enugu in the final of Nigeria’s oldest football competition at the Stephen Keshi stadium Asaba, Delta State on Wednesday and Obiozo who says playing in the final was something he “has been dreaming of” believes that the Masu Gida’s route to the final offers them a measure of hardiness and preparedness which will serve them well in the final.
“We are very prepared,” Obiazo told busybuddiesng.com. “In the beginning of the season our target was to win the league and the Aiteo Cup but since we have already missed the league, this is our target now.
“The way we started the tournament and going into the final, we can beat them [Rangers], I watched their game against Akwa United in Kano [which Rangers won on penalties after it had ended 1-1] and I know with my boys we will come out victorious in that final.”
Pillars’ run to the final has shown a team capable of both the sublime and an ability to grind out results when it matters, although there remains a suggestion of a dark underbelly of complacency that appears to afflict the team when they go more than a goal up in games. It is a deficiency that Pillars’ Technical Adviser refers to as “tactical indiscipline’’.
Indeed, the Masu Gida very nearly didn’t make the final after contriving to throw a 2 goal lead away in the semi-final against Katsina United at the Agege Stadium in Lagos. It was Obiazo who put up a Man of the Match performance to keep the boys from Kano in the game and see the game on to penalty kicks where he promptly saved two Katsina United spot kicks to ensure Pillars’ progression to the final. Against Enyimba in the quarter-finals, a similar situation nearly played out when Pillars nearly offered the Peoples Elephant a way back after going three goals up.
Incidentally, as Pillars were throwing their lead away, Rangers were mounting a sensational comeback after clawing back a two goal deficit to trounce Nasarawa United 4-2 in the other semi-final played at the Sani Abacha stadium in Kano.
Obiazo’s performance in the semi-finals earned him a check of ₦50,000 from the Kano State government which he says will “boost me up for the final” and after the state government settled all outstanding bonuses and allowances due the squad, team spirit is understandably high with the players itching to show appreciation to the fans and management of Pillars by bringing back a first ever Aiteo Cup to the City of Kano.
Even though the goalkeeper remains confident of his team’s chances in the final, the former El Kanemi Warriors goaltender understands the scale of the task facing the Masu Gida and isn’t in a hurry to underestimate the hunger and desire with which Rangers would be coming into the game. Obiazo knows that the vagaries of football often means things don’t always go as planned.
“Everybody in camp is thinking about the final, [about] how we are going to win the cup and beat Rangers in the final,” he said.
“But Rangers [are] a good team, it is not a team you just go and face like that and come back because the way we are prepared they also will be prepared too.
“I still have that confidence but football is about luck, we might reach that day and everything will turn around for [Rangers’] own good but we still believe we will conquer them.”