Kano Pillars Coach Exonerates Self, Says Players To Blame For Aiteo Cup Final Meltdown

Kano Pillars Technical Adviser Ibrahim Musa has launched a scathing criticism of his players after their meltdown in the Aiteo Cup final saying certain players “don’t have mind” and that the players allowed themselves to fall into a false sense of security after going three goals up despite his repeated warnings.

Pillars led by three goals through first-half strikes by Rabiu Ali and Ibrahim Alhassan and a 48th-minute strike by Nyima Nwagwa. But a crazy spell thirteen minutes from the end turned the game on its head after Pillars conceded three times following Rangers coach Gbenga Ogunbote raft of inspired substitutions. Rangers’ substitutes Kelvin Itoya and Ibrahim Ajani scored either side of a Chidera Ezeh strike to force penalty shootouts which The Flying Antelopes eventually won after Rabiu Ali and Jimoh Ismaila both missed from the spot to complete a comeback that will be talked about for ages.

It was a capitulation of seismic proportions and for Pillars’ technical adviser, it was very clear where the blame lay.

“You know after we scored the three goals, we thought it was all over when it wasn’t,” Musa told busybuddiesng.com. “We were relaxing, we lost focus and played without mind, we just allowed some simple things, tactical indiscipline in short, so our defence and our goalkeeper lacked tactical discipline.”

Musa was particularly critical of goalkeeper David Obiazo’s performance saying the goalkeeper – who it transpired, played on after getting injured – should have informed the bench about his injury but chose to play on and cost the team in the process. He also suggested that defenders Emma Anyawu and Ifeanyi Nweke together with forward Al Hassan Ibrahim who were forced out of the game by injury weren’t brave enough and could have played on.

Talking about Obiazo, Musa said: “If you look at the opposition goalkeeper [Femi Thomas], when he realised if he continued he’ll concede more goals, he signalled and he went out. That is what our goalkeeper was supposed to do but he refused.

“He supposed to give a signal that he cannot continue the game [but] he continued, after the match when we talk to him he said he has muscle tear in his two legs. So since you say you have physiological problem why can’t you talk to change you because at least that time we have one change [substitution] we can change him. The other goalkeeper may save the situation even if the game [had] ended 3-2 it is still okay for us.

“If you look at it, he contribute a lot [to the 8 minutes of added time] because he fall down about some minutes that is why the ref had to add that eight minutes, which he is not supposed to add that eight minutes.”

Musa also appeared to question the commitment of the players who were forced off by injury suggesting that they lacked the sort of bravery exhibited by their teammates that the occasion demanded.

“That is the worst part of our problems, the injuries they say they cannot continue, but I think that they don’t have mind. If they had mind, some of them, not all, some of them, at least one or two they can continue and finish the game like that.” Musa told busybuddiesng.com.

“I could remember our hero, late Chinedu [Udoji], he is always motivated when he is inside the game even he got injury he continue even if you look at Rabiu [Ali] at the end he had also the same problem but he managed himself, even Nzube he managed himself to continue the game because [he understood the importance of the game].”

Pillars had shown, leading up to the final, a worrying tendency to give up leads and invite pressure when they should have been home and hosed. In the quarter-final, they nearly allowed Enyimba back into the game after going three goals up and in the semi-final goalkeeper Obiazo saved their blushes in the penalty shootout after they somehow managed to throw a two goal lead away. The warning signs were there all along and when it appeared that the tide had turned in the final and Rangers had them under the cosh surely Musa could have affected the game from the bench much in the same way as Ogunbote did.

But the Kano state born tactician said his plans to make changes to his team were derailed by the forced withdrawals of Emma Anyawu, Ifeanyi Nweke and Alhassan Ibrahim.

“If you look at our bench, all of them they went to warm up except our reserve goalkeeper,” Musa said. “All of them went to warm up at that time, so we even wrote to change two players, one in the centre attack, one in the midfield so before we change them two of our players – the right full back and the centre defender – fall down, they say they cannot continue.

“That is our problem, we were not thinking to change them, we were thinking to choke the middle, to remove one striker to maintain one midfielder and one extra centre defender. That is our plan, so before we change it, I sent my assistant to write it before we call that two players to enter that is when Emma Anyanwu fall down even our outfield player Alhassan he went out, he say he can’t continue the match that is what disorganised the team.”

Pillars have never won this competition in their 28 year history and Musa told busybuddiesng.com in the lead up to the final that winning this trophy for Sai Masu Gida would make him a “historical coach”. He’ll definitely go down in history but perhaps not in the manner he originally envisaged and whatever sort of speech he had drawn up when his team were three goals would be markedly different from the one he will be delivering in Kano later today.

“I will apologise to the Kano State people and the Kano state government for disappointing them,” Musa said.