By Albert Akota
Last year’s Aiteo Cup losing finalists Kano Pillars have vowed not to let the chance of winning the title this year slip away when they clash with Niger Tornadoes of Minna in the final of the 2019 edition at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna.
Chief Coach of Kano Pillars, Ibrahim Musa in Abuja that everything was geared towards ensuring that the mistakes that saw Pillars lose a three goal lead to Enugu Rangers before losing on penalties in last year’s final doesn’t happen again.
“We are determined to make up for the lapses of losing the Aiteo Cup last year. We want to win the cup for the government and people of Kano State. Niger Tornadoes will be tough, but we won’t lose a second consecutive final by the grace of God, we’ll win the cup this time around,” Musa told Completesports.com.
“This trophy is the only one that Kano Pillars have yet to win, so we are going to give it whatever it takes to add it in our trophy cabinet. We were very disappointed last year when we lost to Enugu Rangers and we hope to redeem our image by winning on Sunday.”
He said he was not under any pressure to deliver, adding that he and his assistants will use the experience of last year to overcome whatever resistance their opponents could put up.
On their forthcoming CAF champions league Preliminary Round fixture against Ashanti Kosoko of Ghana, coach Musa said Kano Pillars would be ready for them stressing that their focus for now is on how to win the Aiteo Cup.
The men’s final of the National Cup competition that used to be known over the years and decades variously as Challenge Cup, FA Cup and Federation will see 2017 losing finalists Niger Tornadoes tango with last year’s losing finalists Kano Pillars.
Pillars’ faithful are perhaps yet to recover from last year’s shock, when Masu Gida led Rangers International of Enugu 3-0 for one hour at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, only to watch the 1977 African Cup Winners Cup champions storm back to equalize and then win on penalty shoot-out.
Tornadoes, from Minna, have their own ghosts to exorcise. Having played delightful football under floodlights at the Agege Stadium, Lagos in 2017, they were put to the sword by Akwa United after penalty shoot-out following a scoreless regulation period.
Additionally, the boys from Niger State (popularly known as Ikon Allah) have their fans to appease after surprisingly losing their Nigeria Professional Football League status at the end of the recently –concluded season.
Tornadoes have a lone previous triumph in the competition, after defeating Rangers International 1-0 in the 2000 final. But Pillars are still looking for their first win in the oldest competition in the land and the second oldest in Africa, with only two runners-up position to their name. This, despite tremendous success in the League.
With Pillars finishing third in the Nigeria Professional Football League and already guaranteed of a spot in next year’s CAF Confederation Cup, Niger Tornadoes are guaranteed of the second slot in the continent’s second club competition no matter the outcome of Sunday’s confrontation.
The proximity of Kano and Minna to Kaduna is one factor that is likely to guarantee a sizeable crowd to the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, on the occasion of the third year sponsorship of the competition by Nigeria’s leading energy solution company, AITEO Group.
At stake are prize monies of N25 million for the winner of the men’s competition and N10 million for the winner of the women’s competition. The runner –up for the men’s competition will pocket N10 million, with the runner –up for the women’s event going home with N5 million.