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Kano Pillars' Caf Champions League exit: What went wrong?

11:55 BST 27/08/2019
Bature Yaro- Kano Pillars-Godfred-Asiamah-Asante Kotoko-CAF-CL
The 2019 Federation Cup winners have never been convincing going into continental competition, and again they were caught short by Asante Kotoko

The hope, harboured in many quarters, that Kano Pillars would squeeze through to the next stage of the Caf Champions League at the expense of Asante Kotoko this weekend was dashed in Kumasi as the Nigerian representatives were dumped out of the competition.

The 2019 Federation Cup champions were beaten 2-0 at the Baba Yara Stadium by the Porcupines, and that 4-3 aggregate defeat end a journey that is yet to truly even get going for Pillars.

Goals from Kelvin Andoh and Emmanuel Gyamfi in either half sealed the victory for the two-time African champions, who now progress to face Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia.

With Pillars coach Ibrahim Musa talking tough ahead of the game, vowing that his team would be gunning for a win and not just the draw required, many had expected a fierce fight from the Nigeria flag bearers.

However, Pillars huffed and puffed but struggled to break their opponents down as they were sent packing.

That early exit has again raised questions about the quality and strength of Nigerian teams compared to their continental rivals.

Why Pillars failed

The first noticeable factor that could have affected Pillars is the change of management by the club just before they started their campaign on the continent.

Shuaibu Yahaya was appointed to replace the vastly-experienced Tukur Babangida as chairman of Kano Pillars in the build-up to the first leg tie against Kotoko, and while games are won on the pitch, it's vital that management are playing their part as well, ensuring the synergy, logistics and planning are as good as they can be.

Pillars never seemed to have enjoyed enough preparation time for their Champions League games, even though they even relocated to Kaduna ahead of their opener. With the NPFL yet to resume, the best thing to do would have been to organise friendly matches, but only so much can be gleaned from games against limited, local opposition.

In truth, Musa’s men have never been a particularly convincing team, and perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by their struggles in Africa.

From the championship play-offs, where they emerged as the league runners-up behind Enyimba, to the Federation Cup, where they finally ended a long drought without the honour, Pillars have rarely looked like a fantastic side, and have instead rode their luck at times.

Clearly their good fortune ran out in the Champions League.

Sai Masu Gida failed to be defensively alert, and specifically, not to concede early, and only have themselves to blame.

Beyond Pillars

Perhaps some of the failings that Pillars struggled with are not just unique to the four-time NPFL champions but to Nigerian clubs on a broader scale.

Until clubs from Nigeria come to the realisation that playing on the continent to get results requires a holistic approach, early exists like those of Pillars and Niger Tornadoes are likely to remain the norm.

Looking forward, it's a very real risk that the West African nation may again find its two continental berths in each of the Caf competitions under threat.