By Abiodun Adewale.
That was a game. Ninety minutes of intense pressure amidst swinging momentum; Kano Pillars against Katsina United, whether played in Kano or Katsina has everything you’d want to watch in a game between local rivals or even neighbours.
It is called the northwest derby due to proximity. It is not a game of big names, but the mix of experience and potentials in both teams can set any city ablaze, as seen over two legs in the ongoing 2018 NPFL season. The rivalry has spanned decades and has not waned.
Kano Pillars and Katsina United regard the game as a brotherhood affair, the entertaining contest on the pitch puts a volume on that but the atmosphere however says another. Perhaps the reverse fixture on the season’s opening day in Katsina had already set the tone for what to expect in Kano.
Friendly or fierce, that is what derbies are made of and this one did not disappoint. From Junior Lokosa’s knack for goals to the fandom and of course the tactical ingenuity from both dug outs coupled with the synchronized execution of game plan, there was no dull moment for the tiniest creature inside the Sanni Abacha stadium.
However, sanity and civilization must be injected into the atmosphere if this game will continue to represent as a keen contest of two northern football clubs.
Boos and chants rented the air as the two team buses arrived the stadium. Kano fans usually, welcome their own with encomium but hardly have they been seen jeering visiting players before a game. It did happen on Sunday, and that was just the tip of what they had in stock for the Chanji boys.
Few Katsina United shirts were visible across the stands. Some of their fans had made the two hours journey to support their high flying team against their more successful neighbours. Even as their rivalry was becoming bitter, they still had one thing in common; Islam. Few minutes before kick off, yellow and red shirts united to observe the obligatory solat asri – Muslims prayer at 4:00pm and the sights were heartwarming.
It was then time for contest and the players had to do the talking with their legs. The size of Katsina United players was eye catching, they were souped and built at the same time. Big size doesn’t do the job better at times, but it was impossible to watch the game without noticing the Changi boys.
Kano Pillars were in the driver’s seat as early as the 8th minute when Lokosa volleyed in a cross that cane off the post. They doubled the advantage few minutes later but Katsina United were pulling strings. The possession was fairly shared, but despite being two goals down at the break, Abdulahi Biffo’s men showed Pillars why they were in the top four.
Home-based Super Eagles midfielder, Destiny Ashadi was the commandant of the Joshua Agboola, Lukman Muhammed and Tasiu Lawal tandem. He basically dictated the tempo of the game and his composure for Katsina United’s goal was world class. He started a one-two movement in the middle and was right in the Pillars box to finish it off.
In the heat of the midfield battle for Kano Pillars was Paul Hillary. He was as cool as ice in the face of pressure and was rightly dropping between Emmanuel Anyanwu and Kalu Orji. Anything that went beyond him in the middle became a threat against the pyramid city boys.
While this array of entertainment was on, Pillars fans could not help fume at every whistle that didn’t go their way. And while everyone expected the home fans to applaud total football and celebrate a deserved result, they came out with a collective uncivilized show and they had to be forced out of the arena by security operatives.
The scoreline was flattering but it wasn’t against the run of play. Pillars reaped the fruits of precision while Katsina United paid the price for loosing concentration. Beyond the marring scenes, it was an enterprising contest that could attract global attention.
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