By Victor Okoye, Olayinka Owolewa
Abuja, July 28, 2019
Kano Pillars Football Club won the men’s 2019 Aiteo Cup following a 4-3 penalty kicks shootout win over Niger Tornadoes FC on Sunday at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that it was the first time the 2018 competition runners-up were lifting the title after a 66-year wait for a second Cup success.
Kano Pillars had won the trophy once, even though it was in the old FA Cup competition and with their defunct side, when they edged out Lagos Dynamos 2-1 in 1953.
With only two runners-up position to their name (1991 and 2018), in spite of their tremendous success in the local league, they were duly hungry in their quest for Cup success.
The victory also came as a consolation to those club faithful who were yet to recover from last year’s shock defeat to Rangers in the final.
In that match, Pillars led Rangers International of Enugu 3-0 after about 60 minutes at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba.
But the 1977 African Cup Winners Cup champions stormed back to equalise and then win on penalty kicks.
Niger Tornadoes who also lost in the competition’s final on penalty kicks to Akwa United in 2017 also came into the game looking to appease their fans.
They lost their Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) status at the end of the recently-concluded season.
In Sunday’s game, the two teams fought hard but were unable to register a goal following 90 minutes of a keenly-contested encounter.
The lottery of a penalty kicks shootout was therefore needed to decide the winners, with Pillars triumphing after converting four of their six kicks and Tornadoes only scoring three.
Kano Pillars smiled home with N25 million as prize money for winning the title, while Niger Tornadoes were N10 million richer after finishing as runners-up.
Meanwhile, security men had to resort to the use of teargas to disperse rampaging Kano Pillars fans.
This was after their team defeated Niger Tornadoes 4-3 on penalty kicks.
But there were many after-effects, with dignitaries present for the match having to take cover as the effect of the teargas created a state of pandemonium.
Those affected include the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, and the deputy governors of Niger (Muhammed Ketso), Kano State (Nasiru Gawuna) and Nasarawa State (Emmanuel Akabe).
There were many other dignitaries affected by the teargas, as well as an unidentified player who was driven away in an ambulance and several fans who passed out.
The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports Development, Olusade Adesola, even had the windscreen of one of his official cars damaged during the melee.
NAN reports that it had all started immediately after the match had ended and Kano Pillars fans broke the barricade to enter the pitch in an attempt to celebrate with their players.
In the attempt to stop them and prevent them from disrupting the trophies’ presentation ceremony, the fans clashed with the security men.
But inappropriate crowd control measures, which included manhandling and the use of sticks by members of the local security group, saw the Kano Pillars fans fighting back.
The fans regrouped, with the assistance of many of their colleagues who could not gain entry into the stadium for the match earlier, to attack the security men.
They went on the rampage, destroying billboards, pitch panels, posters and all other objects within sight.
The use of teargas however put them under control, as they were chased out by the teargas and a reinforcement of the security personnel.
However, thousands of spectators who had turned out in their large numbers left the stadium in tears.
Presentation of medals and trophies later took place in a stadium that was by now near-empty after calm had returned to the venue.
It was a sharp contrast to the massive crowd which turned out for the game.