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Abubakar Bala: I left Katsina United to save my life

A former national U-23 assistant coach, Abubakar Bala, has said he was forced to leave Katsina United because his life was threatened by the toxic…

A former national U-23 assistant coach, Abubakar Bala, has said he was forced to leave Katsina United because his life was threatened by the toxic atmosphere in the club. In this interview with Trust Sports, the former Niger Tornadoes, Kwara United and Lobi Stars gaffer spoke on why he joined Doma United, the battle to survive relegation and what Finidi George should do to succeed as Super Eagles coach.

What informed your decision to join Doma United after you left Katsina United?

It will interest you to know that the same day I resigned from Katsina United after our match against Sunshine Stars in Akure, two clubs contacted me. My plan was to rest till the end of the season, but I had to change my mind. I thought within that if in just two hours after my resignation, two big clubs in the NPFL are looking for me, there must be a reason for it. And when I looked at the two clubs, both weren’t doing very well. One is a government owned club and the other a private club. Considering that I had just left a government club with all its problems, I decided to go for Doma United, which is a private club. I wanted to avoid the problems that are associated with government clubs.

In concrete terms, why did you leave Katsina United when the club was doing very well under you?

The chairman of Katsina United personally took me to the club. When I arrived, the atmosphere was conducive but later on, there were problems and most of them were caused by the man who brought me to the club. Unfortunately, the problems weren’t abetting. Things were getting worse by the day. I looked at my personal relationship with the chairman who and wondered why he was behaving that way. But I decided against having an open confrontation with him. However, things got out of hand when, after going six matches unbeaten, we drew at home, and I was physically assaulted by some of the fans. Unfortunately, some management members were behind the shameful behaviour. In fact, after the match, it was the security at the stadium that saved my life. There and then, I decided it was time to leave Katsina United. I left to save my life, which is more important than the job. I can coach only if I am alive. A dead man can’t coach football.

Would you say it was an easy decision to leave Katsina United?

It wasn’t easy to take the decision to leave. When I arrived, Katsina United were 13th on the table. But, I was able to change the mentality of players and lack of professionalism from the coaches to the players and the supporting staff. I instilled discipline into everyone. I was also lucky that some of the players quickly adapted to my style of play and football philosophy. After one or two matches, they understood how I wanted them to play. So, we went six matches unbeaten. It was against this background that I set a continental target for the team. It was achievable because only a few points separated us from the top three clubs. I was confident of a continental ticket, but seeing the intractable problems, I decided to leave. Honestly, I wasn’t happy to leave, but my life is more than anything. I can go elsewhere and achieve something great. It is said that once there is life, there is hope.

How was the reception when you arrived at Gombe United?

I was given a warm reception by everyone at the club. The coaches, the backroom staff, and players I met were happy to have me in their midst as the technical adviser. Even Coach Akinade Onigbinde, who was in charge of the team before my appointment, has been very supportive. He is a friend and a brother. As a matter of fact, I spoke to him before going over to Doma United. Everything is working well, and I pray that God will help us to take the club out of the present predicament.

Doma United is your third club in one year. Are you not becoming a nomadic coach?

You are not wrong, but my constant movement has been due to circumstances beyond my control. After I left Tornadoes, I joined Lobi Stars and led them to the Super 8 Championship in Lagos in July. But less than nine days to the kickoff of the ongoing season, Lobi Stars Chairman couldn’t give me my contract paper and appointment letter. But as a professional, there was no way I would work for a club without my letter of appointment and contract papers. So, I had to leave after I did their recruitment. After three months, Katsina United came for me, and I left after four months when the environment became toxic. I am now in Doma United, so I can neither confirm nor deny the nomadic tag.

With six matches left, what are your expectations?

 All our remaining matches are tricky ones. We have three home matches against Lobi Stars who are fighting for a continental ticket, Sunshine Stars, who are battling for life, and Abia Warriors, who are not comfortable on the table. We also have three home matches against Kano Pillars, one against my former club Katsina United and another against the struggling Heartland of Owerri. If you look at these matches, they are going to be very tough. But we are going to make judicious use of the little break to work on the boys. Surely, we would escape the danger zone. We can’t afford to lose our NPFL status. We also want to fight for the President Federation Cup trophy.

What is your take on the appointment of Finidi George as Super Eagles coach?

I am happy with the appointment of Finidi. He is one of us. I appreciate the NFF for taking that bold step. It shows that the NFF has confidence in us. I believe that if given the necessary support, Finidi will succeed with the Super Eagles. His tenure will be a blessing to Nigerian football. All he needs is our collective support. NFF should support him morally and financially.

What is your advice to him as he begins this assignment?

My first advice is that he should make sure he is fully in charge of the team. He shouldn’t be influenced or controlled by the views of other people. I am not saying he shouldn’t be open to good suggestions and advices but he should be in full control in terms of players’ selection and invitation. He should also look towards our home-based players. I suggest he should emulate what the late Stephen Keshi did and see how he can even do better in that area. And I have seen online that he is going to bring foreign assistants. It is not a bad idea but he should be careful there also. He has been given an opportunity as an indigenous coach, so he should look inwards and give other local coaches opportunities too. He should consider those who are sound and will be loyal to him. It is better he works with his compatriots because they also know the terrain and will be of great help to him. Some of the coaches know the terrain even more than him. So, he should do everything to succeed to open more doors for Nigerian coaches.


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