This year’s edition of the ‘Ahlan Cup’, one of the leading pre-season football tournaments in Nigeria, is not being held at its traditional ground, the Sani Abacha stadium Kano. Instead, it is taking place at two different venues namely the old and new Bayero University campus football pitches.
Kano Pillars, Heartland, Niger Tornadoes, Gombe United, El-Kanemi Warriors, FC Yarmalight, Rarara FC and Kano Selected are taking part in the ongoing ‘Ahlan Cup’.
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Although the ceremonial kickoff of the 10-day tournament was to be performed on Tuesday, November 2 by the Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Hon. Kabiru Lakwaya, at the popular Sani Abacha stadium, Kofar-mata, that didn’t happen.
This development has been attributed to the cold war between the Commissioner of Sports and the Chairman of the Kano State Sports Commission over who is in charge of sports in the state.
Interestingly, the Kano State Football Association chairman, Sharu Rabiu Inuwa ‘Ahlan’ who is the sponsor of ‘Ahlan Pre-season Cup’ is said to have pitched his tent with the Sports Commissioner.
It is said the frosty relationship between the Ministry and the Sports Commission degenerated recently when Lakwaya and the FA boss, without the knowledge of the Sports Commission, led leaders of amateur clubs in the state on a thank you visit to the Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who had disbursed money to them.
Against this background, when the Sports Commission which is the custodian of sports facilities in Kano allegedly stopped organisers of ‘Ahlan Cup’ from making use of Sani Abacha stadium, immediately tongues began to wag.
The Chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) for 2021 Ahlan Cup, Hon. Auwal Baba Jada speaking to newsmen at the Bayero University Kano new site recounted how the grass has been made to suffer as the battle between two elephants continues.
He said, “Well, despite some hitches and hurdles, the turnout of visiting clubs and fans is quite appreciable. But I am worried because what I expect from the host state is not what I saw”.
“I don’t expect that visitors to a state like Kano which is a leading state in football considering the performance of Kano Pillars over the past decade will be given shabby treatment.
“To our greatest surprise the Kano State Sports Commission decided to lock up two state owned stadiums. However, God has been so kind to us that we have an option which has ended up being better than where we’ve used for previous years.
“We thought even if there were differences within the leadership of sports in the state, they would be buried until the visitors have left. Unfortunately they did not look at it that way so they decided to block this event from happening.
“I visited the Chairman of the Kano State Sports Commission to plead with him on behalf of the visitors to keep differences aside and allow us use of the stadia for the tournament. I am disappointed with the way the state government officials handled the matter which has led to us not being able to use the facilities”.
However, when contacted, the Chairman of Kano State Sports Commission, Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, told Trust Sports that there was no iota of truth in the allegations against his commission.
He denied knowledge of any power tussle between his commission and Ministry of Sports as well as the State Football Association as he stated clearly that there was no basis for power tussle between the commission and the Football Association.
The former Chairman of the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA) said contrary to the impression being given that the commission denied visiting clubs access to the stadium, there was no formal communication between Ahlan Cup organisers and the commission on the pre-season tournament.
He said, “One has to establish the basis for whatever tussle someone is talking about. What would be the basis? The football association is under the Sports Commission. It is just like rugby, hockey, volleyball, basketball and the rest. So football is also under the Sports Commission.
“In all their activities, the FA writes to the sports commission for permission. This is not the first time they are holding the pre-season tournament.
“You will recall that the stadium was one of the COVID-19 isolation centres. When it was reopened, LMC came for inspection and listed facilities that should be worked on for Pillars to play their home matches there. So on October 28, the Commission ordered for the closure of the stadium for renovation work to be carried out.
“Four days later, which was on Monday, November 1, one of the visiting clubs called to inform me that they were in Kano for a tournament but were denied access into Sani Abacha stadium.
“I got to know about the pre-season tournament from someone outside the state. So I don’t know what they are talking about.”
Galadima reiterated that nobody informed him about the tournament. He also said even the sponsor of the competition himself had confirmed that the Commission wasn’t duly communicated.
He maintained that before the ongoing Ahlan Cup, another pre-season tournament, A.A Zaure Cup had taken place at the Sani Abacha stadium so the case of the former wouldn’t have been treated differently.
“The stadium was closed long before the date for the Ahlan Cup. And nobody informed me about the tournament. In fact the FA Chairman came to me and confirmed that his secretary had failed to do his job.
“So how can someone talk about power tussle? Power tussle for what? I had already received the Governor’s approval for renovation of the stadium because LMC officials will be coming for final approval.
“If I were informed and I said no, that would have been another area one could cling to. And I was right here in Kano. I don’t have any reason to tussle for power with anyone. Tussle with the FA which is under me?” Galadima asked rhetorically.
Despite the Commission’s explanation, there are fears that if the friction between the Ministry of Youths and Sports and the Sports Commission is not resolved in time, it may impact negatively on the 2022 National Youth Games to be hosted by Kano State.