The ever-present captain of Wikki Tourists, Muhammad Idris Guda, has given the assurance that the ‘Bauchi Elephants’ will emulate Kano Pillars and Katsina United by making a quick comeback to the NPFL. The mercurial attacking midfielder spoke to Trust Sports on why Wikki Tourists suffered relegation in the 2023 NPFL season and what they are doing to return to the Nigerian topflight.
How disappointed were you with the relegation of Wikki Tourists at the end of the 2023 NPFL season?
To be honest, I felt really disappointed that we couldn’t survive the relegation fight. Personally, it was painful because I felt like a captain who failed to save his ship from sinking. However, since we win together and lose together, I tried not to be too hard on myself. But it was a terrible feeling to see Wikki Tourists go on relegation again.
What are Wikki Tourists doing to return to the Nigerian topflight?
Well, we are right now working on how to immediately return to the NPFL where we rightly belong. At the moment, we have a new coach who is well experienced and ready to lead us in the Nigeria National League (NNL). We also have in our fold new players who have the quality to help us in the fight for promotion. I am quite optimistic that we would be promoted to the NPFL at the end of the 2024 season.
What would you say was responsible for Wikki Tourists’ relegation?
Well, I can’t say it was due to poor performance but it wasn’t far from it. And it will be unfair for me to put the whole blame on one person. We all should be ready to take responsibility for what befell us as a club. As a matter of fact, when we started the season, our target was to qualify for the Super 6. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for us and we found ourselves struggling against relegation that eventually consumed us.
Don’t you think the abridged format contributed to the woes of Wikki Tourists?
Yes, it was not the normal season which would have given us the opportunity to recover lost points but even if it was the regular season, that wouldn’t have stopped us from dropping points. Even if it were the normal season, some clubs would have been relegated. As long as you are not getting good results at home and you can’t get away results, you are bound to face relegation. So, I don’t think our relegation was caused by the abridged season because many clubs participated but not all were relegated at the end of the season. It was our performance that affected us.
Would you say Wikki Tourists received the necessary support from the state government?
The government tried its best. The government support for the club remained the same. I have been around for some time so I know exactly what the government has been doing to support Wikki Tourists. The fault is not from the government. Despite our dwindling performances, they continued with the support for the club. So, nobody should blame our relegation on the government.
What are you going to learn from Kano Pillars and Wikki Tourists who got relegated but are back in the NPFL?
Surely, we are inspired by what Kano Pillars and Katsina United did to immediately return to the NPFL. We are planning to do what they did to bounce back immediately. We have learnt from our mistakes of last season and we are ready to correct them. Kano Pillars and Katsina United did the same and that is why they are back in the topflight. We are going to emulate them to return to the NPFL.
How are Wikki Tourists going to cope with the stiff competition in the NNL?
Yes, whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation, you have to quickly adjust to it. We were used to playing in the Nigerian topflight but all that has changed now. It is a new phase and we are ready to adjust to life in the lower division. I know it is not going to be easy but we will adjust ourselves to the situation on ground and try to do what other clubs like Kano Pillars and katsina United did to return to the NPFL. We are already out of our comfort zone so we have to fight to rise again.
How are the Tourists adjusting to life under the new gaffer, Azeez Mohammed?
Already, we are imbibing his football philosophy. We are learning how he wants us to play. For now, we are taking part in the Gusau/Alhan pre-season football tournament in Bauchi which is an opportunity for him to inculcate his tactics into us. It is also a chance for the old players to blend with the new ones. As professionals, I don’t think we are going to have any problem adjusting his football tactics and techniques.
Wikki Tourists lost some home matches last season. Which of them would you say was the most painful?
The most painful among the losses was the home defeat to Bayelsa United. We lost the match 1-2 and it was the defeat that caused our relegation. We played well but the referee also made some mistakes. We got an equaliser but he cancelled the goal which led to the pitch invasion by our fans. The match was held up for some minutes and that denied us the opportunity to immediately fight for the much needed equaliser. When play resumed, it was too late for us to control the damage. I am sure, if not for what happened, we would have won the match.
In view of what happened during the match against Bayelsa United, what is your appeal to Bauchi football fans?
I am appealing to them to learn to be patient. They should know that referees are human beings and are bound to make mistakes. They can make mistakes and also correct the same. I want them to know that these things are going to happen again even as we are going to play in the NNL. They must always resist the temptation to take the laws into their hands. On our part, we would do everything possible to make them happy again.
Many felt you would leave Wikki Tourists after their relegation. Why did you stay back?
Yes, there were speculations that I was going to leave but I don’t think I will leave the club just because we have gone on relegation. Unless I receive an attractive offer, maybe outside Nigeria, I don’t think I will abandon my state club simply because of relegation. If I stay and lead Wikki Tourists back to the NPFL, I will gain more respect and other clubs will also appreciate me the most.
Are you in any way inspired by Rabiu Ali who led Kano Pillars back to the NPFL?
Rabiu Ali is an iconic figure. He is presently the face of the NPFL. A living legend who is worthy of emulation. I have learnt a lot from him. He led Pillars back to the NPFL and I want to do the same thing for Wikki Tourists.