It will be an understatement to say that Kano Pillars started the current Nigeria Professional Football League, season on a shaky note as the ‘masu gida’ boys from the pyramid city struggled to win their first match.
Although their first victory came against Dakkada FC of Uyo in a rescheduled week 2 match, Pillars had uncharacteristically gone six matches without a victory.
Their opening match in kano against Rivers United ended in a 0-0 draw. They lost their second home match 0-1 to Lobi Stars, lost again 0-1 to Jigawa Golden Stars, were held to 0-0 draw by Wikki Tourists in Kano before the significant 0-0 draw in week six against Plateau United in Jos.
The draw against the current leaders of the league was significant in the sense that it marked the beginning of the resurgence of Kano Pillars as they moved to Uyo where they won 2-1 for their first victory of the season.
Many people immediately attributed the revival in Kano Pillars to the return of their talismanic captain, Rabiu Ali who had missed their previous matches due to the suspension he was serving.
Without doubt, Rabiu Ali over the years has been the soul and spirit of Kano Pillars but there is no denying the massive contributions of their silent predator, Auwal Ali ‘Malan’ who has contributed 11 goals to their total of 27 before the league went on COVID-19 break.
Auwal Ali’s goals ensured that Kano Pillars moved out of the relegation zone to place seventh on the table where they are hoping to push further for a place among the top three at the end of the season.
The 19-year-old striker who joined Kano Pillars last season from the Feeder team has proved to be the ‘silent assassin’ who shots down opponents clinically when it matters most.
Presently, he is among the leading goalscorers in the NPFL and his eyes are on the Highest Goalscorers Award which comes with millions of naira from Eunisell, the sponsor of the coveted award.
The other players on 11 goals are Ibrahim Mustapha of Plateau United, Israel Abia who joined Rangers from Sunshine Stars midseason and Akwa United hitman, Ndifereke Effiong.
To be listed among the leading contenders for the most prestigious individual award in the league, Auwal Ali recorded a hat-trick of braces. He scored two goals in matches against Sunshine Stars, Lobi Stars and Jigawa Golden Stars.
He also scored once against MFM, Delta Force, Warri Wolves, Adamawa United and Dakadda FC to take his tally to 11 goals before the league went on break.
Auwal an indigene of Kano State from Dala Local Government Area told Trust Sports that the race for the Eunisell Golden Boot is a marathon so he is not going to rest on his oars.
He reiterated that his ambition is to emerge the highest goalscorer at the end of the season even as he acknowledged the fact that achieving his dream is not going to be an easy task.
“I am happy with what I have achieved in my second season in the league. I am one of the leading goal scorers and I want to thank almighty Allah for everything.
“All that I have achieved so far is by the special grace of God. I believe that I will score more goals when the league will resume. It is still possible for me to score up to 20 goals,” he said.
Auwal who listed his brace against Lobi Stars in Makurdi as his best goals so far disclosed his saddest moment since he started playing for Kano Pillars.
He said the Aiteo Cup loss to Rangers in 2018 was a bitter pill to swallow. According to him, it is a nightmare that will continue to haunt him and his teammates.
“To be honest with you, I will never forget the day we lost the Aiteo Cup to Rangers. We were leading 3-0 but how we ended up with that defeat is hard to explain.
“It was a huge disappointment because our government gave us all the necessary support. It was a difficult moment for all of us,” said the pacy forward.
Ali who joined Pillars Feeders from the amateur side, Samba Kuma FC, however, said his only consolation is that he emerged the highest goalscorer in the next edition of the Aiteo Cup.
It will be recalled that Kano Pillars defeated Niger Tornadoes 4-3 on penalties after 0-0 in regulation time of last year’s final played at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium Kaduna for their second title in 66 years.
“I think winning my first Aiteo Cup with Pillars is the most memorable moment of my career for now. We were able to atone for that miserable loss against Rangers.
“And to crown it all, I scored nine goals to emerge the highest goalscorer. In the finals, I played for 72 minutes before I was substituted,” said Auwal.
The youngster also ‘leaked’ his secret when he revealed that most defenders in the NPFL are yet to know him and the threat he poses in the final third making it easy for him to wreak havoc.
He, however, said even as he is beginning to be popular by virtue of his goalscoring prowess, he is not afraid that his goals will dry up.
“The truth of the matter is that unlike players like Rabiu Ali, Nyima Nwagua and the rest who are well well known, most of the defenders don’t know me.
“They are just getting to recognise that I am a dangerous striker. In future, it might become more difficult for me to score against them but for now, I am on top of the situation,” he said.
Like any other young player, Auwal’s dream is to play for a big club in Europe and his dream club is English giants, Manchester United.
Interestingly, he named former Super Eagles striker Odion Ighalo who recently joined the ‘Red Devils’ on loan from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua of China as his source of inspiration.
“Honestly, my teammate Rabiu Ali is my number one role model. However, I am always inspired by Odion Ighalo. He is a complete striker. I am happy that he is the first Nigerian to play for Manchester United. I will work hard to be the next Nigerian to play for the club.”
Auwal’s other dream is to play for the Super Eagles beginning with the junior national teams.
He also said he is not allowing the little success he has achieved so far to get into his head and ultimately derail his plans.
“I am just 19 years old so I wish to start from the U-20 and 23 before the senior national team. However, if God decides I should move straight to the Super Eagles, I will be eternally grateful.
“With hard work, commitment and dedication, everything is achievable. I know what football has done for me. I have built a house for my family and I wish to do more.
“I am riding a motorcycle for now but I know that if I stay focused, one day I will drive one of the latest and biggest cars,” said the youngster whose favourite food is rice and stew.