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Yusuf under fire as crisis rocks relegation-threatened Wikki Tourists

These are definitely not the best of times for relegation-threatened Wikki Tourists of Bauchi as the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) side is right now…

These are definitely not the best of times for relegation-threatened Wikki Tourists of Bauchi as the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) side is right now moving from one crisis to another in the ongoing season. And in view of the precarious position of the club on the Group B table, there is serious clamour for the management led by Alhaji Balarabe Yusuf ‘Douglas’ to either resign or be sacked by the Bauchi State Government.

It is now an open secret that trouble for Wikki Tourists in the current season began right at the beginning of the 2023 NPFL abridged season when they lost their opening match of the campaign to Niger Tornadoes at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Bauchi.

The ‘Bauchi Elephants’ as Wikki Tourists are called only continued from where they stopped in the 2022 season when they struggled to finish tenth on the table. Therefore, there was apprehension when the club stumbled at the very first hurdle in the 2023 season.

Instead of recovering quickly from the 0-2 loss to Niger Tornadoes, Wikki Tourists continued to drift aimlessly as they managed to pick up only one point in four matches. The poor start to the season forced the then coach, Kabiru Suleiman Dogo, to throw in the towel.

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The former ABS, Nasarawa United and Lobi Stars gaffer who accused the management of undue interference and non payment of salaries was replaced by his former assistant, Coach Adamu Abdullahi, an indigene of Bauchi State. In his first match as the substantive coach, Wikki Tourists were beaten 1-2 at defending champions, Rivers United.

However, there was a glimmer of hope the following week as the Tourists returned home to beat Enugu Rangers 1-0 for their first win of the season in week six. Despite a few inspiring performances, including the 1-1 draw at Bayelsa United, Wikki Tourists were rooted at the base of the Group B table at the end of the first round.

Things got worse for the club penultimate week when they suffered their second home defeat in the hands of resurgent Bayelsa United who fought back to beat them 2-1 in their week 13 fixture. It was indeed the last straw that broke the Camel’s back as the disappointed fans of the club descended heavily on the visiting team and match officials.

Immediately after the match, the Technical Adviser, Abdullahi resigned from his position as he said he took the decision to save his fledgling career. According to him, the management had failed to provide him with the enabling atmosphere to operate.

While Wikki Tourists were still grappling with the sudden resignation of their coach, IMC’s hammer fell on the club as the league organisers fined them N2.5m for their fans’ attack on Bayelsa United and the match officials. In addition, their home ground was banned for the rest of the season.

Unhappy with the state of affairs in the club, the Bauchi State Chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) also issued a strongly worded press statement calling on the state Government to probe and ultimately sack the management of the club.

“In view of the fact that Wikki Tourists are currently in the relegation zone, on 9th position with 12 points from 13 games in group B, SWAN is calling for an inquiry into every activity of the current management of the club from its inception to date, especially contracts of players and technical crew,” the statement reads in part.

However, the management replied with its own press statement accusing the sports writers of overzealousness. The club secretary, Adamu Idris Pali, said “while acknowledging the fact that SWAN is a stakeholder in the business of football in this context, we expected SWAN to have engaged the management of Wikki Tourists FC in a meeting or writing its observations, proffering solutions to the issues instead of going to the press directly, maybe we could have done better collectively.”

In another release, the management said it was not aware of the widely publicised resignation of Abdullahi from his position as the Technical Adviser of Wikki Tourists. The chairman said “I want to tell you that we are yet to formally receive any letter of resignation from the coach. We only saw it on Social Media just the way you might have seen it.

“And when we saw it, we called him to find out what was happening and he promised to come to the office but since then we haven’t seen him. He even promised to take the training this morning (Wednesday) but unfortunately he didn’t show up, so we don’t know what’s happening.”

When contacted by our reporter, the coach reiterated that he resigned because his professional career had come under threat of the antics of the management of Wikki Tourists. “First and foremost, I am not the first coach that complained of management interference in his job because Coach Kabiru Dogo had made mention of that when he left the club. When Coach Usman Abdallah left the club in 2019, he made mention of interference as well.

“As a coach, I have spent three years in the club but I don’t have a single player I brought to the team based on his quality to improve the team. It is the management members who sign players by themselves. They terminate the contract of players at any time they wish.”

In his reaction, the chairman said despite Abdullahi’s ‘disappearance’, he had set up a committee made up of some management members to look into the claim of undue interference as alleged by the coach.

“The management wants to know in clear terms the interference he is talking about. In what ways and how we interfere with his duties. He should come out and explain where I or any board member directed him to feature or change a player during matches.

“I don’t have any knowledge about interference with his duties. I have never instructed the coach to change a player during a match,” Yusuf insisted.

Meanwhile, as the face-off between the management and Coach Abdullahi continues, some die-hard supporters have queued behind Bauchi SWAN in calling for the sack of the leadership of Wikki Tourists.

A former Chairman of Wikki Tourists supporters club, Umar Aliyu, told Trust Sports that poor handling of activities of the club by the management was responsible for the crisis.

He said “the problem of Wikki is the management. The state Government has provided all the necessary resources 100 percent and also given them the nod to increase players’ salaries from N500,000 to N700,000,  which has never been done in the past.

“Despite hefty allocations, players are still being short changed so there is no way they would perform optimally. When you promise a player N700,000 but end up paying only N300,000, you have already demoralised him.

“The chairman of the club is boasting that the Governor gave him the team to empower him but at the end of the day, he has succeeded in destroying Wikki Tourists and also spoiling the name of Bauchi State.

Another staunch fan of the club, Sunusi Adamu Bayara, said the present management was responsible for the crisis in Wikki Tourists and warned that if the government does not take quick actions to rescue the club, the bad situation would get out of hand.

“We are appealing to the state government to urgently rescue Wikki by sacking the management and setting up a rescue committee,” said Bayara.

However, ‘Douglas’ has insisted that the problems of Wikki Tourists are caused by biased officiating and political opponents of the state Governor, Bala Mohammed.

Meanwhile, following their last home defeat to Bayelsa United, Wikki Tourists are placed second from bottom of Group B table with a paltry 12 points from 13 matches, making them sure candidates for relegation.

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