By David Ngobua
As painful as it may be, Coach Usman Abdallah, has said the recent relegation of Kano Pillars and Katsina United from the NPFL is a blessing in disguise because it will serve as a wake-up call. In this interview with Trust Sports, the Super Eagles assistant coach also spoke on his failed mission in Katsina United, why he is not dumping the ‘Chanji boys’ and the need for sound football administrators in the north to be put in charge of the top clubs.
You were appointed to rescue Katsina United from relegation but you failed to do so. How disappointed are you?
I have mixed feelings but we must assess the performance of the team before my arrival and how we performed when I was appointed. When I took over, I injected more quality players in the team and our performance in the second stanza improved remarkably. Before our last match, we were still in the competitive zone. It will also interest you to know that when I took over the club, we had only 19 points from 19 matches. Wikki Tourists were eleven points ahead of us. However, before our last match, we had closed the gap on them as only one point separated us. So, I praise the boys for putting up such a gallant fight even as it was not enough to save the club from relegation. They did their best but circumstances beyond our control forced us into relegation.
Could you expatiate on the circumstances you said were beyond the control of Katsina United?
Nobody can prove that there were incidents of match-fixing but some results definitely raised suspicion in the minds of many. There were some surprising results like Dakkada beating Enyimba in Aba and the same Dakkada beating Sunshine Stars with the exact number of goals they needed to survive. People are also talking about the result between Rivers United and 3SC. You see, most of these matches decided the fate of other clubs. In fact, the match between Dakkada and Enyimba in Aba distorted everything in the league. The tie between Nasarawa United and Kano Pillars was another match that changed a lot of things. When we were to play Wikki Tourists in our final match, officials of other clubs that had no business with the match were in Bauchi. It is for this reason that I said circumstances beyond our control contributed to our relegation.
It it is true that some compromises were made in the last matches, what would be your advice to the clubs and the league organisers?
I think we must strive to be fair and honest in all our affairs. We need fair officiating to grow our leave. Some of the decisions taken were embarrassing to say the least. The truth is that players from other African nations are attracted to our league because it is lucrative but we are not doing things professionally. So, we have to pay priority attention to good officiating and fairness because football is the only thing that truly unites us.
It is said that Wikki Tourists ‘sent’ Katsina United on relegation to punish you for leaving them in the manner you did. Do you have any problem with Wikki Tourists?
(Laughs) I heard such talks but honestly I don’t have any problem with the club. It is true, I left them but coaches leave clubs so my case can’t be an exception. I have a very good relationship with the chairman of the club. Anytime I am passing through Bauchi, I stop and eat in his house. However, there is no coach that is loved by everyone in a club. It is difficult to be loved hundred percent by the supporters. When I was in Enyimba, some of the fans sometimes called me Boko Haram. They would shout ‘Boko Haram go back to your place’. That does not mean all the supporters didn’t like me. I still have a cordial relationship with so many people in Enyimba. Apart from the supporters, it is only those players who are playing matches that will say the coach is fantastic. The rest will have their reservations because maybe they are not playing regularly. I have no problem with Wikki Tourists. I even congratulated them for escaping relegation.
What is your next plan? Are you dumping Katsina United?
I am not going anywhere. As a matter of fact, I am leading a campaign for us to develop football in the north-west and north generally. The relegation of Kano Pillars and Katsina United is a wake-up call. We have everything to develop football in the north but we are not doing the right things. We have good coaches, players and administrators but we must start with good administration. No club can succeed without a good administrator. We have to start giving priority to those who can do the job. I want you to know that Pillars and Katsina United are relegated not because they lack good players or coaches. It has to do with poor administration. Look at Pillars where I come from, they have the crowd and money but they went down because of lack of capacity to harness the resources at their disposal. So many clubs are interested in me but I am not going to dump Katsina United. We are coaches and our primary responsibility is to develop football and to impart our knowledge. Whenever there is a problem, we have to stay and proffer solutions. This is the reason some of us returned from Europe to come and help in developing the game. What is it that we can get in other clubs that our states can’t give to us, if there is genuine commitment? Running away from responsibility simply because our clubs are relegated is nothing but cowardice.
How is the relegation of Kano Pillars and Katsina United going to affect football development in the north?
Honestly, it is a heavy blow and it will take a long time for fans of the two clubs to recover from it. We all know the followership that the clubs command. Enyimba, Rangers and Pillars are clubs in the NPFL that shouldn’t have anything to do with relegation. I feel bad about the situation that has befallen us but like I said earlier, it is an eye-opener. Clubs go on relegation but bounce back so I am confident that Katsina United and Pillars will return to the topflight again. My only appeal is for us to do the right things. We must sit to discuss the way forward. The north has sound coaches and administrators who must close ranks immediately and work harmoniously for the good of the game.