As the 2013/2014 DStv/
Men’s Premier Basketball League dunks-off on Friday, the question on the lips of fans is, can Kano Pillars retain the title for a second consecutive season?
Pillars had defeated Union Bank Club of Lagos 86-75 on the last day of the National Final Four Championship held in Lagos to emerge winners of last season.
Penultimate to the National Final Four, the club was indomitable in the Savannah Conference, winning all its matches in the 2012/2013 regular season.
As a result of their impressive run, fans branded them “The Invincible” and were rewarded hugely by the Kano State Government after winning the Final Four.
The National Final Four ended with Pillars defeating Dodan Warriors and Union Bank and losing one to Savannah Conference rivals Mark Mentors of Abuja.
Pillars Head Coach, Ahmed Sani told newsmen that their objective was to retain the title they won in September 2013 as he previewed the coming season.
“We are confident of ourselves and we are prepared for any challenge any opposition brings, we are going to take one game at a time.
“We don’t underrate any team but we know we have the best players the league can boast of though some players left us, nevertheless, we have re-enforced those areas.
“Our players are also properly motivated, they get their salaries and their bonuses regularly and what is more is that they are united,” Sani said.
A Union Bank veteran player, Obum Onyia, said that Pillars were a force to reckon with because of the team’s chemistry which they had built for the past four years.
“Pillars have a team that has been together for some time now, they are a very good side, and nevertheless we are prepared to tackle any team for the trophy.
“I believe in my team, especially in the younger players we recruited. They have the energy and bring more strength to the team to deliver the goods,” Onyia said.
Union Bank Coach, Johnson Ayinla whose team fell to Pillars on last season’s final day, said he was confident they would emerge champions of the 2013/2014 season.
According to Ayinla, the club’s management has empowered the team to ensure that they achieve their target for the season.
“We are prepared than ever before, we are not troubled about what other teams have because we know our strength and we know we are better equipped than last season.
“Our players are level headed; they are disciplined and ready to do what is expected of them. We are well organised and confident of ourselves,” he said.
In the same vein, Lagos Islanders Coach, Lateef Erinfolami, expressed optimism toward emerging champions of the coming season, adding that it was the club’s sole objective.
“We want to win the title, it’s our target, and we are not going into the season just to play but specifically set our aim on the league’s trophy.
“It’s going to be a great battle from the jump-ball date, we have assured our fans that we will not let them down,’’ Erinfolami said.
The Proprietor, Dodan Warriors of Lagos, Col. Sam Ahmedu (rtd), said the club’s position was not necessarily to win the league but to put up a first class performance.
“We are an institution that trains and nurtures young players to top class athletes.
“We have four players who are currently on scholarships in the US through their last season’s performances.
“Our players for the coming season are ready psychologically and prepared to compete favourably,” he said.
According to the fixtures provided by the Nigeria Basketball Federations (NBBF), Union Bank will play Kwara Falcons on March 7 at the Indoor Sports Hall of the National Stadium, Lagos.
This season’s format provided by NBBF will have first four clubs qualifying from each of the two conferences for the Final Eight to determine the 2013/2014 champions.
The regular season is expected to end in June after 15 weeks of matches may have been concluded in the two conferences.
Company Seals Kebbi Beach Soccer Deal
WACOT Rice Limited, a member of Tropical General Investments Group, has signed a four-year sponsorship deal with Kebbi Beach Soccer Association.
The Kebbi Beach Club (Kebbi Fishers), owned by the Kebbi Beach Soccer Association, is one of Africa’s foremost beach soccer clubs.
The sponsorship deal with WACOT Rice as the official Food Partner, is a boost for the growth of beach soccer and, ultimately, youth development in Nigeria, WACOT Rice stated.
Last year, WACOT Rice sponsored Kebbi Fishers to the World Winners’Cup in Antalya, Turkey, organised by Beach Soccer Worldwide, the global governing body under FIFA responsible for Beach Soccer.
Commenting on the partnership, Chairman of WACOT Rice, Farouk Gumel, said, “In our operations, we always ensure that we create avenues for the Nigerian youths to thrive. Kebbi Beach Soccer Association, through Kebbi Fishers, has grown and received accolades across the continent. They have put Kebbi on the map. We are immensely proud of them and remain committed to supporting them to grow.”
Also, Chairman, Kebbi Beach Soccer Association, Mahmud Hadejia, lauded WACOT Rice and TGI Group for their support for Kebbi Fishers and commitment to sports development in Nigeria.
Hadejia, who is also President, African Beach Soccer Union and Coordinator, Nigeria Beach Soccer League, said beach soccer in the country had received another boost with the sponsorship from WACOT Rice.
NPFL: Mgt Gives Kwara, Wikki Two-Match Ultimatum
The management of Nigerian Professional Football League clubs Kwara United and Wikki Tourist have handed their respective coaches a two-match ultimatum to overturn their team’s poor run in the NPFL or get sacked, The Tidesports source reports.
This comes after both teams failed to end their winless runs in their match-day four encounters amid disappointing displays.
The Harmony Boys, who are yet to record a win this season after four matches — two defeats and two draws — were thumped 3-0 by Enyimba in Aba on Sunday, just as Wikki were held to a goalless draw at home by newly promoted Doma United at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi.
The result sees both teams languishing in the relegation zone of their respective groups, with Kwara placed 19th in Group A of the NPFL log with two points from their opening four games, while Wikki are rock bottom of Group B with just a point from four games.
The General Manager of Kwara United, Bashir Badawiy, revealed that the management would not tolerate any negative result from the team as they play in the “dangerous” abridged NPFL league.
“The team has no excuse not to perform, going by the commitment of the government, the determination of the management and the sacrifice by the supporters and stakeholders,” Badawiy said.
“And that Is why we have decided to give the team a two-match ultimatum. They should rather perform or give way. We are playing in a dangerous league, the abridged league, and we cannot tolerate this kind of result.”
Kwara United will host former champions Plateau United in their next league game at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Ibadan today.
Wikki secretary, Idris Pali, on behalf of the board and the management of the club, also expressed dissatisfaction with the team’s performance since the start of the season.
He added that proper action would be taken if the team did not win their next two games.
Coach Kabiru Dogo faces a daunting task in keeping his job as his next two games are against Group B leaders Rivers United and Enugu Rangers.
“The board members and management of Wikki Tourist have found unsatisfactorily (performance of Wikki), which has led to the decline of the team’s performance. The board has however handed the technical crew a two-match ultimatum to win their next two games or proper action will be taken against you (Dogo) considering the terms of our agreement. I hope he gives us the best going forward.”
U-17 Cup Of Nations Draws Hold Today, In Algeria
The draw ceremony for this year’s Africa U-17 Cup of Nations will hold today at the Cercle Nationale d’Armee in Algiers, Algeria.
Five-time world champions, Nigeria, is one of the 12 countries, whose names will go into the pot for the draw, as all participating teams get to know their group phase opponents for the tournament scheduled for April 8 to 30 in Africa’s largest nation by land mass.
All the 12 participating nations are now known: Algeria, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Somalia, South Sudan, Zambia, South Africa, Cameroon and Congo.
The 12 teams will be drawn into three groups of four teams each, with the four top-placed teams qualifying to represent Africa at this year’s FIFA U-17-World Cup finals taking place in Peru later this year.
Meanwhile, the international friendly match between Nigeria and Zambia at the U-20 boys’ level will now hold at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on February 4.
Initially, both countries’ football-governing bodies had agreed on a two-match tour for January 27 and 30 respectively. But, issues of logistics and the compunction on the Young Chipolopolo to process their entry visas into Egypt for the forthcoming Africa U-20 Cup of Nations before leaving Zambia forced a postponement.
Zambia’s U-20 delegation is still in Lusaka and will now only be able to play one match against the Flying Eagles, before proceeding to Dakar for a game against Senegal on Tuesday next week.
Both Nigeria and Zambia will face a country from the other’s region in Egypt, with Nigeria drawn against Mozambique (alongside host nation Egypt and Senegal) in Group A, while Zambia will face Benin Republic (alongside Tunisia and The Gambia) in Group C. Uganda, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo make up Group B.
Seven-time African champions, Nigeria, will fly to Morocco next week for their final round of preparations.
Coach Isah Ladan Bosso’s wards have been in flaming form in recent weeks, lashing a slew of teams in friendly games.
Bosso’s wards were worthy champions of the WAFU B U-20 Championship in Niamey, Niger Republic in May 2022, winning all their five matches in the competition.
By: Tonye Orabere
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