Coach Okey Emordi says he is not under pressure to lead Kano Pillars to Caf Champions League success this year, after failing to advance beyond the preliminary round in his first season.
The reigning Glo Premier League champions were edged out of Africa’s elite club football showpiece by eventual finalists AS Vita (DR Congo) last season. The Sabon Gari-based side will travel to Juba to face South Sudanese champions Al-Malaika FC in the weekend of February 13 as they look to reach the group stages for the first time since their maiden appearance in 2009.
“As a player, I was never under pressure and as a coach who has been with almost all the good teams. So I don’t let myself get under pressure,” Emordi, who led Enyimba to triumph over ten years ago, told reporters on Saturday. “It is another opportunity to try and do better in the Caf League”
The ‘Sai Masu Gida’ are favourites to progress into Champions League first round, where they could face Mohgreb Athletic de Tetouan of Morocco or Mali’s Club Olympique de Bamako.
Despite not advancing from the preliminary rounds in their last three attempts, the Kano State-owned side have dominated the Nigerian League throughout that dispensation and after dominating the country’s top-flight football last season- scoring 57 goals and winning 19 matches more than any other side- Emordi claims “orientation” in camp is unlike in the previous era.
He recalled: “On arriving Kano last season, I needed to change the training mode and began twice a day training. I also was not speaking the language, so the start was difficult but we worked on the orientation which saw us end the season as champions.”
Samuel Tswaya and Christian Obiozor were both on target for Emordi’s side in a 2-0 win over Caf Confederation Cup-bound Dolphins in the opening fixture of the 2015 Super 4 tournament in Abuja on Saturday.
The pre-season tournament is aimed at helping teams participating in continental tournaments tune up and Emordi believes Pillars have yet to peak.
“The (Super 4) tournament is the only preparation we have had and clubs need to play consistently for players to improve,” he said.
“I cannot say I am completely satisfied by the performance, they didn’t play as I expected. Their recovery after losing the ball was not too good but we were good at the back, the defense communicated well and I give them kudos”
So far so good for champions
Goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai is confident Pillars will “go far” in the Champions League this season as the state government has promised funds will be readily available for prosecution of the club’s ambition.
Kano State government has approved a sum of 100m Naira for Pillars for this year’s Champions League campaign while four newly constituted sub committees have been charged to work in tandem towards success on all front in the forthcoming season.
“The way things are going now, we believe we can go far. We have now got a good board that will be working to ensure our off field needs are met,” Afelokhai said.