Kano Pillars pin hopes on home advantage

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport, Lagos
Confederation of African Football logo

Reigning Nigeria Premier League champions Kano Pillars are confident their incredible unbeaten run on home soil can help them become only the second team from the country to win the Champions League.

Kano Pillars are on an unbeaten streak in the domestic league at the Sani Abacha Stadium in Kano that spans almost a decade and are looking to follow in the footsteps of Enyimba, winners of the Champions League in 2003 and 2004.

Although their home form has only taken them to two league titles in that time, coach Mohammed Baba Ganaru believes his side has what it takes to be successful on the continent.

"Our first objective this season is to successfully defend the league title and win the Champions League," Ganaru told BBC Sport.

"We got to the semi-final in our first appearance (in 2009) but we think we are prepared to go two steps better now.

"Our fans have been tremendously supportive over the years, they have made our stadium tough for our opponents in the local league.

"But this season we are very confident they will show the rest of Africa that positive support can propel our players to success."

Nicknamed 'Masu Gida', the secret of the club's dominance at home include solid financial backing, quality of players signed, the continuity that ensured the coaching staff was renewed from within and the winning mentality that was passed on from one generation to the next.

But perhaps the most significant element of all in the Pillars success story is their passionate fans.

Baba Ganaru believes the club's home support are a major factor in the team's 160-game unbeaten run at home

"When the players come out in front of over 23,000 screaming fans at the Sani Abacha stadium, they are extremely motivated to beat any team," he said.

"The fans create an intimidating atmosphere for any visiting side, they lift the players and our opponents crumble under this vociferous crowd.

"We are the only club in the country with full capacity stadium during every home game, our fans are unrivalled."

They have a slogan in native Hausa language 'Sai Masu Gida' which literally translate 'Up the home owners'.

The two-time league winners last lost at home on 21 June, 2003 - 1-2 to Julius Berger (now Bridge FC) - and have remained true to their famous slogan ever since.

Pillars, semi-finalists in the Champions League four years ago, were ruthless with a 5-1 whipping of Central African Republic visitors Olympique Real Bangui in Kano, at the start of this year's Champions League.

They extended that unbeaten home run with an impressive 4-1 victory over AC Leopard from Congo in the first round as well - and look set to complete the task when they travel to Dolisie this weekend for the second leg

"We've motivated the players well enough. The government has backed them financially and the fans emotionally," said Baba Ganaru.

"If they can transform that home mentality to games across Africa then we are capable of becoming the second Nigerian club (after Enyimba) to win the Champions League.

"Do we have the ability to do that? Yes we do. We will show to the continent what 'real passion' can do to a team."