For Emordi, it’s all in the line, life of coaching
It was American Football Coach, Oail Andrew ‘Bum’ Phillips, who once quipped that ‘there’s two kinds of coaches, them that’s fired and them that’s gonna be fired’.
Felix Okey Emordi on Monday joined the list of those fired, perhaps, for the first time since his Premier League career as he has always had to part with his past employers on mutual consent.
But the signs of his ouster had long been there for the 2005 Confederation of African Football Coach of the Year. As the cliché goes, only the blind wouldn’t have seen the build-up to the decision taken as a first task by the new board of Kano Pillars led by businessman and football buff, Kabiru Baita.
Baita was announced on Sunday by Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as the Chairman of the board of the club that has won the Glo Premier League in the last three seasons, the same day Kano Pillars surrendered a three goals lead in Makurdi to draw with hosts, Lobi Stars.
It was one lead surrendered too many for Emordi as Manager and turned out that Baita’s first responsibility had to be to respond to the eager yearnings of the passionate but increasingly restive Kano Pillars fans.
Emordi arrived Kano on January 31, 2014 from Enugu Rangers and having not been part of their recruitment for the CAF Champions League campaign, Pillars’ exit from the competition was not counted against him. He did well to retain the Glo Premier League title that Pillars fell back to and his popularity amongst the ‘Sai Masu Gidans ‘ rose a notch considering he won the title even before the last game of the season.
More so, Kano Pillars surge to the front from Match Day 12 and a near unbroken run to clinch the title gave the fans the bragging right over perennial rivals, Enyimba International, on whose ground they went to take the cup on the last day.
It has been a difficult season for Emordi and Kano Pillars and in such a situation; the fans cannot disown the team but would always seek for a change in the bench.
Pillars’ season began with an unimpressive outing in the pre-season Glo Premier League tournament where they finished fourth in a six team competition. An early ouster from the CAF Champions League by Moroccan side Moghreb Tetoune on 5-2 aggregate flagged what has perhaps been turning out an indifferent performance in their league title defense.
Last season, Pillars went unbeaten for some stretch of nine games, a run that consolidated their hold at the top after displacing Sharks of Port Harcourt. The results this term has been a near woeful performance on the road where they have managed just one win and the last draw to Lobi Stars in 10 games. The poor results includes a 3-0 hiding in Akure to Sunshine Stars, defeats to lowly sides like Akwa United, Kwara United, Nasarawa United and Shooting Stars.
But the gradual build-up to pulling the sack trigger on Emordi began perhaps with that mauling in Akure, which was followed by the first surrender of a commanding lead in the presence of their very loud fans. Pillars had raced to a 2-0 lead against Dolphins and the Port Harcourt side stormed back to erase the deficit and left Sani Abacha Stadium with a point in the kitty at a time they were having one of their poorest runs in the league; 11 games without a win.
That result gulled Kano fans and there were skirmishes to physically vent their angst on Emordi for whom a special security arrangement was put in place to safeguard him. Before then, there was the defeats in Enugu and Uyo to Rangers and Akwa United respectively for which some of the fans mischievously sent threat notes on social media asking Emordi not to return to Kano.
Another 1-1 draw in Kano to Wikki Tourists on Match Day 18 fueled the cries of ‘ba ma so, ’ the Hausa language expression for ‘we don’t want’. Now Baita has responded to the wishes of the fans but how this step will repair the damage done to a fourth consecutive title ambition can only be guessed and not predicted.
Emordi, despite the downturn in his coaching fortunes, remains one of the reference points of contemporary times only comparable to perhaps, Khadiri Ikhana, with whom he holds the record of being the only Nigerian coaches to win the CAF Champions League.
Ikhana won the cup with Enyimba in 2003 and Emordi defended it successfully with the same club the following year. They also share the honours of being the only Coaches to have won the Glo Premier League with two different clubs, interestingly, Enyimba International and Kano Pillars.
A member of the illustrious era of the great Enugu Rangers, Emordi will emerge later to coach the club at different times, the most recent being from February 1, 2012 to October 21, 2013 during which they narrowly lost the league to Pillars in a twist of decisions that followed the expulsion of the defunct Ocean Boys and cancellation of all their points. It was Rangers closest attempt at winning the title they last had in 1984. He equally returned to Enyimba on August 30, 2009 and worked with the Peoples Elephants up to November 22, 2011.
His sojourn in Kano with Pillars which started off on January 14, 2014 has thus hit a rough perch on Sunday, July 19, no thanks to the late strike by Tony Okpotu dead on regulation time which Pillars their second away win.
• Iwuala is Head of Special Duties at the League Management Company.
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