Kano Pillars coach Abdu Maikaba has picked Remo Stars, Enyimba and Rivers United as favourites for the 2023/24 Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) title, saying his team would need at least a season to build before being included in such conversation.
Maikaba, who won the 2017 Nigeria FA Cup as manager of Akwa United, was appointed as Kano Pillars coach in July and is set to lead the northern Nigerian club to the top flight for the first time in two years, after the former Premier League champions gained promotion from the Nigeria National League (NNL) last season.
Enyimba were crowned Nigerian Champions last season, with Remo Stars and Rivers United finishing second and third respectively. And Maikaba believes these sides will still be front runners this season, insisting that he’s not judging their quality solely on their performance from the 2022/23 campaign.
“I’ll go for Remo (Stars), Enyimba, Rivers United, and maybe Insurance,” the former Rangers manager told Nigeria Info exclusively.
“I’m not judging according to how the season ended. Most of these teams continued from where they stopped last season. A bulk of their team is still around, and they participated on the continent. That would give them an edge over the rest of the teams, especially for the start. It will help their quest in the domestic competitions.”
Kano Pillars are four-time Nigerian League champions with their recent success coming as a three-peat in 2012, 2013, and 2014. But Sai Masu Gida - as the team is also called - got relegated from the top division in the 2021/2022 season. Their return to feature in the big league comes with huge expectations from football fans in the country, based on their past antecedents, however, Maikaba remains modest in his approach.
“I’m a realist, so what I told Kano people is that they should not expect it (the title) so soon,” He said.
“It is difficult when a team is coming from the lower division to get its rhythm and then get back to the top and contend for trophies. I think we should be given time and that is why I was given a two-year contract. That’s the expectation from Kano people, to build a team this time around, finish in a respectable position and then see how we can improve and contend for trophies next season.”
The 2023/24 NPFL season is expected to start this weekend.