Theophilus Afelokhai was often captaining his side from the goalkeeper position. Afelokhai has been with Pillars for at least eight seasons and has developed into one of the most agile and consistent goalkeepers in the country. Pillars conceded only 26 goals in 36 matches and Afelokhai deserves a lot of credit. Haliru Sani (born 10.07.1984) is an experienced and reliable backup goalkeeper. Joseph Onwuga, formerly of Enyimba FC, is third-choice goalkeeper.
Kano Pillars FC has several quality central defenders in their squad. Papa Idris (born 27.07.1989) and Umar Zango both had wonderful seasons in the heart of the defence. Idris, signed from Kaduna United FC, is a full international player for Nigeria while Zango, formerly of Lobi Stars FC, forced his way into the squad of the Nigeria B national football team. During the mid-season transfer window, Pillars signed the towering Kenneth Ehis from Gombe United FC. Ehis filled in well when Idris or Zango was away on international duty. Unsung hero Abubakar Baleria (born 08.07.1985), an experienced and dependable defender, also deserves credit.
At left-back, Pillars has two quality players in Nazifi Ammani Inuwa (born 04.06.1989) and John Yampe (born 11.12.1985), formerly of JUTH FC.
At right-back, Alhaji Alhaji and Musa Musa are good options. Eugene Obi Ohunta (born 06.12.1987) could also fill in at full-back or as a defensive midfielder. The petit Ohunta has played professionally for NK Drava in Slovenia.
Reuben Gabriel (born 25.09.1990), who features regularly for the Super Eagles, the Nigeria national football team, is arguably the best player at the club. Gabriel, primarily a defensive midfielder, is a big, strong, hard-working player with accurate passes, hard tackles and an excellent header of the ball. Towards the end of the season, Gabriel developed a great understanding with Musa Mustapha (born 26.08.1990), the tall defensive midfielder signed from Enyimba FC.
Mohammed Shehu Shagari (born 29.11.1990) is an aggressive midfielder with an excellent left foot. Shagari is normally a key player for Pillars. Apparently, he struggled a bit with injury during the season.
Abdullahi Shehu, formerly of Plateau United FC, had a fairytale season. According to MTN Football, the powerful midfielder played 28 matches during the Nigeria Premier League 2012. Shehu also became a key player for the Flying Eagles, the Nigeria U-20 national football team. Although primarily an attacking-minded player, Shehu was sometimes used as a right-back at Nigeria U-20.
Rabiu Ali, fondly referred to as “Pele”, is the playmaker of Kano Pillars FC and arguably the most skillful player in the squad. The set-piece expert was simply brilliant throughout the season, especially during the first part. Ali is the kind of player that can change a game around with spectacular goals or defence-splitting passes. Attacking midfielder Musa Buhari is another great talent, known for his vision, creativity and dribbles.
During the second part of the season, talented winger Sheriff Isa (born 10.11.1990) left Kano Pillars FC and joined Olimpik Donetsk, playing at second level of Ukrainian football. At the time of writing, Isa has played 10 matches and scored three goals for his new club.
Ahmed Mohammed, an attacking midfielder, joined second level side El-Kanemi Warriors FC on a loan deal during the mid-season transfer window. Kamilu Amani and Murtala Muazu were both good options at various midfield roles.
The main striker at Kano Pillars FC is top scorer Mohammed Gambo (born 10.03.1988). Gambo, who scored 15 goals during the seaso, is a big and strong centre-forward and a great header of the ball.
Nasiru Ali, formerly of El-Kanemi Warriors FC and Kwara United FC, is a skillful and pacy striker who can score with both legs. Ali was in great form during the second part of the season and contributed with six goals. The picture is of Ali and was found on MTN Football.
Interesting striker Mannir Ubale (born 02.07.1991), formerly of Bayelsa United FC, also managed six goals, most of them during the first part of the season.
In Gambo, Ali and Ubale, Pillars has a lot of quality in their attack, including pace, strength and creativity. I think these three players, combined with midfield maestro Rabiu Ali, are important reasons behind the success of the team.
Behind Gambo, Ali and Ubale, Pillars has several interesting attackers. Nafiu Rabiu Ibrahim, a talented striker, is a player to watch. Victor Barnabas (born 13.12.1988) and Yusuf Siman were both big-name signings from Enyimba FC and Kaduna United FC, respectively, but they failed to cement their place in the starting eleven.
I have been waiting for the big breakthrough of Victor Namo (born 03.11.1988) for several seasons but the centre-forward failed to score during the season. After only nine goals in four seasons at Pillars, Namo could perhaps use a change of scenery. Usman Abba, formerly of Zamfara United FC, is also a good option in various attacking roles.
Interestingly, both Ibrahim, Barnabas, Siman and Namo would most likely have played regularly for most other teams in the Nigeria Premier League. This says something about the debth in the Pillars squad.
List of scorers:
Mohammed Gambo 15, Rabiu Ali 9, Nasiru Ali 6, Mannir Ubale 6, Musa Mustapha 3, Nafiu Rabiu Ibrahim 2, Musa Buhari 1, Usman Abba 1, Nazifi Ammani Inwua 1, Eugene Obi Ohunta 1, Yusuf Siman 1, Umar Zango 1.