Not many coaches would jump at the offer of managing Enyimba of Aba. It is a club where patience wears thin, irate fans are unforgiving and the fate of your “contract” could be decided in a flash; as quickly as a shock poor result is served the fans. In his words in a recent interview, current Coach Usman Abd’allah admitted that he believes “Enyimba is a religion in Aba”. Only a fool would disagree.
Coach Kadiri Ikhana was making history, handing Enyimba and indeed Nigeria, her first the CAF Champions League one season, he was out the door the next. Zachary Baraje was leading El-Kanemi Warriors to their best-placed finish in recent memory one season, Enyimba quickly secured his services. Four months into the new season, he was being shown the exit. Such is the ruthlessness. The hardheartedness. It respects no man.
In the annals of Enyimba of Aba, is an intimidating lineup of stalwarts of the game. Gaffers whose tenure at the helm brought the good old city, unforgettable pleasantness. Trophies, greatness, immortality. Like 12/12/03, a date enshrined in our hearts forever because “we danced all night in the streets”, following that 1-0 defeat in Ismailia that meant we had won the CAF Champions League for the first time.
This successful and quite recent history, spanning about a two-decade period has fans believing that success for the club is a birthright. Underneath Enyimba’s nicely-clad fans, waving their blue flags in a signature move, is a congregation that believes it is better than any opposition. And as an unspoken rule, players and head coaches alike embrace the fact that mediocrity has no place in the team.
So why would a Coach who has never managed a club in the Nigerian top flight, turn in his resume to manage Enyimba?
To complicate things, Enyimba was in a bad place when Usman Abd’allah was queuing up to join the club. Gbenga Ogunbote had been sandwiched by two stints of Paul Aigbogun, all within a three year period. Within the time, Rangers won a title for the first time in 20 years. Plateau United and Lobi Stars would each take the title the two years that followed. But the gaffer was not to be deterred. In fact, Abd’allah’s first sign of things to come was to oversee a thrilling 4-3 defeat to Nasarawa United in Lafia.
In the Continent, that season, Abd’allah led Enyimba past the Group stages, for the first time eight years. He looked like he knew what he was doing and at the end of the season, the club rewarded him with a bumper contract and an option to re-sign at the end of the season. The 2018/2019 season took a while to get going but he kept his targets in focus. A series of away points helped his cause as he led his charges into the playoffs and subsequently won this record-breaking eighth Premier League title.
Few had taken him seriously when he spoke with NPFL Insider in May, “I think we are doing well. I think this year, the goal is to get a trophy and also a Continental slot. I think the Continental slot is very important. We get back in the Continent by next year and it would be nice to top it up with a trophy”.
The Kano-born tactician had always said the true measure of success for him is winning a trophy for Enyimba. He has achieved that in only his first full season in charge. And on the altars where the Enyimba religion is practised, this man has just joined the league of deities.
Post written by Sam Rio Nnaji.