Kano can lay claims to a lot of things positive when it comes to football in Nigeria. It was the city of Raccah Rovers, the club that produced Baba Otu Mohammed and Shefiu Mohammed, great national team players among many others including today's Ahmed Musa, product of Kano Pillars, the modern day Raccah Rovers.
Kano is also the city where you have unarguably, the largest numbers at any Glo Premier League fixture and as I was told on a recent visit, even local football games such as a fixture between Orlu Raiders and Kurna Asabe FC attracted a sizeable patronage of fans.
Glo Premier League champions, Kano Pillars have come to embody the football aspirations of a typical Kano man and when discussions comes around the club, passion runs high such that you don't want to speak of their darling club in the negative. For all the positives is added the volatile nature of these millions of followers who are finicky about anything that may affect the fortunes of the club.
Last season, the ovations of the club was on occasions called to question by incidences that got their ground ousted from hosting some games. From playing in Kaduna in some instance to having a game replayed in Abuja in another, Kano attracted all the unwanted attention that blighted the team's on-pitch performance. The most prominent and controversial was the pitch invasion that was triggered by a late goal against rivals, Enyimba International and subsequently led to a ruling of the League Management Company (LMC) for a replay in Lokoja.
Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Shuaibu Bello is the Security Officer of Kano Pillars on whose shoulders rests the management of this football crazy fans of Masu Gida as the club is fancifully called. He easily recalls the Pillars-Enyimba fiasco and explained that though he wasn't around on that day, it was a situation that was occasioned by the circumstances surrounding the fixture.
"It was unfortunate because the problem was never that of a desire of the fans to attack anyone but we had a situation where a big club like Enyimba that was challenging Pillars for the title and the game was going without any goal until that late when Pillars found the goal. The fans must have been beside themselves with Joy, it is the manifestation of the passion they have for the club but I can tell you as a security person that it was wrong", Bello reflected on the game Pillars went ahead to win in the replay in Lokoja yet with another late goal that left the fans delirious.
On a typical match day, the security routine starts early in the morning with bomb disposal squads sweeping the entire ground and Police Armored trucks stationed strategically. Mass of security contingents arrive in pick-up vans, Police trucks and salon cars including members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps.
Bello says he recognizes the challenges associated with managing an almost undocumented cache of fans and says, he has been working in collaboration with relevant organs to maintain peaceful atmosphere at games.
"Yes, there are enormous challenges managing the situation we have here, but we have been equal to the task largely because we engage the fans through occasional seminars and we are happy that they have been very law abiding", Bello disclosed.
Continuing, the Police Chief who said he has been part of football crowd management in the last seven years including working with the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2009, also revealed that, "We have a dedicated team of officers that are deployed for games and they constantly receive training on football crowd management".
Revealing more secrets of his success, Bello added, "We also work with the Fan Club security officers and do deploy plain clothes officers to embed with the fans in the stands to watch fans and preempt any unruly intent and conduct that needs be nipped in the bud".
On a lighter note, Bello said "in Kano after food, the next most important thing to people here is Kano Pillars and football generally".
On what drives him on the job, he said, "I am first and foremost a security professional but my love of and attachment to the game inspires me to go the extra mile".