By George Akpayen
It has not been the perfect start for Rabiu Ali and his Kano Pillars teammates in the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL) this season, the 43-year-old creative midfielder is showing no signs of crack and physical frailty and in the midst of his tight football schedule has a perfect plan for life after football.
Ali, who has spent 16 years playing at Kano Pillars, when prodded by retirement, quickly responded that he is not calling time yet on his career despite being the oldest player in the top division in the West African nation. He still feels his limbs can carry him on but will not give a timeline on his plan to call it quit.
“Well, I am still going (strong playing in the NPFL). Your body will tell when it is ready to stop but my body has not told me when to stop but we never know. We don’t know what is going to happen in the end,” began as he spoke with npfl.com.ng.
Despite all of his achievements in the top division, Ali still describes the league as “really hard” to navigate. Ali and his teammates have seen the tough side this season already especially in games on the road in which they have lost all four including suffering three-goal margins of back-to-back defeat in the hands of Rangers and new boys Sporting Lagos.
However, Ali is unfazed by Kano Pillars’ struggling stats on the road this term and says he will handle things “day by day” and believes ‘Sai Masu Gida’ can finish in the top-three at the end of the season even if they cannot win the title.
“Playing in the Nigerian league is really hard but I just want to take things day by day, hope for good health, be patient and do my best. This season if we don’t win a trophy then something terrible has happened. If we don’t win the title, then we have to come second or third,” said Ali.
Ali surely wants to leave Kano Pillars on a high after the setback of relegation in July 2022. However, no date is set for retirement but plans are already in full swing to prepare him for life after football, the player revealed.
He added that he has no plans to go into coaching like some of his colleagues as he wants to stay closer to his family after two decades of being involved in the sport.
“Once I decide to drop my boots, I am going into business because I have already set myself up for that. I want to stay with my family so they can see me all the time. Most of the time we travel and they don’t see me for days. When I am done with this (football), I am going into business. I don’t want to go into coaching for now but God knows best. As I am right now, I don’t think coaching is the main thing for me and I am not thinking in that direction now,” said Ali.
The Kano Pillars captain often times on the pitch looks like a man with little worries but when the club got relegated in 2022, it was a tough period for Ali to make a decision to stay or leave. There were some big suitors from rival NPFL clubs such as Rivers United who were ready to offer him a jumbo wage. In the face of pressure to leave as a big-name player, Ali decided to stay and help Kano Pillars make an immediate return to the top division, further cementing his cult hero status among fans of the Kano club.
“It’s true that we got relegated. There were a lot of people who wanted me to play for another team. Others said I should stay with them so I decided to accept. I didn’t want money to be a factor for me. This team is for us. We grew up knowing this team since we were children. We grew up playing for this team and right now, there is no need for me to leave Kano Pillars and go somewhere else. I have to stay here and help the team fight. There are those coming behind us, we don’t want them to find the team in a bad place. Even if we are going to leave Kano Pillars, we will leave it in good stead so that those coming after us will be able to enjoy it and also don’t think another team can pay them better than Kano Pillars. These are reasons I decided to stay with them,” said the midfielder.
Ali has spent most of his years in Kano, especially Fagge area, where he grew up and attended primary and secondary schools. His career began in the same locality where he played for Soccer Boys, Zumunta, Junior Fancy and Soccer Strikers before the big clubs began to notice him. He has also played outside of Kano for Zamfara United and Nasarawa United.
“My history is basically I grew up in Fagge area of Kano. I went to primary and secondary schools in Fagge. I started my football in my localities and in my school. And then God made it possible for me to be where I am today,” he said to npfl.com.ng.
No matter what happens in the future, when Ali decides to sign out of the sport that has brought him fame, his name will remain in the corridors of hall of fame in the Nigerian top-flight for the feat he achieved especially as a one-club man at Kano Pillars where he won the NPFL title thrice and the Federation Cup once in his 16-year time so far.