As the 2021 Nigeria National League (NNL) season kicks off today, one club that will be the focus of many Nigerian football lovers is Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) of Ibadan.
3SC were relegated from the top flight Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL) four years ago, and all efforts to bring it back to the elite class have come to naught due to several reasons.
Today, the Ibadan warlords will begin another journey for promotion this afternoon with a home game against Rovers of Calabar in a Group B1 Match-day one clash at the Dipo Dina Stadium, Ijebu-Ode. Millions of the club’s followers, including 3SC General Manager, Rasheed Balogun, are expectant of a good outing.
Balogun believes the Oluyole Warriors will go for maximum points in all their matches, beginning with today’s clash against Calabar Rovers. He notes that the Ibadan soccer lords would restart from where they stopped in the botched 2019/20 season.
“In the season that was cancelled, we played five matches, won four and drew one. That is exactly the form we are taking into the new season,” Balogun told The Guardian. “We will not underrate any team, but we will approach all our matches with our eyes on the three points. I am 99.9 percent sure 3SC will get the promotion ticket to the NPFL this time.”
Shooting Stars was Nigeria’s first club to win the FA Cup in 1971. It was also the first Nigerian club to win an African title, the 1976 African Cup Winners Cup. The Oluyole Warriors was also the first Nigerian club to win the CAF Cup donated by late Chief MKO Abiola in 1992.
For many years, Shooting Stars, which metamorphosed from the famous WNDC Ibadan, have produced players who later became national and international heroes. Some of Nigeria’s household names like Segun ‘Mathematical’ Odegbami, Muda Lawal, Best Ogedegbe, Felix Owolabi, Rashidi Yekini, Kunle Awesu, Folorunsho Gambari, Nath Adewole, Sam Ojebode, Taiwo Ogunjobi, Mutiu Adepoju, Dimeji Lawal, Sola Akinwale, Duke Udi, David Aigbovo, Ademola Bankole, Ogbein Fawole, Friday Christopher, Isiaka Awoyemi, Ken Ugorji, Ben James, Dotun Alatise and Golden Ajeboh, thrilled fans with their God-given football skills at different times. They won several laurels including continental trophies. But Ibadan fans have been denied topflight action since 2016.
Balogun is confident that 3SC will be the club to beat this season based on the level of their preparation for the 2021 season. “We have been preparing for a very long time and our boys have been in close camping in Ijebu-Ode for the past weeks.”
3SC picked Ojebu-Ode as its temporary ground because all the stadia in Ibadan are currently undergoing renovation. Balogun revealed that the club is enjoying the full support of Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde and the people.
3SC, which has won the league title five times and four FA Cup, was relegated to the lower league in 2006, but regained top flight status three years later. The club suffered another relegation from the elite division at the end of the 2016/2017 season and failed to gain an instant promotion after falling short at the Super Eight tournament played in Aba.
The pressure is on the General Manager, Balogun, to ensure 3SC regained its lost glory soon. 3SC were among top favourites to win a ticket to rejoin the elite league in 2019 season, but a 3-0 defeat to Akwa Starlets in the promotion match decided at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, shattered the dream. It was the second time in a row 3SC failed at the last step to snatch the promotion ticket.
The Guardian’s investigation has revealed that 3SC suffered many disappointments in the past due to animosity among the people, including coaches, players and managers, who are being owed various wages.
Past administrators of the club such as Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, late Elder Bode Oyewole, late Jossy Lad, Niyi Akande, Franklin Howard, Festus Allen and late Ajibade Babalade are said to be owed various amount in wages while serving the club. Some former players of the club are also owed bonuses, salaries and sign-on fees.
Former Captain of 3SC, Shakiru Lawal, in his speech at a public forum in 2011, said the players had no gratuity and pension, adding that their sign-on fees and other allowances served as their gratuity and pension, yet they are not paid.
“Any 3SC player who complains of unpaid allowances are usually laid off, and it is sad that a former player of the club was found engaged in menial jobs instead of living a fulfilled life after retiring,” Lawal said.
Another case was that of members of the glorious set of 3SC that won double titles in 1998. Last year, they appealed to Governor Seyi Makinde to fulfill the promise made to them after their excellent performance in 1998 via a letter written by the then Chairman of the team, Elder Bode Oyewole.
The Guardian recalls that the State’s Military Governor in 1998, Com-Pol. Amen Oyakhire promised to reward the team for winning the double titles. The team won the domestic league title and the West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup in 1998, which was the last time the Oluyole Warriors won any laurel in the domestic scenes.
Another problem that is rocking the fortune of 3SC is the appointment of board chairman, which is always done to appease the political allies of the serving governor.
A mixed reaction followed the appointment of Chief Samson Olayiwola Lakondoro along with two others, Mrs. Bayo Beckley and Hon. O Peter, as the Chairman and board members of the club respectively in July 2014 by late Governor Abiola Ajimobi. “People who do not have the wherewithal to manage a big club like 3SC are always given priority by the government, and it is doing more damage to the club,” a source said.
Gbolagade Busari, who succeeded Chief Lakondoro as 3SC board chairman, was allegedly afflicted by a strange illness that led to his death on November 29, 2020, a development that was linked to the power struggle in the Oluyole Warriors.
Some club officials and some acclaimed members of the supporters club have been threatened at various times. In truth, too many people have become parasites on the club and are not in a hurry to go.
“Before now, the taxi driver could give a visitor to Ibadan a discount if he identifies the person as fan of Shooting Stars. The meat seller would give you an extra chunk of meat if you identify yourself as a fan of 3SC. And the referees, almost all of them fear blowing against the Stars. All these are fast fading and the team is fast becoming ordinary,” a member of 3SC Supporters Club told The Guardian.
For over 50 years, the late Alhaji Ganiyu Elekuru, popularly known as Baba Eleran, devoted his life to Shooting Stars at the expense of his children. Now his family members are said to be unhappy with the club because the management did not show enough concern for him.
“Our father valued Shooting Stars more than his children during his lifetime. He was unable to train us in school, but rather channeled all his resources to 3SC. Unfortunately, when Baba Eleran fell sick and became incapacitated, people managing the club did not show commensurable concern to his plight until he died on November 5, 2005.
“For the club to do well and return to the NPFL, the management of 3SC will have to visit the grave of our father and appease his spirit because I dreamt and saw him crying because of Shooting Stars,” one of the sons of the Baba Eleran revealed to The Guardian.