We are back: Up ‘Sooting’

Olumide Iyanda

Buzz by Olumide Iyanda

Email: oiyanda@yahoo.com Twitter: @mightyng

Olumide-IyandaMy darling Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) of Ibadan on Saturday, November 15 beat visiting Akwa Starlets FC 1-0 to book its return to the elite Nigerian Premier League, just one year after the team was relegated to the second-tier Nigerian National League (NNL).

The victory at the Adamasingba Stadium, Ibadan, Oyo State, was a just reward as 3SC garnered a total of 50 points to leapfrog First Bank FC of Lagos and Akwa Starlets FC. Both lost their matches by odd goals to remain on 47 points each.

It is time for celebration once again. But most importantly, it is time to reinforce the team, let go of past maladministration and ensure that ‘Sooting’ does not go into relegation. Again.

Below is an article I wrote last year, lamenting the club’s relegation to the lower league:

The drums were muted and there were no dancing fans, as Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) of Ibadan defeated Warri Wolves 2-0 in their last home match of the season at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.

The victory was too little, too late, as the inevitable relegation to the lower league was confirmed on Sunday, October 12, following a 1-0 away loss to Nembe City. With a statistics of two wins, two losses and one draw in the last five matches, the Oluyole Warriors have not fared better than some relegation strugglers currently above them in the last couple of weeks, but the Ibadan club is the only one who has so far booked a certain ticket out of the Nigerian Premier League. And it did that with two matches to spare.

Any club from Dolphins FC in the 11th position to Nembe in 19th can still be relegated when the curtain drops on the 2013 season tomorrow. 3SC supporters should justifiably be upset at the news of their darling club going to relegation for the second time in seven years.

When the unexpected first happened in 2006, some people blamed it on the introduction of a strange double-league format by the Nigerian Football Association (NFA). Many conveniently ignored the writing on the wall when the club came fifth at the end of the 2004/2005 season. The club won promotion back to the top flight in 2009 and there was a collective cry of “never again”, from Samonda to Asejire in Ibadan.

But here we are; the dust from previous dances has since settled, boisterous chants have given way to dirge, the palm wine has lost its taste and the clubhouse in Jericho has become a place of lamentation.

Of course, there are people who just won’t let the club go to relegation in peace. Lawyer and TV personality, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, has been leading a band of “haters” with a “Down Sooting” campaign immediately the relegation was confirmed on Sunday. You can’t really blame him. He was quick to remind us during the week that his beloved Rangers International of Enugu has never been relegated. The only other club with that honour in Nigeria is Heartland (former Iwuanyanwu Nationale) of Owerri. Although the two are living on past glories, they, at least, have a bragging right over 3SC, which, incidentally, is the first Nigerian club to win an international trophy.

The history of 3SC is immediately traceable to the late Chief Lekan Salami, who, as executive director of Western Nigeria Development Corporation (WNDC), suggested the establishment of a football club in the 60s. WNDC was hitherto involved in football sponsorship through one of its subsidiaries, Pepsi Cola. When the Pepsi Cola Football Club was disbanded, Salami conscripted most of the players into a newly formed WNDC Football Club in 1968. The club promptly took over the domination of football in the western part of the country and, in 1971, emerged the first individual club outside Lagos to win the Challenge Cup (now known as Federation Cup). Its name was changed to Industrial Investment Credit Corporation (IICC) Shooting Stars on October 1, 1973.

Team foundation members, Jide Johnson and Niyi Omowon, the Aare Odan Liberty (Generalissimo of Liberty Stadium), came up with the Shooting Stars sobriquet because the players were “stars” in their own right. The name was changed to 3SC in 1990 when the club became a professional outfit. It has won the league five times (1976, 1980, 1983, 1995 and 1998) and Federation Cup four times (1971, 1977, 1979 and 1995).

Until in recent history, the only club that shared the spotlight and maintained a fierce rivalry with 3SC was Enugu Rangers. Formed after the Nigerian Civil War, which brought so much destruction to life and property, Rangers is a story in determination and guts. That probably explains why it has never been relegated. That mentality has obviously been passed on to its cousins, Heartland, and Enyimba FC of Aba, Nigeria’s most successful club on the continental stage.

So, what do we blame 3SC’s latest demise on? Many are quick to point at the immediate past Oyo State Commissioner for Youths and Sports, Dapo Lam-Adesina. He has been accused of many things, from buying players to engineering the walkout in Akure last month for which 3SC was deducted three vital points, goals and fined N100,000. He has his version of what happened in that match against Sunshine Stars that earned him a one-year ban from everything football, but the buck stops at the table of Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.

In case the governor does not know, Rangers, Heartland and latter day NPL big boys, Enyimba of Aba, are products of revolutionary moves by their respective state governors.

A section of 3SC supporters and fans believe the team is a victim of injustice, following last month’s ruling by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) after the Akure drama. The Organising and Disciplinary (O&D) Committee of the NFF announced the forfeiture of three points by the Oluyole Warriors because the team abandoned the match, following an alleged attack on Lam-Adesina in the dressing room by an unknown fan of the Akure team. Going by the former commissioners’ own account, he had no business in the dressing room in the first place. During the hearing of the protest filed by 3SC in Abuja ahead of the ban, the Oluyole Warriors fans frowned at Adesina’s role in the fracas, saying he had no business being in the dressing room and that he had no right meddling in the affairs of the club, since the club has a constituted board, which the administrative secretary of the club attested to when questioned by the committee. I agree totally.

I want to believe that Lam-Adesina was not compensated with the commissioner slot after he failed to win the Ibadan North East/South East Federal Constituency election to the House of Representatives election in 2011. But Ajimobi owes 3SC fans, not least the late Ganiyu Elekuru also known as ‘Baba Eleran’, a return to the NPL soonest.

The last time the club went into relegation was in the administration of an Ibadan man in the person of Rashidi Ladoja. Thunder has struck twice under another Ibadan man. The god of soccer must be angry. And I need to wipe that smirk from Ebuka’s face. Soonest.