By Tayo Balogun
I have always loved the Shooting Stars Sports Club more commonly referred to as 3SC or as was the case in the 1970s Shooting Stars. Not because they have a particularly beautiful style of play as was the case with Stationeries Stores of Lagos or Arsenal Football Club of London and Lagos. I guess I fell in love with them because they were the most prominent team in the part of the world I was living when the idea of watching football at the stadium became a fad for me. I served my NYSC year in Ibadan and lived with my sister’s husband Engineer Sam Ibitoye (Toyin Ibitoye’s father). He it was who introduced me to going to the stadium to watch football matches and that is how my love affair with Shooting Stars started.
In Ibadan everyone loved Up Sooting. The taxi driver could give you a discount if he knows you love Shooting Stars. The meat seller would give you an extra chunk of meat if you identify yourself as a fan of the Ibadan-based club. And the referees, almost all of them fear blowing against the Stars. Much like refs in England would favour Manchester United. Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) so named by Festus Adegboye Onigbinde was one of the best three teams in Nigeria becoming the first team to win International honours for the country when it won the Africa Cup Winners’s Cup in 1976. It was also to become the first Nigerian team to win what was then known as CAF Cup. In 1984 and 1996 it was the runner up in the more prestigious Champions Cup. It was also the very first winners of the West African Club Championship Cup. Through to the early 1990s the club was one of the best clubs not only in Nigeria but also in Africa, ranking alongside such great club sides like Tonnere Kalala, Zamalek, Ma Fez and Ashanti Kotoko.
It effectively served as a rallying point for the Yoruba race who needed a counter foil to the burgeoning Enugu Rangers which was formed mainly as an Ibo team. Shooting Stars Sports Club in its many metamorphoses has won the Premier League five times and the FA Cup four times. For just about everybody it was Shooting Stars and no one else.
I have a feeling that David Jemibewon (Military Governor of the Western Region in the late 1970s) reputation was greatly enhanced by his perceived love for 3SC. Similarly, Chief Lekan Salami, though a successful businessman, is more well known for his undiluted love for the Ibadan club. He reaped the adulation of a grateful people.
Despite its lure and success, signs that Shooting Stars Sports Club would crumble have become evident even by the 1980s, mainly because the club was only managing to be effective without being efficient. It was always managed on a fire brigade basis. It was a club that has form but no structure. Around 1986, some of us – Ayo Daniel, now a pastor in the UK, Rotimi Akeredolu now Governor of Ondo State, myself and a few others- formed IMPROVAS which was meant to improve the club by making it self-sustaining. We did not succeed mainly because club officials felt threatened. But in truth, too many people have become leech on the club and were not in a hurry to let go. It was therefore little wonder the club slipped into ‘recession’ from which it has never really recovered.
But the truth is that, Shooting Stars Sports Club should never had gotten into dire straits at a time it had the largest fan-base in Africa! It was the only club that had a fans club in almost all the states of the federation. In effect, it had a base of about 60 million people that could key into its development. Apart from Kano Pillars, it was the only club that could guarantee substantial attendance at its matches. 3SC was not a club that would not have been able to fend for itself if its handlers had weaned it from government patronage and its attendant interference. If well managed, I believe the club would not only be able to be self-sustaining but would also generate funds for government in terms of taxes. An efficiently run 3SC would provide regular employment for thousands of people. It would recreate the spirit of wellbeing that has long been gone.
What do I think could be done? Set up a Task Force whose main duty would be first to get the club back to the Premiership and then make it a veritable market success. This of course would be hinged on success of the club on the fields. The ultimate aim of the club would be to become a real all-sport club, devoting aspects to sports like Basketball, Boxing, Tennis , Table Tennis, Athletics etc. We could then have a thriving football club that could end up engineering the business of sports in Oyo State. If Governor Seyi Makinde would help kick start the rebirth of Shooting Stars he may end up starting a sports revolution. And who knows, may earn himself a place in the many hearts who yearn for the really good old days of Shooting Stars. But GSM can make 3SC shine again. We would all benefit if that happens.