In 1975, Shooting Stars FC of Ibadan had a chance to win a brace of titles, the Challenge Cup trophy and the League title but they first had to contend with the then hottest side in domestic football, Enugu Rangers in the finals of the Challenge Cup competition that is now known as the Federation Cup or the FA Cup in England.
Enter Segun Odegbami, who would later play for and captain the national team also known then as the Green Eagles. He was their “mathematical” talisman and was still in The Polytechnic, Ibadan at the time and had exams to write that Saturday of the finals.
Ibadan fans understood that he must sit for the exam but they also needed to win the Challenge Cup trophy and took all precautions to ensure that the wing wizard was part of their campaign in Lagos. The fans stormed the school in about twenty truckloads and surrounded the hall in wait for Odegbami to finish his exams. Thereafter, they practically bundled him from the exam hall and drove to Lagos expecting a win against Rangers. It must have been such a distraction for the student but Odegbami also understood the craze of Shooting (called Sootin by typical Ibadan fan) supporters for their darling club. Rangers would go on to win by 1-0 but Shooting avenged that defeat by winning the league title and iced the cake with the African Cup Winners Cup by a 4-2 aggregate against Tonnerre Kalala of Yaounde, Cameroon the following year.
Some years later, Shooting fell to the lower division after winning the league in 1980, 1983 and they had to fight their way back in 1988 before winning another league title in 1995, their last till date. The crucial match was against First Bank in Ibadan.
Mutiu Adepoju made waves playing for the Flying Eagles and later the Super Eagles earning the moniker, Headmaster for his powerfully nodded goals. But it was at Shooting Stars that the story began. SHOOTING had to win the maximum points to return to the top league and their home ground, Adamasigba Stadium was jam-packed for a celebration of the expected return. First bank however was quite unyielding, repulsing forays from the Shooting strikers to keep Ibadan on edge. Bang!…the headmaster Mutiu produces a header that caught the visitors off guard and the stadium erupted like a volcano. At the last blast of the whistle, the fans descended on the pitch, swept Mutiu off his feet, hoisting him through the streets of Ibadan until the officials found a way to “rescue” him.
Though Shooting Stars were beaten 2-0 by Gabros International in the finals, a former Team Manager of ABS, who was part of the organizers of the NNL Super-4 in Ilorin said this of Shooting Stars squad he watched: “From what I saw of them during the league season and especially at the NNL Super-4, I can tell you that Shooting is back and better. They have an outstanding team play, far better than all the clubs we saw at the NNL Super-4. Their goalkeeper, Kola Ige, has returned in a big way and has brought a lot of experience to bear not just in stopping shots but in organising the defence line. Shooting also have some strikers that will give hell to other clubs in the premier league when the season opens.”
For the Shooting to recapture the aura of the past, the class of ex-Shooting Stars players insist that a few things must be done right. Akinwale says, “The problem with Shooting is that it later began to rely solely on government funding and with governments that were not too passionate, things went bad. Sole government funding also allowed politicians to interfere with the management of the club. It is important for the club to develop other independent sources of funding. Government can help by influencing local businesses, community leaders, professionals and philanthropists to support the club. The management of Shooting must also intensify marketing and promotion with a benefit and return system for its supporters.”
Besides funding, Odegbami says “the psychology both of the financiers, players and the fans have to be re-touched to appreciate what Shooting is all about.” Interestingly, he is ready to join forces with other former Shooting Stars players to support the club if the current leadership sees the need and make the call.
Interestingly, sentiments such as these made to recast the glory years of the club is consistent with the current message of the League Management Company (LMC) urging a return of club ownership to the communities and the people. It was the sense of ownership that made the Supporters volunteer to drive Odegbami to Lagos from Ibadan. It was the sense of pride and accomplishment informed by their emotional attachment that got the Supporters carrying Adepoju shoulder high round the town.
In times past, the people felt a part of the club (movement as suggested by Odegbami) and contributed to the running of the club in both cash and kind. There were the likes of late Nathaniel Idowu and Lekan Salami who supported the club with their vast wealth. Salami would later become synonymous with the club until his death. It was this emotional attachment of the people to the club that accounted for the huge attendance more than any other factor.