With the return of the Flaming Flamingoes to nationwide football comes the rekindling of great football rivalries in the land that could usher in a boom for young fansBy Lolade Adewuyi
On Thursday evening at the Onikan Stadium, Stationery Stores will host rivals Shooting Stars in their third game of the new Nigeria National League (NNL) season.
More than two decades after these two traditional Nigerian club sides met in a competitive top tier game, the renewal of their longstanding rivalry is expected to spark life into the moribund local football scene in Lagos.
Though both clubs have suffered varying degrees of hard times – with the Flaming Flamingoes only just returning to competitive football since the late 90s and the Oluyole Warriors having fallen from the heights they reached in the latter part of the last century and dropping into the second division – this game is expected to be as competitive as when they were both in the top division.
Stores go into the encounter with two points earned from two matches; a pair of 1-1 draws against Abia Warriors at Onikan and Gateway United in Abeokuta.
The Oluyole Warriors look more confident going into the encounter after winning their last game 2-1 against COD United in Ibadan and would hope to do well against their old rivals.
Far from the intense rivalry of yore, Thursday’s game will be seen as the beginning of a new era for the Super Stores who have spent the better part of the last 20 years in intra-family court squabbles over ownership rights of the club founded by Israel Adebajo in 1958.
Stores won the Nigeria Premier League title in 1992 and won the Federation Cup (when it was known as Challenge Cup) four times. They also reached the semi final of the Caf Champions Cup in 1993 and finished as runners up in the 1981 African Cup Winners' Cup.
A former hunting ground for key talent that represented the country’s teams to international competitions, the Stores story had taken on the garb of a myth that would never be reawakened.
Good times are back | The new look Stationery Stores
While old supporters talk of a time when the club was a giant in the land, younger people are looking to new football cultures across the seas. The task of the club now, among many others, is to try and garner support from among the large chunk of young football fans who would rather watch the English and Spanish leagues on TV than visit the stadium to see a local game. Adebayo Olowo-Ake, convener of the influential Facebook group ‘Governor BR Fashola Revive Stationery Stores FC’, says that they are developing activities that will help win over younger Lagosians who are important to the club’s future growth.
“We are quite encouraged by the fact that at least half of the members of the social media platforms that we used to clamour for the return of Stores over the past six years are those who never physically saw Stationery Stores play a match,” Olowo-Ake told Goal.
“That shows the magnetism that the Stores brand has.
“Once our supporters are back in full force, the club would have attained its cutting edge as the most vibrantly supported team in Nigeria and this should contribute to the competitiveness of Stationery Stores,” he said.
In the course of the season they will face other old rivals like Bendel Insurance and UNICEM Rovers (former Calabar Rovers), clubs that have seen their fortunes dip in recent years.
Thursday’s game against Shooting Stars would test the waters for Stationery Stores on how strong the brand remains and how much work there needs to be done.
After the travails of the night comes sweet daylight, the Flaming Flamingoes have endured a prolonged spell on the sidelines, one hopes that lessons learnt will help shape a positive future for the darling club of Lagos. -------------- goal.com