By Fred Edoreh
In shine and in rain, Ibadan football fans continue to turn out emasse to give support to their darling club, Shooting Stars Sports Club of Ibadan.
From an average match day attendance of about 10,000, spectatorship has increased to an average of about 15,000, notwithstanding that the club is battling relegation as the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) cruises towards home stretch,
The spectatorship on match day 31 when Enyimba came calling was especially a confirmation of how passionately dear the people of Ibadan, indeed the whole of Oyo, hold Shooting.
The bustling crowd surged from all corners of the city, challenging the capacity of the Lekan Salami Stadium with many electing to stand at the base and the pinnacle rows of the terraces. What was important for the men and women, young and old, students and workers, lovers, couples with their children, was to see and cheer their traditional club, the “Oluyole Warriors”, to victory over their visitors. It has been so for virtually all of their games.
For a team battling relegation, currently with just a point above the red line, the tendency would have been for the fans to lose faith, but not “Soutin” fans whose massive turn out match after match continues to underscore the emergence of the NPFL as a choice ground for sporting entertainment and leisure.
In the crowd are groups of undergraduate students from Ibadan City Polytechnic, the University of Ibadan, Leads City University who had their own “aso ebi” and brigade bands to compete in loudness with the traditional orchestra of the Shooting Stars Supporters Club and its legendary feature of indomitable and inimitable “talking drums” and trumpets with proverbial “Layipo” tunes which resonates to the spectatorship across the stadium and connects to the players on pitch with such spiritual theatrics to bring out the fire in them. It is said that the drums know the players by name, speak to them in action and they respond because they understand the rhythm of every mood.
Secretary of the Shooting Stars Supporters Club, Alhaji Busari Omotosho, explains that it is so because they have no other club but “Soutin” and they are avowed to swim or sink with the club whose destiny is knotted with their cultural essence. So, they throng from Molete, Mapo, “Shallenge”, Iyagankun and even from Oyo and Ogbomoso. All for Stars.
“Shooting is our only club, we have no other. Officially, we have 150 registered members of the Supporters Club but Shooting belongs to the whole of Oyo people, not just Ibadan. We all own it together, it is our heritage and pride and it is our duty to preserve and sustain it. We all understand that the club must not die. We will stand by it throw thick and thin, rain or shine. We are all players in the team. When the players are on the pitch playing their part, we have to be by the stands playing our parts also, to give them both moral and spiritual support to perform. They play for us and their success is our pride,” Omotosho told npfl-ng.com.
“As we are battling relegation, this is even the time to stand stronger by the club, or how will they succeed if we don’t stand to cheer and encourage the players? Thankfully, the fans understand this and they turn up and when the players see the massive attendance they get fired up.”
Omotosho is also thankful to the sporting media, especially members of the Ibadan chapter of the Sports Writers Association, for helping out in communication and mobilisation.
“At various times, the sports media helps us to communicate general and specific messages. On radio, on television, through the papers, we inform the fans about our matches, the opponent and what is at stake and how important their attendance and support is to the success of the team. We educate them on fans behaviour, the rules of the game, the need to eschew violence, to be friendly to visiting teams because our team will also pay visit to other places, and the media breaks these down in the language and feeling that touch the heart of the people.“
It is not however roses for the Shooting fans. Omotosho expresses pains over the poor funding of the club by the Oyo State Government and calls out for the sons and daughters of Oluyole to take join hand to defend the destiny of the club.
“Our pain is that our state government has continued to neglect the club in terms of funding. This has affected the morale of the players and the performance of the club and thus poses a challenge to all concerened sons and daughters, true fans of Shooting Stars, to rise up and join hands to preserve our common heritage.
“We are planning that by the end of the season as we remain in the NPFL, we will reach out to all Shooting fans and well meaning individuals across the city, across the state and across the nation to raise funds for the club. We intend that, going into the next season, the club should never continue to suffer this difficulty so that we can take our pride of place in football in Nigeria and Africa.”