After a rather tortuous 16 year wait, fans of Lagos’ darling soccer team, Stationery Stores Football Club finally had the opportunity of watching their beloved club play an official national leaque game at the Onikan waterfront on Saturday, February 15, 2014. The game was against Abia Comets in week 1 of the Nigerian National Leaque 2014.
pic:Stores’ new team. Musa Sadiq is 3rd from right
The atmosphere was sheer bedlam as supporters trooped into the stadium with their white hankerchiefs around their necks, wrists or simply waved ecstatically in the air as the drums rolled. Tucked in various corners in the VIP stand were members of the club founder, Late Israel Adebajo’s family, the coordinators of the official supporters community, and officials of the Lagos State Government whose Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola has worked tirelessly all these years supporting various efforts to rejuvenate the club.
Most significantly, several of the club’s and other retired top footballers in Nigeria paid their homages by turning up to watch the game and cheer Stores on. I was able to pick out Yisa Alabi (magical left footer), Tarila Okoronwata (unstoppable right winger), Collins Ebitimi (“barbwire”), Yomi Peters, Henry Nwosu, Friday Ekpo and even a septuagenarian, Pa Halliday who played for Nigeria’s first National Team, the Red Devils.
Stores, playing in their traditional maroon striped jersey, paraded a bunch of young players who indeed reenacted the Brazilian samba that Stores has always been known for. The boys from Las Gidi began a little bit nervously, but then went on to absolutely dominate the first half, gaining 80% of ball possession. Their undoing however was the inability to convert the numerous chances. What should have been Stores’ first goal was overruled by the referee: A neat passing movement was capped with a deft pull out from the left which was neatly blasted home from just outside the 6 yard box, only for the linesman to flag offside.
In the second half, Stores changed tactics, floating more long balls to try take advantage of the shortish Abia goalkeeper, but fortunately for the keeper, his central defenders proved very efficient in shielding him from danger. The keeper himself became a nollywood-style clown throughout the game, limping and rolling on the turf every single time a ball was directed at him. Added together, he must have wasted nothing less than 15 minutes of the game, yet the referee took no decisive action.
With Stores committing more men forward in search of a goal, the Abia boys took advantage with a swift counter attack to beat the offside trap and slot the ball home for the game’s first goal. Coming just a few minutes to the end of the game, the Stores supporters were stunned.
Impressively, the flaming flamingoes continued to pile the pressure and were duly rewarded in extra time when they won a deserved penalty. The enterprising teenage right back, Musa Sadiq stepped up with matured composure to make history as he scored Stores’ first goal of the new era.
Final scores: STORES 1 v ABIA 1.
pic: Superstars regroup; (l-r) Tarila Okorowanta, Henry Nwosu and Yisa Alabi
GOALKEEPER: Adeniyi Oguntoye 6 Was on holiday for most of the game, but rose to the occasion when he had to.
RIGHT BACK: Musa Sadiq 7 (MVP) A virtuoso performance from the little kid whose game is years beyond his age.
LEFT BACK: Richard Harrison 6 A good left foot in the works.
CENTRE BACK: Jimoh Olawale 6 Composed and assured performance.
CENTRE BACK: Thomas Okanlawon 6 Did well in supporting the attack.
CENTRAL DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER: Ayo Filani (Captain) 6 Quiet but efficient in shielding his back four.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Festus Ajah 6 Smooth and comfortable with the ball.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: Chinoso Nwawu 5 Needs to do more as the team’s playmaker. Good potential.
ATTACKER: Oghenovo Uzeze 6 Worked hard throughout.
ATTACKER: Olaniyi Jelelola 6 Worked hard throughout.
ATTACKER: Raphael Onwirebe 6 Plenty of effort, can improve in finishing
SUBS: Kingsley Ukatu (for Filani) and Chibuzor ( for Jelelola) Both helped in maintaining the momentum.
COACH: Taiwo Enegwea
The youthful ex-Nigerian international defender / midfielder landed this job on the strength of his feat in qualifying Union Bank FC (which Stores bought over) from amateur to the national leaque. The Barcelona – like passing game of the team is a big credit to him, but given all the possession that Stores had and the incredibly limited height of Abia’s goalkeeper, it was rather disappointing that we could not score more goals. However, it is too early to judge as this was only the team’s first game.
A good first game from the boys, many of who confessed afterwards that they were overwhelmed putting on Stores’ jersey for the first time. They will certainly improve, but for me the weakest links in this game were the playmaker and central striker. The strongest points were our midfield play and never-say-die spirit.
pic: Reknowned Stores historian, Segun Adenuga