By Atilade Atoyebi
It just occurred to me that I must say this before I continue sharing my interest in the game of soccer in Nigeria. I never played the game beyond what children were doing in open spaces in their neighborhood and the one we were doing after school hours. However, my addiction to listening to radio through rediffusion box then kept my interest in the game. Now this! My father in 1962 when I entered secondary school in Fiditi, in the old Western Region, now in Oyo State bought me a portable transistor Radio from Niger Radio in Ibadan. He had wondered how I would be able to sustain my interest in listening to radio in my new school. From this you can imagine the kind of father he was. He even went to the extent of replaced my radio set with new models as I was growing up. So, my ears were glued to rediffusion and later my own radio set. Well, how I ended up with a career in broadcasting in Radio Nigeria and later with Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, BCOS is a matter for another time.
I was able to follow the teams that were in the race for Governor’s Cup and later Challenge Cup in those days namely:
**Lagos Marine that later became Ports Authority
**Lagos ECN later NEPA Football Club
** Ibadan Lions later Western Rovers, then Western Nigeria Development Corporation, WNDC from where it was named IICC and now 3SC.
**Plataeu United later Mighty Jets
**Calabar Football Club
**Stationery Stores alias Adebajo Babes that stormed into the pitch and won the 1967 edition of the Challenge Cup.
Of all the teams identified above Lagos Railways was on top of their game as they won the coveted Governor’s Cup and Challenge Cup more times than any other team to date.
Who will forget the notoriety of footballers of the Police team for playing the ball over the bar in front of goal. Players from nascent clubs that threw away the ball over the bar long after the extinction of the police soccer team were doused with the spectators noise, “police”.
After the civil war in 1970, more teams came to the soccer scene and a good number of them are still around now. You know their names. So, I don’t need to restate them here. The ones you may not remember were Ikorodu Oga (Lagos State) and Amukpe Rovers, in the Sapele/Warri axis formed mainly by splinter players from notable teams. They caused some stir but disappeared quickly into thin air.
The following were some of the soccer stars during the period before 1970. Some of them were active beyond that time, before new crop of players entered the pitch:
Dan Anyiam, Goalkeeper Ibiam, Albert Onyeawuna, Uwalaka, Thunder (Akanni) Balogun, Okere, Nnakuapor, Dejo Fayemi, Cyril Asoluka, Ayo Adeniji, Fabian Duru, Obi Okoye, Akioye, Ekpe senior and Ekpe junior, Oduah, Elumelu, Rafiu Boade(alias Kundi), Muyiwa Oshode, Okwudili, Ismaila Mabo, Peter Anieke, Segun Olumodeji, Amusa Adisa, Jide Johnson, Muda Lawal, Sam Ojebode, Godwin Achebe, Inua Lawal Rigogo (goalkeeper). Onogoruwa (goalkeeper) Sam Garba, Sebastine Broderick, Onyeali ( occasionally‘imported’ from his base overseas to play for the National Team, especially against troublesome Ghana), Onyeador, Johnny Egbuonu, Sule Kekere, Haruna Ilerika, Sam Opone, Baba Otu, Olowo Oshodi, Paul Hamilton, Olayombo, Kola Taiwo, Idowu Otubusin, Babalola, Layi Olagbenro. ‘Kunle Awesu, Felix Owolabi, Josy Lad, Yekini Salami, Niyi Akande, etc. You can add the great names in soccer then that you knew or heard about. Except Thunder Balogun who had a stint with a soccer team in England, the soccer devotees mentioned above showcased their talents here in Nigeria and most likely for pittance. These were patriots to the core.
Next commentators and a few FIFA badged referees.