Throwback Thursday: Old football clubs in Nigeria

By Abimbola Mohammed

Football remains, unarguably, the most popular sport in the world with a history dating back as far as the 1860s in England. Just like the English language, football was introduced into Nigeria y the British colonialists and since then, it took a life of its own acquiring the nuances, colours, and texture of the inimitable Nigerian spirit.

Football was first introduced to Nigeria by the British at the start of the twentieth century. The first recorded football match in Nigeria was in 1904. By 1950, football had become the national game of the country. During this time in African history, many nations began to partake in nationalist movements that sought to replace colonial government with nationalist one. In Nigeria, football gave citizens a sense of national pride and inspired them to achieve political freedom. Hence, the country became a member of FIFA in October 1960 upon her independence.

Nigeria’s first football association was formed in 1932. This was called the Lagos District Amateur Football Association (LDAFA). This was followed by the launch of the National Football Association (NFA) in 1945. Today, the NFA remains the national governing body for the sport.

Let us go through memory lane to recall some of the football clubs of old in Nigeria

NEPA Lagos F. C. was a Nigerian football team based in Lagos, which participated in the top league in Nigeria in 1974, 1995, and 1996. The club is owned by the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) of Nigeria and was previously known as Lagos ECN. Nigeria Challenge Cup –1960, 1965, 1970

African Continental Bank Football Club (ACB FC) was a Lagos-based football club sponsored by the African Continental Bank and was a founding member of the Nigerian Premier League in 1972. They were relegated from the top league for good in 1994 with a record of two wins, 12 ties, and 16 losses.

New Nigerian Bank Football Club was a Nigerian football team that played in Benin City. Originally known as Ethiope FC and based in Sapele, it was handed over by the Bendel State government to New Nigeria Bank and moved to Benin City in 1973. It would disappear from the map after its corporate owners started having liquidity problems when the first wave of financial houses crash happened in the 1980s. The team was relegated in 1989 and disbanded soon afterward.

Stationery Stores Football Club was founded in 1958 by Israel Adebajo, the proprietor of Nigerian Office Stationery Supply Stores Limited and soon became the dominant team in Lagos with a cult following. Stores, as it is fondly called by its Lagos fans was supplying the bulk of the first team players of the national team. Known for its fluid and entertaining style of play, the club won a total of 13 Lagos State Challenge Cups, the preliminary round for the Nigerian FA Cup, and 4 National FA Cup competitions.

Stationery Stores would run into bad waters in the mid-90s following a battle for ownership by the Adebajo siblings. There were efforts by the supporters to resurrect the club in the 2014/2015 season that saw the club eat one of its arch-rivals, Shooting Stars with two goals. the team also participated in the internationally famous Copa Lagos Beach Soccer Tournament, where its match with the famed Barcelona FC was not only a sell-out and the star match, but was televised across the African continent to the delight of the fans of Stationery Stores FC beyond the shores of Nigeria.

Abiola Babes F.C. was a Nigerian football team that played in Abeokuta. It was owned by Bashorun Moshood K Abiola and was promoted to the Nigeria First Division in 1984. It was founded in 1980, after a period of hiatus in the 1990s; the team reformed in May 2000 but was disbanded the next year for lack of funds. Their last game was in the 2001 Challenge Cup against NIPOST FC.

Its achievements include Nigeria’s 2nd Division Champion in 1983, and the Nigerian FA Cup (twice): in 1985, and 1987. It also made appearances in continental football in 1986 and 1987 when it reached the Semifinals.

Leventis United: was a football team based in Ibadan, Nigeria. It was founded in 1982 as an amalgam of clubs from Oyo State, backed by the Royal Nigeria Carpet company; a subsidiary of the Greek corporation Leventis.

Leventis won the third division in 1984, the same year they won the FA Cup. The next year, it was promoted to the First Division after winning the second division with an undefeated record, the first such feat in Nigerian football. With John Mastoroudes as general manager, the team quickly built itself into one of the best-financed sides in the country. However, the club suffered from the recession and coups of the late 1980s. Due to a lack of financial backing from the Leventis Company, the team disbanded after the 1987 league season.

Shooting Stars Sports Club The club was one of the founders of the Nigerian Premier League in 1972, when they were called WNDC Ibadan (Western Nigeria Development Company), and were later called IICC (Industrial Investment and Credit Corporation) Shooting Stars of Ibadan.

The nickname “Shooting Stars” was added with the suggestion of team foundation members the late Jide Johnson and Niyi Omowon the “Aare Odan Liberty” (Generalissimo of Liberty Stadium) who believed that the players were “stars” in their own right.

Shooting Stars is one of the most followed football clubs in Nigeria and play their home matches at the Lekan Salami Stadium. The stadium was named after one of the prominent supporters of the club who is now deceased. Before, “Shooting” as it is called by its supporters used to play at the famous Liberty Stadium, one of the venues for the world youth soccer championship in 1999.

Rangers International Football Club, commonly known as Enugu Rangers, is a Nigerian professional association football team. They are based in Enugu and play their home games at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium. Enugu Rangers are one of the three oldest clubs in Nigeria since their formation in 1970.

Bendel Insurance Football Club, also known as Insurance of Benin Football Club is a soccer club based in Benin City, Nigeria. The club played in the Nigeria Professional football league. They were originally known as the Vipers of Benin. They play their home matches at Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium which has a capacity of 12,000. It was created by Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, the club was one of the founding members of the Nigerian Premier League in 1972. They were relegated at the end of the 2007–08 season after finishing in last place, the first relegation from the top level in the team’s history.

In August 2008, the ownership crisis was settled and the Edo State government took control. Thus the name officially reverted to Bendel Insurance Football Club.

Bendel Insurance was promoted back to the top flight for the 2019 season after spending over ten years in lower divisions. They were relegated back to the NNL after one season. They won promotion back to the NPFL on the penultimate day of the 2022 season.

Anambra Pillars Football Club was a Nigerian football club based in the city of Onitsha. It was founded in 2005 under the name “Power United” and played in the Nigeria Amateur League Division 3. They won promotion up one level every year of their existence, but in 2008 they had to forgo promotion to the professional Nigerian National League due to a lack of funds. After changing its name to Anambra Pillars, the club again won its division in 2009 (by one point) to finally make it to the professional ranks.

Babanawa FC was a Nigerian National Division One football club based in Anyigba, Kogi State, and played their home games in Lokoja. It is owned by Col. Ahmadu Usman Suleiman (rtd), making it one of the few Nigerian teams not run by a state government. In 2003, the team was relegated to the amateur league under “suspicious” circumstances involving player ineligibility and took the NFL to court to protest, ultimately losing. The team was resurrected in 2005 after acquiring Globe Stars FC and elected to play their games at Onikan Stadium. In 2006 they played their home games in Gboko and Makurdi before returning to Kogi State for the 2007 season. They withdrew from the League in the 2011 season after not making their first three games.

Ocean Boys F.C. was founded in 2002 by Sylva Nathaniel Ngo, the chairman of Brass Local Government. Sylva formed the team to help curb the restiveness among youths in the Niger Delta and “keep the youths away from vices by channeling their energies into worthy endeavours.” They were promoted to the top division in Nigerian football, the Nigerian Premier League within three years and were the 2006 league champions in their first season. They won the 2008 FA Cup, the third straight title for the Niger Delta.  Their home stadium was Yenagoa Township Stadium, but for the 2009-10 seasons, played some home games at Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City.



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