BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
Officially, the name of the hitherto Lagos fanatically supported club is Stationery Stores Football Club of Lagos. But ithe club which clocks 60 this week has been variously called some other names.
In fact when the Daily Service edition of March 28, 1959 published the list of clubs that were to compete in the newly formed Lagos Commercial League, the club was listed top as ‘Stationery Wanderers’.
The club secretary was named as Mr. A. Adeoye. Being the brainchild of Israel Adebajo, it was not a surprise that the club was also nicknamed the “Adebajo Babes”.
That step was apparently followed by another foremost sports and general philanthropist, Bashorun MKO Abiola, who christened his 1980-acquired Ewekoro Cement Football Club ‘Abiola Babes’.
Another name that the club is called was ‘Flaming Flamengoes’. This is even reflected in its emblem. It may have emerged from the manner the club’s fame and influence spread like a wild bush fire.
But the commonest of the nicknames of the club is that of ‘Super Stores”. According to the late Babatunde Oshuntolu, he was the architect of the name.
He wrote that when Stores won the inaugural edition of the Oba Cup in grand style by beating one of the more popular clubs in Lagos, ECN, by 5-1 in the final; he chose to adapt his headline of the story in the Daily Express from the one he got in the British Daily Express when Scotland surprisingly beat England in Wembley after a succession of defeats.
“It was a Saturday. And the next day’s issue of the broadsheet, London Daily Express carried this headline on its eight-column back page: “Super Scots”!
“Only two weeks later, Stationery Stores whipped ECN (which later became NEPA) 5-1 at the Lagos City Stadium (later Onikan Stadium), in an Oba of Lagos Cup final widely predicted to be very keen.
The next day’s issue of the Daily Express in Lagos screamed “Super Stores!” Oshuntolu wrote that that tag had been accepted since then”.
The club had indeed been super, setting the pace in certain ways as the first to get yearly promotion from its foundation year as a division three side, to becoming the last to win a major trophy in Lagos – the War Memorial Cup – as well as being the first to win the replacement trophy – the Oba Cup.
There were even greater feats- as the first privately owned club to win the Nigeria national cup, the Challenge Cup in 1967 as well as the first club to represent Nigeria in the continent in 1968.
There were even more! Stationery Stores was the first Nigerian club to introduce club camping when the team camped in Ikorodu for two months; as well as being the first to provide a bus to its squad.
It was not just the first Nigerian club side to go international, it was the first to develop a close relationship with a foreign club when it started a home and away series with Ghana’s Accra Great Olympics.
It also had a wider recruitment drive than any other Nigerian club, sourcing for talents nationwide as well as combing the West Coast of Africa for the best available players.
That way, the club was able to assemble a dreaded side that brought players like Peter Anieke, Tony Igwe and many other players from Jos Plateau, Peter Amaechina from Ibadan, Peter Fregene from Amukpe and players of Ghanaian and Togolese extractions like Willie Andrew and Adoquaye Laryea among others. When the club won the Challenge Cup in 1982, beating Niger Tornadoes 4-1in the final, it became the first national division three side to do so.
For the meritorious services rendered to sports in Nigeria, Israel Adebajo who passed on in 1969 was in 1980 given a post humours award of Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR) by the Second Republic president, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.