BY KUNLE SOLAJA.
On this date, 25 July 1969, Israel Adebajo, founder of the oldest surviving club in Nigeria, Stationary Stores FC of Lagos, passed on.
He was also a former treasurer of the then Nigeria Football Association (NFA) from 26 March 1961 till the board was sacked on 10 May 1962 by the Minister of Labour and Welfare who was also in charge of sports, Chief Joseph Modupe Johnson.
Till the last decade, the Stationery Stores, which Adebajo founded from the ashes of Oluwole Philips FC in1958 was Nigeria’s most fanatically supported sports club.
He established the Nigerian Office Stationery Supplies Stores which football arm was simply called Stationery Stores. It has appellations such as “Flaming Flamingos”, “Super Stores” and Adebajo Babes”.
Adebajo, who was one of the pillars of the NFA in the late 1950s to the middle of 1960s, died just few weeks before Stationery Stores’ final match in the then Challenge Cup.
He nurtured the Super Stores to win the Challenge Cup twice in a row and was at the brink of a hat trick in 1969 before his death dealt a devastating blow on the club.
The famed Super Stores drew players and fans across the country and sometimes too, from Ghana and other West African countries. He had what could be the first professional club in Nigeria as players were drawn from near and wide.
So strong was his club that it supplied nine of the starting eleven for Nigeria at the Mexico 1968 Olympics which was the first time Nigerian footballers had the opportunity to grace a global stage.
Even with nine of the Stores’ players representing Nigeria in Mexico, the club still had enough pool of talents to continue in domestic football competition.
On the 35th anniversary of Adebajo’s death, EdozieEnemuo, a former referee and Head of Marketing Department of the NFA died in an auto crash at Patani in Rivers State in 2004.
He was on his way to Aba for the African Champions League match of Enyimba and Bakili Bullets of Malawi.
He was coming from Warri after the Nigeria’s women team, Super Falcons had played Senegal in the qualifying series of the African Women’s Championship.