Welcoming Ikorodu United, A Thought For Our Darling Bolowotan F.C.

By Kunle Adelabu

Bolowotan FC

Bolowotan FC Team (File copy)

Sports, especially football aside promoting cultural values is also a means of economic and social development which is why countries even bribe their ways in FIFA to host world cup. Its economic implications are better understood if one has good understanding of how many people have been turned into multi-millionaires in European leagues and yearly income for government in term of taxes. It’s no gain-saying that football also provides employment and improves social status of the players and many families around the world.

The fact is that most of these big teams abroad started as community or group soccer teams and over time turned into international brands and multi-national business entities mainly due to the support given by their community and also good management, government creating conducive environment and turning them into good brands with international appeal that Nigerians pay millions every week to watch.

Back home, the question is why our football clubs are collapsing and others finding it hard to survive? It is simply because of lack of supports from government, corporate bodies or the people. Though, there are also managerial and other factors. In many of the communities in Europe (now cities), there exist more than one club with their people engaging in healthy rivalry and yet, still sustaining the clubs. That’s why derby matches sell more and also enjoy serious considerations. It is difficult to see a club rising from the ashes of another.

Thus, it is with mixed feelings that I welcome the birth of Ikorodu United FC owned by Chief Adewunmi Ogunsanya, a multi-millionaire and Chairman, Multi-Choice Nigeria. I have no doubt that the club would enjoy corporate supports going by the standing of its owner. Since the presentation of Ikorodu United at a well-attended event at Ikorodu Town Hall early this year till when the club played their first official match in the league against Abia Warriors which ended 1-1, I have been watching with keen interest how Ikorodu people including politicians and football managers have been cheering the club and showcasing their massive supports!

Bur rather than joining the praise-singing train, I have been ‘insanely’ interrogating the situation to see if I can make any sane deduction from the outpouring of emotions some genuine, others with tags. Few years back, many of these people expressed same emotions when Bolowotan FC came on board but where is the team today? Who is showing any concern or even asking anything about the club? I ain’t praying for negativity for Ikorodu United but the question is, as a people, I strongly think we should not engage in situation which Yoruba described as ‘ari iyawo ko iyale sile’ (abandoning wife for a new suitor). Why it is normal that we should embrace a new baby, it is proper for us to show concern for the one that have been with us no matter the challenges. But from observation, nobody really cares and we can keep having a new club every time.

While we are welcoming Ikorodu United, I also I want to enjoin the good people of Ikorodu to spare our darling Bolowotan FC a thought. It is our duty as a people whose interests the club has been representing very well to help it bounce back in big way. It is now time for our elected representatives, bodies, families and football managers to rise up in unison and support Bolowotan in getting back. If well planned, I see Ikorodu presenting two formidable teams in the NPFL in the next two years. It is possible.

To me, football is more than just a game. It is part of my life. And it is on that account that I am a believer and member of two traditional clubs both in Nigeria and abroad. These are the clubs I have been making commitment into in term of finance, time and other forms of supports. These are part of my life and forever they shall be. These are no other than Shooting Stars of Oluyole, Ibadan and the greater Manchester United Football Club of England. They also happened to be my family clubs and I could adequately recall my daddy’s love for these traditional clubs especially during his days as football referee and sports teacher and coach.

Since it is un-African to go against one’s immediate community, I am duty-bound to give my support to Ikorodu and anything that associate with it, thus, I started following NEPA FC when Joe Erico was the club coach with most of the players as friends especially Rotimi and Rasheed. NEPA using Ikorodu as base for its football club contributed economically, socially and culturally to Ikorodu’s development. The club’s presence gave talented Ikorodu footballers encouragement and assurances that they can also take their football careers to the peak and indeed, many of them took the advantage to bring fortunes to themselves and their families.

The collapsed of NEPA FC jolted Ikorodu especially true fans that knew the implication. Because during this period, the club was carrying Ikorodu’s flag in the national league and its collapse implied that Ikorodu despite its football pedigree would not be having representative at the national level of Nigeria football. Though, I am not a supporter of NEPA FC in the true sense of it since I could not even contemplate backing the team whenever they square up with my darling Shooting Stars but they always had my support against any other team and most times I travelled to watch the team played.

After the demise of NEPA FC, Ikorodu football fan took solace in Pepsi Academy, Akinsanya FC later Greater Tomorrow, Nukuti, A.A.C.C and Ultimate Villa among many others that kept soccer fans engaged at Police playing ground, Teachers’ College, Igbogbo and other centres. During this period, Alhaji Kola Akinsanya, now a Magistrate with the likes of Tunde Fajebe, Dagama, Mayor Kalejaiye among others through their organization, Grassroots Football Development Forum and All-Stars were staging one tournament or the other while the then Ikorodu Football Association went to sleep. The major effects of the individual and groups efforts manifested on our school sports development with schools like Government College, High School, Yewa and others winning laurels in Principal cup in Lagos State in both female and male categories and going on to represent the town of ‘Ogas’ at the national level. Some of our boys and girls also enjoyed call to nation teams.

This was the situation when young entrepreneur, Mr Gaffar Oluwatoyin Bolowotan called “Gaso” came into town. He started by sponsoring tournaments through a team led by Mr Lookman Shonibare, a retired referee and after seeing the raw talents that Ikorodu has, he started attending matches across the Ikorodu landscape to scout for boys. The result was the formation of Bolowotan FC. He did not only form them into a football club, he also provided them with accommodation where all the boys were camped as a true football club. Their first camp was Olumade’s house at Surulere Estate junction, Igbogbo, and later on C.A.C Road, Grammar School, Oke Ota-Ona.

Sometime in 2012, he presented Bolowotan as a brand to the public at a well-attended ceremony at Gbadamosi’s house where the club jersey was formally presented to the public. At the event, the club’s jersey was presented and made available for sales. A good initiative to make it the people’s club but its greatest undoing was allowing the club to be run from personal income. But what can a man with that is keen on taking the boys off the streets in Ikorodu do whenever no help is coming?

The club’s entrance into game at the national level was not only dramatic but also magical. The team within a short time went from local league in Ikorodu to the state level and from there to national league. From national league 4 to 3, and was later promoted to national division 1. It was an accelerated promotion mainly due to untiring spirits of a committed owner and players. There was no time the club repeat any division, rather, it was a steady progress. But by Week 7 in the National Division 1, the club owner realized that he needed between N350,000 and N400,000 every week to run the club. This is just for weekly running and without salaries and bonuses and there was nobody to help not even in Ikorodu that he was carrying her flag.

In an interview with me in 2014, Mr Gafaar Bolowotan recalled that the team was run as an NGO. To him, it was an opportunity to take the guys off the streets and put them on the path to greatness. It was a selfless and commendable service to Ikorodu. And during this period that he was sheltering and feeding these guys, Bolowotan also gave them the choice to pursue their academics which he also sponsored. I know few of them that chose to combined football with academics and eventually went to higher institutions on his bill.

He had also secured transfers abroad for some of the boys who are still doing fine in different parts of the world playing football.

While playing in the national league, the club experienced difficulties mainly financial and this is expected since it was been financed through personal income and by 2013 the proprietor had had an arrangement with Mountain of Fire & Miracle Ministries aka MFM. At the time, the club became bigger than what the owner expected and it got to a point that he needed to withdraw from the league. After the seventh match in the national league.

He had an option to sell the club out rightly to some bidders i.e. Fountain in Ekiti and make huge sum of money but chose the arrangement with MFM to keep Lagos/Ikorodu slot in the Nigeria premier league. He did not only make the arrangement without any financial gain but also made them signed undertaken that his boys would be properly taken care of. Unfortunately, some of these guys and their families were the first to go to town that he had sold the club for huge sum of money and demanding for their own share.

I can keep going on and on about the contributions of Mr Gafaar Oluwatoyin Bolowotan and his Bolowotan FC and why the resurgence of the club should be a matter of concern to Ikorodu but we cannot continue living in the past rather, we should allow it guide us into a glorious future. More so, that the owner of the club is working towards bringing the club back for Ikorodu. Let’s show our concern by sparing Bolowotan FC a thought. While welcoming Ikorodu United F.C. we should also see it as a duty for all of us to help in bringing back Bolowotan FC. It is to the glory of ikorodu if we can have two formidable clubs representing Ikorodu in the top flight.

God bless Ikorodu United F.C. God bless our draling Bolowotan F.C. God bless the town of Ogas!

By Kunle Adelabu

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