The political and economic history of Nigeria between 1960 and the early 1980s was particularly vibrant and a lot of it was attributed to the brilliance of one man.
Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in this time period, was unanimously regarded by friends and opponents alike as a colossus, who among many others, shaped what Nigeria was that time as well as laying the foundations of what it is today.
Awolowo was a leading light from a sleepy little town in Ogun state – Ikenne, illuminating the South Western geopolitical zone of Nigeria and radiating far and wide.
No person or institution from Ikenne has filled the gargantuan void left behind since the death of Awolowo.
He traversed political, economic and cultural divides and was the first truly national figure from what is today Ogun State. But while other men such as the late MKO Abiola have also gone on to gain global acclaim, an indisputable wisdom says that great institutions will outlive great men.
And the arrival of Remo Stars Football club in 2010 into the firmament of Nigerian football promises the makings of a great and enduring institution.
There are many who would argue that Ogun State produced arguably some of the strongest, most feared and combative football clubs in the Nigeria.
Names like Abiola Babes, Water Corporation, Obanta United, Ewekoro FC just to name a few, struck fear into the hearts of this who faced them in League and Challenge Cup matches.
In those days the Asero stadium (now Muda Lawal stadium) in Abeokuta was a dreaded venue hosting some of the epic and memorable matches in the history of football in south western Nigeria. Today, Remo Stars Football Club is following in the footsteps of its illustrious forebears as Ogun State’s most feared football team.
In the year 2004, a businessman from Ikenne decided that he would start a grassroot football club, as a platform to engage the teeming talents found in Ketu, a suburb of the neighboring Lagos State. The brainchild of Kunle Soname, the club began life as FC Dender of Lagos. In 2010, the patience, perseverance, and relentless hard work and investment in the club saw them gain promotion into the second tier of Nigerian Football, the Nigeria National League (NNL).
After FC Dender seemed to have outgrown its modest surroundings and in line with the vision of Soname, the team was relocated to the town of Ikenne in his ancestral homeland of Remo and rebranded as Remo Stars Football Stars. And in 2016, they reached the top level of Nigerian football after promotion to the Nigerian Premier League. Competing at the highest level proved a bridge too far for the debutants and after a two season stay in the top flight, Remo Stars were relegated back to the NNL in 2018.
Undeterred by the setback to his ambition and vision for Remo Stars, Soname continued to invest in the club, building sustainable structures domestically and internationally.
In 2015, Soname became the first Nigerian to own a top European football club after buying a 70% stake in Portuguese second division side, Clube Desportivo Feirense. Speaking on the acquisition then, Soname said, “Securing Clube Desportivo Feirense was the next step in the right direction for me. I love everything about the club: the organisation, the philosophy and the fans I have no intention of changing anything in the club because I am satisfied with their operations.
“Having been involved in Nigerian football over the years by running Remo Stars Football club, I felt it was time to further develop the team. It would also bring benefits for Nigerian football through players transfer, training for officials and administrators, who have proven they have what it takes to succeed in Europe.
“I still have my commitment to Remo Stars FC; it is the beginning of all I have achieved in football and I will keep improving the team to get it to the greatest heights” he concluded.
The shrewd acquisition of Fereinse by Soname gave Remo Stars an unmatched advantage over every other Nigerian club. Talented players in the club were moved to the Portuguese club and sold on for major profits which were ploughed back into Remo Stars. Players went on loan and technical staff went on technical trainings and attachments to Fereinse to sharpen their skills.
All this paid off in September 2021 when Remo Stars secured a return to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) after finishing second in NNL playoff Group A. A superb campaign saw them mount a brief title chase which ultimately saw them finish third and earn a historic place in the CAF Confederations Cup.
A somewhat unkind draw would see them drawn against famed Moroccan side FAR of Rabat. A spirited 1-1 draw away from home was followed by a narrow 1-0 home loss in Ikenne which saw the brave Stars bow out on a 2-1 aggregate in their maiden continental campaign.
“Maybe we were lucky in the first leg, but the second leg seemed different. This is football and it being our first time, we will pick the positives and learn from it,” said coach Daniel Ogunmodede after his side’s elimination.
Unsurprisingly no one associated with the club is distraught with the result as the Moroccans are one of Africa’s most illustrious teams. Founded on September 1, 1958 FAR are one of the most widely supported teams in Africa. One of the three founding members of the Moroccan league, they have never been relegated since its inception in 1956, along with Wydad Casablanca and Raja Casablanca.
Regularly playing in front of capacity crowds at the 53,000 capacity Prince Moulay Abdelah Stadium, they are one of the most successful teams in Africa with 30 titles, including 12 league titles, 1 African Champions League and 1 African Confederation Cup. They were the first Moroccan team to win the CAF Champions League (then known as the Africa Cup of Champions Clubs) in 1985.
If one were to weigh the quality of football displayed against their more illustrious opponents and the narrow scoreline, modest Remo Stars clearly reinforced the notion that age is merely a number.
“We lost to a very experienced side and it’s so unfortunate we couldn’t qualify after getting close from the first leg,” said captain Nduka Junior. “It’s a good learning process for the boys and we hope to be back on this big stage again.”
That Remo Stars hugged the headlines in the past three weeks on the continent was not by happenstance. It was unequivocally the product of a meticulous and methodical process of laying the enduring foundations in the administration of a truly professional football club.
Soname’s support for his club is unwavering and he continues to invest in the team, the club and a community. He has built a small yet lovely stadium in Ikenne complete with top class facilities that have drawn envious glances from more illustrious clubs in Nigeria.
A peerless academy that continues to provide a steady stream of players for the first team is well established, the product of a strong youth policy.
A continuous investment in people, systems, processes and software to further optimize the effective running of the club continuous unabated. And not forgetting a diverse and growing stable of sponsors committed to ensuring financial stability.
The ownership of football clubs by private individuals is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. Well heeled individuals like MKO Abiola (Abiola Babes), Jude Ezechukwu (Jasper United), Oscar Udoji (Udoji United), Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu (Iwuanyanwu National) and countless others trodded a well worn path.
However, Kunle Soname’s ownership of Remo Stars continues to exemplify the incredible possibilities available in the Nigerian football ecosystem today and in the future. Many of his admirers have dubbed it: The Audacity of Courage.
It was two-time Academy Award winner, the legendary Denzel Washington who said,
“Without commitment, you’ll never start. But more importantly, without consistency, you’ll never finish. It’s not easy……If it were easy, there would be no Denzel Washington.
“So, keep working, keep striving, never give up, fall down seven times, get up eight.
“Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.
“So keep moving, keep growing, keep learning.”
Merely existing in the difficult, often chaotic terrain of Nigerian football is no mean feat. But for Soname and Remo Stars, it is something they already know. And ahead of the new football season, they are determined to keep moving, growing and learning. And like the stars in the sky, their resolve remains undimmed.Copyright © 2022 Completesports.com All rights reserved. The information contained in Completesports.com may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the prior written authority of Completesports.com.