Friday 3 May 2024


......Biodun Alabi 

Not sounding immodest, I have the experience of the evolution of Gateway United football club since 2003, when the club was resuscitated by Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who was governor of Ogun state, between that year and 2011 and, up till this year.

With this vista, it's easy for me to say some things authoritatively, having covered the games of the club, home and away, for a minimum of 15 out of 21 years, almost 4 out of these years, as media officer. 

Today's 5 nil loss to Ijebu United isn't something strange in football, but it's the scandalous height of how a state football team should not have lost to a regional team within the same state. 

If Remo Stars had inflicted this result, it would have been more insightful.  Remo Stars have been arch rivals and perennial nemesis of Gateway United, ever before they emerged as one of the forces of today's football in Nigeria. 

That Gateway United, after 21 years, are not in the same class with Remo Stars, in all nuances of the game, confirms the inconsistency of the drive, the attention and the values of what the club stands for in the life of the state in the hands of the three administrations that have spanned its existence, so far.

Gateway United, once upon a time, was big. After winning promotion to the premier league in 2003, in Ogbomoso, Oyo state, with a one nil win over Crown FC, inside the dreaded Soun Ogbomoso stadium ( a match I covered for OGTV).....a stunning goal by Ifeanyi Chukwuka, the club leapt from obscurity to fame.

It began commanding huge followership and had some of the big names in the game in its fold. The great late Rashidi Yekini,  late Sanni Abacha, Emmanuel Isah, Emmanuel Teberen, and many more, provided the fillip for the young ones, like Ibrahim Ajani, Henry Ayodele, Niyi Fabiyi, Emeka Chiemeka and others to grow and mature  for big time games and mobility to bigger clubs.

 Every giant of the Nigerian league,then, had a taste of the killer instincts of Gateway United. Enyimba,  Rangers, 3SC, Heartland, Kano Pillars, Insurance, etc, found MKO Abiola stadium,  Kuto, Abeokuta, sultry anytime they came. 

Even in relegation to the lower league, then, the club had one of the most visionary administrations in Nigeria which climaxed with its presence at the 2009 FIFA Soccer exhibition ( Soccerex) in South Africa.  It had its stand adjacent that of Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, which is today one of the biggest in Africa. I was privileged to be taken along on that experience by the indefatigable commissioner of youth and sports then, Chief Bukola Olopade, an unforgettable career memory for me !

These served as a springboard for the next 8 years from 2011, with the club missing promotion to the elite league by the whiskers on two or three occasions and created some waves in the national federation cup, reaching the quarter finals on one occasion. The management structure, standards and capacity of that period were marred by appointments of 3 commissioners for youth and sports within 8 years , something which asphyxiated consistency and focus. Despite this however, there were remarkable strides....decent football, public relations, ambition, business and mobility.  One key example is the launch onto the big scene, striker, Kingsley Eduwo, bought from Union Bank FC in Lagos. He went on to play for the Super Eagles home-based team !

Sixteen years of similarities of purpose and strong desire in the affairs of the club can only crystallise as a new level with a superior approach and deliberate steps towards today's demands and complexities of the Nigerian game. 

The absence of this can only, and surely, has brought the club to this steep, this brink.

I see the efforts of the current commissioner of sports development,  Hon. Wasiu Isiaka, to turn around things, at least from our interactions, but his winks are in the dark. He inherited a bad project. 

But the situation isn't irredeemable. It just has to be slow and steady steps in the final 3 years of the current administration....of course with astounding willpower, energy and finance that are certainly derivable under a proper structure manned by proper people. 

The players, the officials and the management of the club, in the last four years, only signpost its sagging brand today, the problems predate them.

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