Rising Through the Ranks: A Chat With Coach Ogunbote of Shooting Stars SC

Ọmọ Ìbàdàn Kini So…

The indigenes of the largest city – by land mass – in West Africa have, over the years, taken pride in the beauty of their roots. Non-indigenes who school, service, work, love, relocation, or perhaps unbridled hate for Lagos, have brought into the city have also joined in the glorification of the metropolis characterised by brown roofs. Ibadan is home to that 9-5er that wants to actually work from 9am to 5pm and get back in before 7pm. It’s home to that nightlifer that wants to be able to party on nights where OH and debauchery are in high demand without worrying about insane traffic jams. Maybe there’s not so much difference now, but it’s home to that young man who thinks the cost of living in Lagos might put him 6ft under the ground in a few years. For the sake of specificity on my journey with this, it’s home to residents who have developed an undying love for local sports – particularly for Shooting Stars, a Nigerian professional football club.

Shooting Stars, popularly nicknamed Oluyole Warriors or 3SC (Shooting Stars Sports Club), is a professional football club based in Ibadan, Oyo State. Sooting, as fondly called by the indigenes of the brown roof city, has become a brand and perhaps one of the greatest exports of Ibadan. They have a rich history in the Nigerian Premier Football League (NPFL) and can boast of excellence since as far back as the 70s and 80s. Over the years, they have had their top-flight seasons and rescue mission moments which, by any standard, should culminate in a need for a Netflix documentary – or maybe something of sort.

In recent years, it’s been more of rising through the ranks after a tough phase. They relegated to the NNL in 2017 and got back into the NPFL after four years, only to escape relegation – by goal difference – on the last day in the 2021/2022 season. They finished 6th in the 2023 double league format season and 4th in the 2023/2024 season. While the experiences in subsequent years might make that (Netflix docu series) happen, this story – or more precisely a chat – intends to serve as a window into what it has been like at the managerial wheel of this institution. Particularly, the UI populace needs to understand why Ibadan doesn’t joke with Shooting Stars and how support for the club can put a cap to the homely feel that schooling in Ibadan offers. Shortly after the end of the NPFL 2023/2024 season, the UIMSA Press met with Coach Olugbenga Ogunbote of Shooting Stars to have a fun chat.


Hello Sir, how would you describe yourself? Especially to the UI populace where the majority don’t know so much about Shooting Stars.

Coach: My name is Ogunbote Olugbenga, technical adviser for Shooting Stars Sports Club, Ibadan.

Do we also address you as the main coach?

Coach: Yes, that is it. They are all nomenclature.

Outside Managerial duties, who is Mr. Olugbenga Ogunbote?

Coach: Well, let me just summarise it. Ogunbote Olugbenga is a man born into the family of Mr. and Mrs. S.O. Ogunbote. I’m from Ogun State, Ijebu to be precise. I’m married and blessed with children. I’m a graduate who is into football, played for some time and went into coaching, and to the glory of God, I’ve managed many prominent clubs. I also want to categorically state that I was a grassroot coach and started right from the scratch. I’ve been through almost all corners of the country.

I read that you were appointed to coach Sunshine Stars of Ondo State in July, 2012. What was the career path before then? Seeing that I also stumbled upon a profile of you as a lecturer in Arts at Olabisi Onabanjo, Ago Iwoye.

Coach: No, I wasn’t a lecturer there. I was a teacher but not in the school, let’s leave that aside. But before going to Sunshine Stars, I was with Gateway Football Club. Before then, I’ve handled some relatively small teams. I also worked as an assistant coach at Stationery Stores Football Club in Lagos.

In your managerial career, you’ve coached more than five NPFL Teams, from Sunshine to Shooting to Enyimba to Enugu Rangers, Lobi Stars, etc. You used just a year with some of the clubs, what was the issue? Was it a prior agreement to use a year in those clubs?

Coach: There’s this challenge with us here, we are always playing smart. Overseas, when they get a coach, they would want to give him a 3-5 year contract but we are not patient here. People want to employ a coach and want to beat the Brazilian national team today, and management have always tried to shy away from respecting contractual agreements. They are always sacred and I always tell them that if they are scared of giving me 2, 3, or 4 years, and give me one year instead, by the time I leave, it’ll be when they need me the most. To the glory of God, there’s no season that I do not get offers. The most important thing is that when they give you a year, by the time they are talking to you in the second year, they will be conversing with respect because there are positive results. I think the right phrase is trying to run away from taking risks. And sometimes, because of relationships that have existed and are existing, I can choose to remain in a club.

How was the experience with coaching shooting stars the first time between 2012 and 2016 and now?

Coach: I’ve been with Shooting Stars three times and this is the third. The difference between the first and the second is not that much because the years weren’t far apart. The situations were also similar because I came on a rescue mission; the team was trying to avoid relegation. Although it was a collective responsibility, to the glory of God, we were able to do something. The first two times, even though I didn’t meet the targets I set for myself, people were still appreciative. No wasteful spending, trying to avoid relegation.

You’ve coached two clubs two different times, Sunshine and Shooting, what was the case scenario in both of them? Were you called back?

Coach: Of course, I was called back. They needed my services. One thing I try to avoid is decline offers from south western teams not because of any soft spot but just to avoid negative stories in the future.

Shooting Stars Team.

In the 2021/2022 season, Shooting Stars finished 16th. In 2023, they finished 6th in group A (double league format), and now, they finished 4th in the 2023/2024 season. When exactly did you take over in 2023 and what has the growth been like?

Coach: When I took over, the team escaped relegation on the last game day of the season. So I started the following year with them and unfortunately, no thanks to the abridged league format. One thing about that style of league is that already you’ve segregated the teams. Look at what happened in this just concluded season, the 1st to 4th on the table are all Southern teams. If it was an abridged format, it won’t come that way because advantage would have been given to some undue areas.

So is the division by geopolitical zones in the abridged format?

Coach: No, although before now it used to be like that. Every time there was an abridged league, the South were separated from the North. But the last one was a randomized grouping.

Your third time with shooting stars now, particularly this just concluded season, which NPFL team has given you the toughest time, home and away?

Coach: Every team. There was a game we won here, 4 goals to nil, the goals didn’t start coming until the 70th minute. It tells you that no team was cheap.

Is there a long term goal for the club or are you leaving soon?

Coach: Like I did say on the last game day, I signed a year contract with the club. But now, we are on the table trying to talk about an extension.

Shooting stars is quite popular, in fact one of the most followed clubs in Nigeria. But there isn’t that buzz felt within UI, do you think focusing on academics is a barrier? Do you think it can be any different?

Coach: I think yes, but maybe you don’t know about it. There’s a Shooting Stars Supporters Club – UI Chapter. They’ve really shown interest in the team and contributed in one way or the other. The biggest challenge we have, this day, in this part of the world compared with advanced countries where communities own teams, you’re content to love your own. The same thing would have applied to Shooting Stars but maybe enough awareness is not there. Everybody thinks the fanbase is large and we are content with it. But I think it is not enough, you keep making the noise and realise that we are growing. Sometimes, this supporters club comes around, book their tickets beforehand, charter a bus and label it with the club’s name. I think I’m aware of that.

I heard the team comes to train at Awo stadium, is it a free offer given to the club by UI and is it for a change of environment from the Lekan Salami Stadium (popularly known as Adamsimgba) or something else?

Coach: For the first question, I wouldn’t know. The club management is in a better position to say exactly if they pay or if we get to use it for free. The second question, there was a lot of pressure, Adamasimgba is a natural turf so they wouldn’t want to allow you the use, time in, time out.

What’s the scouting process like, into the team?

Coach: Ordinarily, Shooting Stars is a big brand that should not be seen doing open screening. By His grace, that’s stopping this season. At the end of the season, we would have seen the team’s areas of deficiency so it will not be a hearsay thing. We would have equally identified with a few quality players from other teams that we want to invite and bring them close to us. This is to ensure that we raise the standard of quality of players. So what we basically do is strictly by invitation. Although there’s a Team B where that can be done, what we can now do is pick up the player from the team if we see a first team prospect.

On that, is a friendly game between the UI male football team and Shooting Stars something achievable? Has it been done before?

Coach: Last year, we played them, even though I wasn’t personally available. It’s possible, I think there was a tournament coming up (NUGA most likely) and we played them in UI.

Shooting stars dominated the 70s and 80s with Rangers. They are one of the most decorated in Nigeria but the last time they won the championship was in 1998. For context, a considerable number of UI students and young adults have not been born, is there pressure on the team to go back to winning ways? How’s the pressure handled?

Coach: Well, I think behind every serious result-oriented coach, there’s the drive to win the league. There’s this philosopher that said you aspire to go above the stars so that if you fall, you fall among the stars. So you make your targets higher and when it doesn’t work out, you can take pride in the results you have. Personally, I have a standard and that’s why I’ve always said that if I manage a team, the least I aim for is a continental slot. If you look at it, asides these last two seasons, in the last 10 years, it’s on record that it’s not possible that two seasons pass by without me having one slot. In the last ten seasons, I’ve been on two rescue mission assignments and had five or six continental slots. It’s a pressure that I’ve brought on myself, especially talking about the expectations from a coach of my calibre. Having said that, it’s an open truth that you cannot clap with one hand. The coach can’t do wonders alone, we need the complement of the management.

Regarding the last time the team won the championship, there’s something that people say; if you are not getting it right, try another method. That is the reason history is important. You can always refer back to the last decades and see how it was done. There are a lot of constraints; football is capital-intensive. So it’s not a thing of na so we dey do am.

For the Nigerian FA Cup, It appears that most big teams don’t take it seriously, is that the case?

Coach: Currently, one NPFL(Abia Warriors) team and one NNL (El Kanemi) team are in the final. And El Kanemi have gained promotion into the Premiership. But notwithstanding, I don’t entirely agree to that. It’s the shortest call to the continent, with 6 or 7 games, you’re there. But the point is, sometimes the advantage is the difference in season calendars. We lost to El Kanemi due to fatigue. We played a game on Sunday, travelled on Monday to Katsina, played them on Wednesday, travelled to Abuja after. While El Kanemi was on league season break, and their last game was against us on that Wednesday. If you look at it, it’s quite unfortunate.

Remo Stars of Ogun State as a South-Western rival. You both got a win against each other on home soil in this just concluded season. Tell us what the rivalry is like.

Coach: Well, there are always cases like that in football. Luckily, I worked there, gave them their first continental ticket. Every team aspires to get bigger than the bigger ones. Shooting Stars has come to stay; it’s a big brand with a rich history so beat Shooting, and you make a name. Remo Stars is owned by an individual, Kunle Soname, a man who knows what it takes to run sports. He has about four pitches, a 3-star hotel, a camp, etc. He’s a role model too. Be it as it may, the first game at Remo’s home, if you were there, you’ll realise that Shooting was playing, Remo was scoring. Sometimes, the result might not be the true reflection of the game but we were able to get a win in our home. Before that, I can’t remember a game that Shooting won against Remo.

No Oluyole Warrior was called to the World Cup Qualifiers squad, Why is that?

Coach: It has to do with the man at the helm of affairs. The truth is that we do not have confidence in our domestic league. The issue is, the time they did not qualify, if there were domestic league players, that would be the excuse. We need a base; we can’t throw away our league players. The same foreign-based players we invite from European clubs once played here too. It’s high time we developed the habit of trusting what we have. When Keshi was here, he relied more on domestic players. All he did then was bring a few players to add to them. We have to come to the realisation that football is not played the same way in Europe the way it is here. The mentalities are different but everyone knows what he wants. If I’m at the helm of affairs, I know what to do.

What are plans for the next season for Shooting Stars?

Coach: We finished 4th and we want to make it a starting point. We want to finish stronger next season. We need to recruit right for the subsequent seasons and try our possible best to make history with the club.

NPFL teams in the CAF Confederation Cup, Discuss.

Coach: We have won it but not as frequently as we are supposed to. It has to be so, the reason is clear to you and I, it’s not far-fetched. We do not follow the world calendar; when the cup is commencing, we are always on break. There’s no way the team representing us will perform as good as the teams currently in season in their respective leagues. Another thing is that we are not consistent. There are also other factors that I can’t even explain to the general public.

Thank you very much Sir, any words for UI students that want to get interested in Shooting Stars?

Coach: Before I go into that, I cannot do without talking about the management led by Hon. Babatunde Olaniyan, many thanks to his crisis management therapy, his open mindedness is very admirable. Kudos to the Oyo state government too. For the supporters, in this part of the world, it’s a different ball game. In other parts of the world, the supporters invest in the club. This investment starts from the purchase of replica jerseys, tickets to watch home games, etc. Every kobo counts in business. For the jerseys, people complain of the prices when other teams even sell for x2, x3. If you want quality, you must pay for it. Relying too much on government’s subvention too doesn’t help. But if the supporters club wants to do anything (create a UI chapter), they can go to the office, get it approved, and show interest as a group from the school.

Thank you very much sir for this great opportunity.

Coach: Thank you very much for having me, I equally appreciate you guys.

Shooting Stars are, indeed, rising through the ranks – once again. The energy is becoming contagious in different parts of Ibadan. The UI community needs to tap into it. It’s a win-win situation where you feel a sense of belonging from your support to the club, and the club enjoys the perks of having an incredible fanbase across the city.

PS: Special thanks to Toyeeb Salawu.

Peter Adeyemo.

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