By Tunde Oyedele/Ibadan –
Fans of Shooting Stars Sports Club, 3SC, painted Ibadan red on Saturday while celebrating the return of their darling team to Nigeria Premier League, NPL from the Nigeria National league, NNL.
3SC grabbed a ticket to the top flight in grand fashion when they defeated Akwa Starlets 1-0 in the last NNL match of the season at Adamasingba Stadium, courtesy of a second minute goal by Sylvanus Ebiaku.
Before the encounter, Akwa Starlets were second on the NNL Group B Table with 48 points from 29 matches, while 3SC were third with 47 points from the same number of matches, making the encounter a crucial and must win for both clubs in the promotion race.
But, it was Shooting Stars that claimed the three points at stake to grab a total of 50 points, same as Gabros of Nnewi, who defeated Ekiti United 2-0 to pick the second second promotion ticket in the group.
Soon after the game was over, thousands of 3SC fans stormed the astro turf of Lekan Salami Stadium to celebrate their club’s promotion to join top clubs such as Kano Pillars (current and three-time consecutive champions), Enyimba International of Aba, Rangers International of Enugu, Warri Wolves and the others to compete in the 2014-2015 NPL season.
While many of the fans ran around the arena shouting ‘Up Shooting’ and embracing one another for the feat achieved by 3SC, some took the celebration to the next level as they joined their players and coaches to pump champagne at Adamasingba.
The celebration continued till late Saturday night with the fans having a swell time at various relaxation spots, as the popular 411, a social Night Club in Bodija area of Ibadan and other restaurants/bars made cool money from the merriment.
Ebiaku, a former defender of Rangers International scored the crucial goal when he perfectly tucked in a penalty kick awarded 3SC, following a foul on Okiki Afolabi barely two minutes into the encounter.
The early goal demoralised the Akwa boys, who tried to restore order but could not stop 3SC who were determined to win on the day.
Akwa Starlets had a golden chance to equalise the lone goal deficit and probably could have snatched the promotion ticket from Shooting when the referee awarded them a second half penalty, but they missed it and left Ibadan empty handed.
Interesting, 3SC Coach Franklin Howard, who was in charge of the team on Saturday, was the same tactician who brought them back to the top flight in 2010.
Howard said his team deserved their victory against Akwa Starlets. “The players, coaches and management of the team worked hard for the promotion this season. I’m just short of words to express my excitement, but I commend 3SC management for giving me a chance to lead the club to the top flight once again”, Howard told eyeonthesports.com.
Meanwhile, veteran journalist and former Chairman of Shooting Stars, Elder Bode Oyewole has applauded General Manager of 3SC Rasheed Balogun and his team for leading the club back to the topflight.