Football derby matches in Nigeria are often heated affairs with the desire to win; this sets a perfect tone for Sunday’s Glo Premier League cracker between Kwara United and perennial rivals Shooting Stars Sports Club (3SC) at the Ilorin Township Stadium.
The Match Day 25 game is a high-profile encounter that United, currently placed 16th with 26 points from 24 matches on the log, will hope to win as they have not really enjoyed the start of a second round that they would have expected, and remain winless from three matches.
United, formerly known as Afonja Warriors before their nickname was changed to Harmony Boys, lost by a lone goal away to Heartland last Sunday and suffered a similar defeat in Ilorin against Wikki Tourists on Wednesday. On Match Day 22, United were again beaten 2-0 by El-Kanemi Warriors. Their last victory was the 2-1 defeat of Dolphins FC on Match Day 21 in Ilorin.
Despite an outstanding match against Nasarawa United, 3SC have enjoyed a smooth ride this term garnering 32 points from 23 games to place 11th on the NPFL table. Their recent victories include a 2-1 home win against Wikki Tourists on 5 August and an inspiring 3-1 drubbing of highly-rated Heartland FC of Owerri on Match Day 22. The Oluyole Warriors also had their low moment last Sunday when they lost scandalously by 4-1 to champions Kano Pillars.
However, as this weekend’s match gathers momentum, Kwara United coach Tunde Sanni and his wards would be under pressure to avoid another home defeat as another slip will increase their losses to Shooting Stars to three this year alone.
Shooting Stars had the upperhand in the reverse fixture on Match Day 5, with Najeem Olukokun and national Under-23 striker Junior Ajayi scoring to give them a convincing 2-0 victory at Adamasingba Stadium on 22 April. The other encounter that pitched both teams together this year was in the Nigeria National League Super Four, which 3SC also won by 2-1 in Ilorin in February.
In terms of playing staff, United should not have problems as only Evans Iyoro is a top player who moved to Rangers International of Enugu during the mid-season transfer window. Utility midfielder Dare Ojo is fit with other players such as goalkeeper Kazeem Yekeen, Halilu Obadaki, Jimoh Ismail, Gata Adeshina, Alebiosu Segun, Gata Ismail, Abdulai Ibrahim, Oladapo Femi and Akeem Onigbari.
Ahead of the tantalizing encounter, Dare Ojo, spoke to npfl.ng about what football fans should expect in the game against Shooting Stars: “we have a big game in our hands and we know it won’t be easy. The fact that we lost the reverse fixture in Ibadan will make Sunday’s match tougher because we can’t be beaten twice by 3SC.
“We players are on our way to training now, and preparing hard for the match. We will work hard to beat Shooting Stars here in Ilorin, but my appeal is to our fans to be patient and rally round the team because we are going through a difficult time right now.”
For 3SC, coach Gbenga Ogunbote has called for his side’s commitment in the match, saying he would want his wards to respond against United’s expected resistance in Ilorin. Ogunbote has justified the confidence reposed in him by helping the Oluyole Warriors to earn a respectable position on the log.
Luckily for him, club regulars, Akinyemi Seun, Babalola Ibrahim, Gege Oluwafemi, Cletus Itodo, Olukokun Najeem, Adetunji Sunday, Ebiaku Promise, Osanga King, Orelope Tope and petit striker Ajani Ibrahim are raring to go.
By any standard, a fixture between Kwara United and Shooting Stars is a big game, a crowd puller which goes beyond football with its ‘enormous quantity of references to wider cultural and political issues.’ It is also a battle of the ‘Warriors.’
.Culled from npfl.ng.