Olufemi Atoyebi, Ibadan
Former Shooting Stars midfielder, Gbenga Okunowo, has warned his former club that they will find it difficult to gain promotion back to the Premier League if they refuse to take the welfare of their players seriously.
The 2000 Africa Cup of Nations silver medallist, who played for Barcelona between 1998 and 2001, spoke with our correspondent in Ibadan on Tuesday. He called on the Oyo State Government, who owns the outfit, to back the club with adequate funding to enable them take care of the players.
The former Nigeria defender expressed his displeasure at the declining fortunes of the Ibadan team, who were relegated from the Nigerian topflight to the National League at the end of last season.
Okunowo said, “We achieved what we could in my time with the club because we enjoyed government and fans’ support. Without adequate funding, no club can thrive.
“The Nigerian situation is difficult because clubs don’t get sponsorships capable of making them financially independent. Players move often from one club to another for better remuneration. You can hardly blame them because the playing career of footballers is limited.
“The situation removes loyalty from the players. In those days, our football legends owed allegiance to one club, today it’s different; clubs must pay to get the best from players.
“It is unfortunate that 3SC have to play in a lower league again, but to regain their status among the best clubs in Nigeria, the Oyo State Government must take the issue of players’ welfare seriously. I read in the newspapers that the state government is committed to ensuring the club gain promotion this season. This is good for the players.”
Asked if he was satisfied with the team for the upcoming season, the ex-international said after watching the team’s preparations ahead of the season, he had little worry about fans complaints.
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