The seasoned sports administrator discloses reasons why he thinks the Owena Whales have struggled to impress in the Nigerian top flight this season
Former director-general of the National Sports Commission, Gbenga Elegbeleye, suggests reasons why Sunshine Stars have struggled to impress in the Nigeria Professional Football League this season.
Following their semi-final finish at the 2012 Caf Champions League – where they were sent packing by eventual champions Al Ahly – many predicted that the Owena Whales would become a dominant force on the local scene.
This optimism is yet to become a reality as the Akure-based outfit struggled to impress season in the Nigerian top flight, season in and season out.
As the 2020-21 campaign comes to an end on Thursday, Sunshine languish in the relegation zone – occupying the 17th position with 42 points from 37 games.
To avoid demotion, they must defeat Rivers United at home while hoping either Heartland, Abia Warriors, Jigawa Golden Stars or Wikki Tourist falter on the last day.
Goal engages one of the club’s elder statesmen in a no holds barred chat to find out why the Stars have gone dim this campaign.
Elegbeleye was a member of the Ministerial Committee on Reform of Football Administration in Nigeria and former president of Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria, Ondo State.
“The supporters are more of a problem to the club. You can imagine Sunshine Stars getting suspended from its own ground because of the unruly behaviour of their own fans,” he told Goal.
“They get banished by the LMC to places like Ijebu Ode and Lagos where they play their home matches. Games played there are like away games because the home support would not be there.
“This has not worked well for the team. Apart from this, you consider logistics problems and a lot of money that has to be spent going out of their comfort zone to play in an unfamiliar environment.”
Furthermore, he pointed to the non-payment of players and officials’ salaries when due, while questioning the intentions of some of the club’s big wigs.
“Before Governor Rotimi Akeredolu was sworn in, the players and officials of the team were being owed salaries of eight to ten months. How do you expect them to get results playing on an empty stomach?” he queried.
“The morale of the players was so low because so many of them were breadwinners of their families. So, how were they expected to give out their best?
“As you know, a hungry man is an angry man. These are some of the key problems of Sunshine Stars.
“I’m sorry to say this, a lot of people wants to be a part of the club’s management because of the benefits they think they can get.
“They failed to realise that in football, it is not about what you get but what you want to give. I remember when I would pay these players winning bonuses from my pocket.
“My dream is to see players from Sunshine Stars getting transfers to Europe and travelling down to play for the Super Eagles. That should be the vision, not people looking for benefits from the team.”
Even at the sorry picture he painted, he is not ruling out the ability of Deji Ayeni’s men from escaping demotion to the Nigerian second tier.
“To me, to escape from relegation is possible. Having pulled a win at Enyimba, all they must do now is win their last home game against Rivers United,” he added.
“This I believe is very possible. But any slip would make things more difficult. Sunshine need to work hard.”