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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March 2005, 11:45 GMT
Living for 'Shooting'
Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

Baba Eleran remains the symbol of the club. Even when you kill him you cannot take the Shooting spirit out of him
Former Nigeria manager Adegboyega Onigbinde

For the 77-year-old Alhaji Ganiyu Elekuru, life starts and ends with one of Nigeria's biggest football clubs, Shooting Stars of Ibadan.

Nicknamed 'Baba Eleran', Elekuru has an undying passion for the first Nigerian side to win an African club title.

Shooting Stars won the defunct Cup Winners Cup in 1976 and the Caf Cup in 1992. Both competitions have been merged to form the new Confederation Cup.

"For over 50 years, I've shared both the good and bad times with this club but only one thing in life makes me happy and sad and that is Shooting Stars," said Elekuru, whose moniker means 'father of butchers' in his native Yoruba language.

Only a select group of fans in the ancient Western Nigerian city of Ibadan can speak boldly of the 'Oluyole Warriors' since their humble start as WNDC in the 1950's and Eleran is one of the few that belongs to the club.

"I was with Lekan Salami, the founder of the club, when he conceived the idea of forming a football team.

"He was very popular amongst folks back then simply because he was from a rich family.

"As for me, I was simply a butcher whom he adored so much," Elekuru recalls.

"From that point on, I vowed to give my endless support to the club.

"With our local rivalry against the likes of Enugu Rangers, Insurance and Stationary Stores, my passion always burns for Shooting at the Adamasingba stadium."

Baba Eleran's obsession with Shooting Stars is confirmed by former Nigeria coach Adegboyega Onigbinde, once at the helm of the Ibadan club.

"It will be suicidal to separate Elekuru and his beloved side," Onigbinde believes.

"He remains the symbol of the club, even when you kill him you cannot take the Shooting spirit out of him."

Memorable times

Now very frail, Elekuru vividly recalls the great moments in the 50 years that he has supported the club.

"Winning the 1976 Africa Cup Winners Cup in Cameroon, against Tonnerre, will remain evergreen in my memory.

"But the 1991 FA Cup success and our league and cup double in 1995 are sweeter.

"I will never forget how the great Felix Owolabi (the midfielder who won the 1980 African Cup of Nations with Nigeria) inspired us to the Caf Cup in 1992.

Shooting Stars have struggled in recent years

"I will also cherish the indelible mark left by the great Rashidi Yekini, Segun Odegbami and Mutiu Adepoju (all former Nigeria internationals) because they took Shooting Stars to the top in Nigeria and Africa."

Supporting a club has its downsides and Baba Eleran shared one of his most agonising moments with BBC Sport.

"It came when we lost the Caf Cup of Champions Clubs final (now Caf Champions League) to Zamalek of Egypt in 1984 and 1996."

Supporting Shooting Stars has also brought him close to death.

"I won't forget how the Nigerian ambassador to Tanzania rescued me from the jaws of death in 1982, when the fans thought I was a witchdoctor.

"After I escaped being lynched, I was made the lifetime chairman of the supporters club, which made me famous around Ibadan."

It is not surprising that Elekuru, whose club can do no wrong, rejects criticism of the club's present state and says the good old days will soon return.

"This club is an institution. That's why you see fans showing their anger, emotions and feelings on and off the pitch.

"Things have really changed but I am confident Shooting Stars will rule Nigeria and Africa again."

Although his age and handicapped status has stopped him from regularly watching Shooting Stars' league matches, Elekuru said his heart and soul will always remain with the club.

"I am always following the club in spirit. I want to be with them all the time but my health has denied me that.

"I have devoted my life to this club and despite having a strong Islamic faith, I would love to be wrapped and buried in the colours of Shooting."

It would be a surprise if the club's management did not grant this wish to a man that is regarded as Nigeria's most fanatical football fan.

SEE ALSO
Return of the Nigerian bull
16 Feb 05 |  African
African legends: Segun Odegbami
12 Aug 03 |  African


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