Grassroots Football Development in Sapele From 1950-1980

Sapele is a city in southwestern Nigeria, located in Delta State. Sapele is situated at the headwaters of the Benin River, which flows out to the Niger Delta.

Football development in Sapele started in the 1950’s, when football was just at its infancy in Nigeria, and Sapele a town noted for excellence was at the fore front in football then. The then Sapele township stadium was among the first constructed stadium in Nigeria The desire to fully develop football at the grassroots level gave birth to the Sapele Amateur Football Association in 1987.

This was quickly followed by the staging of the inaugural Sapele Cup of Nations Competition in 1988. It was a competition that featured 16 teams from Sapele and environs. Some of the teams that participated at the inaugural Cup of Nations competition include: K.B Stars, Athletico De Marin, Ghana Black Stars and Loaders F.C.

The competition was put together by Mr. Gabriel Igarri and Mr. Dan Evumena. It is interesting to note that the inaugural Sapele Cup of Nations trophy was donated by Chief P.D.O Akpeki the Ugo of Okpe Kingdom. Going back to football development in Sapele, it is worthy of note to recall that in 1968, Nova Luna Football Club was formed. It was the first Youth club in Sapele. It was founded by Late Mr. Tony Okonedo who was then a Graded football referee. He also founded Ladies Football club that same year. After the formation of Nova Luna, came Niger Pools Football club in 1969. It was formed by the Niger Pools company.

It later metamorphosed into Strangers Football Club in 1969 which was formed by former players of Niger Pools F.C. Strangers Football club was then captained by Olayinka John( Ayogi) who died on the 7th of January 2010 after a protracted illness. The club existed for two and a half years.

In 1971, Ethiope F.C Sapele was formed and it gained prominence due to the caliber of players in its fold then. When it was rumored that the club will be leaving Sapele for a new base, the then Governor of Bendel State- Osaigbovo Ogbemudia took over the affairs of the club and re-named it New Nigeria Bank F.C, with its base in Sapele.

There were four State club in the then Bendel State

Ethiope Football Club (Later re-named New Nigeria Bank F.C Sapele)

Viper F.C Benin (Later re-named Bendel Insurance of Benin)

Ika Rangers F.C Agbor (Later re-named Midwest Line F.C)

Warri Wolves F.C Warri (Later re-named Midwest Line F.Cz)

These four clubs were later handed over to various companies by the then Bendel State Government.

In 1971/72, there was the eleven brothers F.C and Eleven Strikers F.C both based in Sapele.

Late Olayinka John (Ayogi) was the then coach of eleven brothers. The club produced the likes of German Odjegbe who was the then captain of Bendel U-17 football team that won Gold medal at the 1973 National Sports Festival. The club also produced Prince Afejukwu, Oshoff Shogbene, goalkeeper Nasiru Momoh, Samuel Afejukwu and Ighoraye Ogayone. Eleven Strikers F.C were then captained by Monday Daibo and the team had the likes of Andrew Boyo.

In 1973, Ethiope F.C later re-named New Nigeria Bank F.C left Sapele and in 1974, the team was then known as Custom and Exercise F.C. A bulk of players from Strangers F.C Sapele formed the Custom F.C which was then under the Custom and Exercise Department.

The team was then captained by inspirational defender Gabriel Igarri from 1975 to 1983. Within this period under review, there were other teams that sprang up in the Sapele metropolis. These include: Government Coastal Agency F.C – Founded in 1976, Seaboard F.C (Comprising Delta Packaging company, Life Flour Mills and Top feeds)- founded in 1977 and Palm Line Agency F.C- Founded in 1977. From these three teams, a joint team to represent Sapele was formed. It was then called Urhiapele F.C. Urhiapele F.C was founded in the 1985/1986 season. The club did not however last long due to administrative problems. They only played one friendly match against the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Football Club Warri.

There was also the Rainbow Football club which came into existence in 1980. The club which was then playing in the State League/ State Challenge Cup was sponsored by Chief Michael Ibru. One notable player that came out of the ranks of Rainbow F.C was Goalkeeper Andrew Aikhomogbe who later rose to prominence and represented the U-17 National team the Golden Eaglets at the FIFA U-17 Championship tagged Scotland 89.

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