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Can Mountain of Fire and Miracles Football Club sustain its dominance in Lagos?

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Lagos-based MFM Football Club (FC) on Sunday, May 7, 2017, became the champions of Lagos State Federation Cup (LSFA) for the second consecutive time after defeating Spartan FC 3-1 in a match regarded to as a one sided.

The Olukoya boys as they are fondly called by their fans have been emphatic in their campaign in the LSFA for the past two years with opposing teams not providing stiff competition to their eventually become the champions.

MFM emergence in the football circle in Lagos has been a lot of relief to the Lagos fans who have been previously denied topflight football.

Before the emergence of MFM, notable clubs such as Defunct NEPA, Stationery Stores and Julius Berger had rocked the football circles in Lagos and indeed Nigeria, providing the necessary competition and rivalry to the admiration of Lagos fans.

It is, however, noteworthy that Lagos had previously been the home of football in the past and no state could match its passion when it comes to supporting clubs based in the state.

Lagos being a cosmopolitan city also stands out in terms of facilities for football clubs to excel, especially with its economic and social endowments that catalyses success for any club.

Lagos, the commercial hub of the country, is officially the most populated state after Kano and it boasts of four readily available stadia and unquantifiable opportunities for clubs.

So, for Lagos, it is a record of topflight football artistry from elite clubs such as Stationary Stores founded in 1958 and Julius Berger founded in 1970. Both clubs had rich history in Nigerian football.

In the football annals of Lagos, Stores, had produced footballers that have donned the colours of the country like Ike Shorunmu, a one-time Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Teslim Fatusi, the late Peter Fregene and Mohammed Lawal among others.

Stores, won the premier league in 1992, won Lagos Challenge Cup 13 times, now LSFA, won FA Cup four times in 1967, 1968, 1982, 1990, and were runners up in African Cup Winners in 1981.

For yet another club, Julius Berger it had produced notable national players like Sunday Oliseh, Samson Siasia, Taribo West, Emmanuel Amuneke, the late Rashidi Yekini, Mutiu Adepoju and Garba Lawal among others.

Berger was champions of the premier league twice, 1991 and 2000 and won the FA Cup in 1996 and 2002 and was finalists in the CAF Cup Winners Cup 1995 and 2003.

Such were the rich history of football in Lagos before the 15 years of inactivity, and then emerged MFM and Ikorodu United to the limelight when they gained promotion in 2015, bringing a ray of hope to Lagos fans.

MFM and Ikorodu United enjoyed the utmost support of Lagos fans; Ikorodu United, however, failed to sustain the momentum in the first season at the topflight football in Nigeria professional Football League (NPFL) as they were demoted to the lower league.

Following the examples set by NEPA, Stationery Stores and Berger, as it concerns their footballers invited to Eagles Camp, MFM also had it good when Super Eagles gaffer, Genrt Rohr, invited Stephen Odey and Sikiru Olutunbosun to camp.

Such is the in-depth technicality of MFM in bringing succour to the previously denied Lagos footballers in the Super Eagles.

It is a fact that MFM in about two years now have been dominating the football space in Lagos by winning the LSFA back to back and the club still looks unchallenged in future matches.

En route becoming 2017 LSFA champions, MFM started their campaign from the round of 16 where they defeated Team 360 4-1 with goals from Steven Odey, Sikiru Olatunbosun, Adekunle Adegboyega and Stanley Okom in 20th, 52nd , 60th and 71st minutes.

Team 360 got their consolatory goal from the penalty spot through Rahaman Wasiu after one of MFM players handled the ball in the 18 yard box.

MFM also defeated Anointed Stars 2-1 in the round of 16 through a brace from Stanley Okorom.

In the quarter-finals MFM walloped former rival in the NPFL, Ikorodu United 4-1 with goals from Sikiru Olatunbosun, Chidi Akuneto’s brace and Adekunle Adegoyega. Ikorodu United’s goal came from Bashir Bamgbopa.

For the semi-finals, MFM were stretched against much determined Freestan FC who were out to cause an upset before the Church boys dispatched them through penalty kicks after the regulation time ended 2-2.

Playing in the final for the second successive time, the Fidelis Ilechukwu-tutored side showed enough experience as they played one of the underdogs of the tournament.

The Church boys, however, defeated Spartan FC 3-1 with goals from Chukwuma Onuwa in the 11th, Stanley Okorom in the 70th and Sikiru Olatunbosun in the 83rd minutes.

Spartan FC got their goal through Suleiman Oyedele in the 24th minute.

On the MFM back to back victory, some soccer pundits, including the club management are predicting an era of dominance by MFM FC in Lagos football.

The Media Officer of MFM, Olawale Quadri, said that there were plans to further fortify the team to enable them stamp their authority in the football circles in Lagos State.

“We can actually confirm that we may see an era of dominance by MFM in Lagos football. We have what it takes to build a strong team capable of beating any club in Lagos.

“MFM will definitely do that to maintain its status as the number one club in Lagos though we have something to do to keep up that level we have created.

“We have to look for a strong team because most of the games are played on the pitch. If we don’t have a strong team definitely we will come down the ladder.

“Aside building a strong team, we also want to work on our support base. That is forming a virile supporters club that will keep up our level,’’ he said.

Speaking on the triumphant LSFA Cup finish, an obviously ecstatic Chairman of MFM, Emmanuel Adeyemi, expressed gratitude to the General Overseer and Proprietor of the club, Dr Daniel Olukoya, for his support toward the team.

“The General has been of tremendous support to the team; he has always given us the needed resources, support and enabling environment to excel.

“I really want to thank him for all he has done for us. I will like to implore the players and officials to replicate the performance at the national level and also to remain focused as we prepare for the second stanza of the NPFL,’’ he said.

MFM player Stanley Okorom said his team was ready for any rivalry in Lagos provided by any football team.

“We are number one in Lagos and we are ready for any challenge from any team if there is any. For now, it is MFM and others.

“We are happy to have successfully defended the cup we won last year and we hope to win more in Lagos.

“We can provide the excitement the Lagos fans want and that is the reason most fans in Lagos are supporting us and we will not let them down.

“We also want to have a better campaign in the Federation Cup as against what we did last year,’’ he said.

A football pundit, Rotimi Arabi, said MFM may dominate football in Lagos for the mean time because of lack of viable opposition.

“I have not seen much opposition for MFM in Lagos in recent times. Most of their matches are like walkover. Although it may not be that good, but for now, they are on top.

“We have seen the era of Stores and Julius Berger, but it is now MFM in the driving seat and I hope they will sustain the momentum for long.

“The club is well organised and well-funded which accounts for their successes. If the players’ welfare is adequately taken care of, then the club owners should expect better performance.

“If the club can build on its past record, they may dominate the football in Lagos for years to come,’’ Arabi said.

Another soccer buff, Tomiwa Babalola, said that though football was not mathematics, any team from Lagos that would beat MFM would be considered an upset.

“Honestly, football is not mathematics, but any team that will beat MFM now in Lagos will be considered an upset. Although it is possible, it will definitely fall under the radar of upsetting MFM.

“I think it is no more news that MFM has come to stay in Lagos football. It shows how well they have bounced back from last year’s disappointment.

“I think they have paid their price and they are still learning. It will be little by little but now that they have won the LSFA back to back, they are now a force to reckon with.

“Another thing that has worked for them is the support from the Lagos fans. The fans are always cheering the team,’’ he said.

Babalola said with persistence, in no distant time, MFM will join the ranks of Stores and Berger in terms of medals won in competitions.

“I believe with time, MFM will be in the ranks of notable clubs in Lagos if they keep on the winning tempo. I believe they can also be in the continent this season.

“Their current place in the NPFL is a surprise to many for now, second season in the league and sitting at top the log is a cheery achievement.

“I am tipping them to reach the height Stores reached before their demotion,’’ he said.

One question that remains is: “For how long will the club sustain its grip on Lagos football?’’ Time will tell. (NANFEATURES)

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