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Ex-Nigeria star Sunday Abe sets CAF Champions League and NPFL targets with Sunshine Stars

Sunday Abe outlines Sunshine Stars' ambitious plans to win the Nigeria Professional Football League and bring CAF Champions League action back to Akure, following a challenging season that ended with a narrow escape from relegation.

Shina Oludare
Shina Oludare

Last Updated: 2024-06-27

Louis Hobbs

6 minutes read

Sunday Abe: I came close to signing for Real Madrid in 2008 -

Sunday Abe has set forth ambitious plans for Sunshine Stars, aiming to win the Nigeria Professional Football League and bring CAF Champions League action back to Akure. 

Avoiding Relegation

The Owena Whales endured a tough 2023-24 season, battling relegation for a significant part of the year, which prompted the club to replace coach Edith Agoye with two-time league winner Kennedy Boboye.

Despite a 2-1 loss to Niger Tornadoes on the final day, the Akure-based team retained their topflight status and secured a 10th-place finish with 58 points from 38 league matches.

While celebrating Sunshine's escape from relegation, the former Nigeria youth international praised the club's progress and expressed his team's determination to compete and succeed in every competition during the 2024-25 season. 

Image Credits: Goal.com

Image Credits: Goal.com

Staying Positive Amidst Adversity

"We're relieved to have avoided relegation; some say it was a narrow escape, but I believe it's a result of our hard work. Despite our challenges throughout the season, we managed to finish in the top 10," Abe told SportsBoom.com.

"We began the season with lofty ambitions, but our momentum faltered as it progressed. The tragic loss of our kit manager, who was killed by gunmen in an ambush enroute to a league match, deeply affected us psychologically.”

"Another setback we faced was losing key players to other teams. While the club management signed new players as replacements, it took them months to fully adjust.”

"We are now looking very formidable and aim to achieve our objective of becoming league champions as well as return to the CAF Champions League. It won't be easy, but it is certainly achievable."

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Had he been in charge from the start of the season, perhaps we would be discussing our chances of winning the league by now, or at the very least securing a spot to represent Nigeria in either the CAF Champions League or the CAF Confederation Cup.

Sunday Abe

Coach Boboye Made Immediate Impact on Sunshine Stars

Under Coach Agoye's leadership, Sunshine Stars seemed destined for relegation, having accumulated just 22 points from 19 matches.

However, the return of coach Boboye, who won the league with Plateau United and Akwa United, stabilized the Ondo-star team, allowing them to avoid relegation.

Impressively, they secured five wins and one draw in their last seven matches and Abe raves about his influence: “Appointing [Kennedy] Boboye was immensely beneficial, as he returned to a familiar environment. His presence inspired unity and rejuvenated our fighting spirit, while his effective tactics delivered the results we needed.”

“Besides coaching, he assumed a fatherly role, articulating his vision clearly. Under his guidance, we became better organized and harder to penetrate defensively.”

Oboabona and Adeniji's Experience Comes to the Fore

Following nomadic careers abroad, Godfrey Oboabona and Tunde Adeniji returned to their boyhood club to bolster its flagging fortunes.

Before contributing to Nigeria’s triumph at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations under coach Stephen Keshi, Oboabona played a prominent role in Sunshine Star’s finish in the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League in 2012.

In 2016, Adeniji signed a three-year contract with Bulgarian club Levski Sofia after a successful season with an NPFL side during the 2014-15 campaign.

Abe added: “When Adeniji and Oboabona were signed by Sunshine Stars, eyebrows were raised, and the technical crew faced criticism for their decision. However, they ultimately demonstrated that experience is invaluable and cannot simply be bought with money.

“It was a great honour to have these legends return to their boyhood club and contribute. Whether they were on the field or not, they were always there, motivating the team to perform at their best.”

“It would be unjust not to recognize the contributions of our beloved fans and the club management; they all played their roles admirably. We look forward to their continued support and momentum next season.”

“Now, we will take a break to reunite with our families. When we return, we will start preparing for the 2024-2025 campaign, which holds great promise.”

While Sunshine Stars will remain in Nigeria’s elite division, Doma United, Sporting Lagos, Heartland and Gombe United will continue life in the Nigeria National League.

Shina Oludare
Shina OludareSports Writer

Shina Oludare is a notable Nigerian sports journalist and writer recognized for his extensive coverage of African sports. He has made significant contributions to the field through his work with reputable media outlets such as Goal.com and Soccernet. Known for his insightful analysis and comprehensive reporting, Oludare covers a wide range of topics within African football, including domestic leagues, national teams, and emerging talents. His work includes detailed player profiles, match previews and reviews, and transfer news, providing valuable insights into the intricacies of the sport on the continent.