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Football | Nigeria

Mighty Jets prepare comeback



“You can change your wife, change your political affiliation, change your religion. But never, ever can you change your favourite football team!” This memorable line, taken from Ken Loach’s comedy-drama film: "Looking for Eric," during which the central character idolises French legend, Eric Cantona, is an appropriate summary of the relationship that every supporter enjoys with his chosen side.

Supporting a football club is an activity that lasts for a life, and for some passionate individuals, it is a life in which practically everything revolves around following their heroes.

Ask fans of Mighty Jets and you’ll understand why the club is special despite their challenges.

You can't be counted amongst the best if you don't play for Jets, fondly called Jirgi.

The club may not be where they belong, but the soul of the team remain intact thanks to the efforts of their policy makers like Alhaji Aliyu Promoter, Ismaila Mabo and club chairman, Godfrey Hamza amongst others.

Believe it or not. Mighty Jets won Nigeria’s inaugural league in 1972 and represented the country in the defunct African Champions Club Cup (now Caf Champions League) in 1973.

Jets even travelled to the defunct Soviet Union and played a friendly match against Russian outfit, Lokomotiv Moscow.

As a founding member of the Nigerian league in 1972, Jets (formed by the merger of two Jos sides Federal United and Republicans) turned out to be one of the best teams.

According to the February 1973 edition of defunct Soccer Sun magazine, financial support from a Lagos-based businessman, Mallam Isyaku Ibrahim, ensured the club entered the history books as the first league side to have a foreign gaffer.

Before Ibrahim, Jets had turned down the request of a Jos industrialist, who promised financial support on condition that the club took his factory name.

Ibrahim accepted to be Patron and insisted that the name be retained.

And so, with support from Ibrahim, Jets were able to contract a Brazilian coach, Samuel Lopez, who ensured the club played a brand of exciting football.

After winning the league title, Jets narrowly lost the defunct Challenge Cup (now Federation Cup) to rivals, Bendel Insurance in 1972 and also lost the 1974 finals to Enugu Rangers.

The team contributed top stars like Ismaila Mabo, Sule Kekere, Sam Okoye and Layiwola Olagbemiro amongst others to the national team.

The Atuegbu brothers: Matthew, Nicolas, Andrew and Alloysius also played for Jets and former Flying Eagles' captain, Ali Jeje remains a club legend.

Fast forward to the present day, 40 years gone by after their only domestic title, the club are still searching for a second silverware. Jets have since lost their might.

Today, the club could be likened to Nottingham Forest in England. The only consistent feature of the club remains their transformation to a yo-yo team.

Jets recently regained their professional status after spending yet another season with the amateurs. The title barrenness has seen many bemoan the state of affairs of the club and as a result suggesting several ways to mitigating the rot.

Since the old professional league was reconfigured, Jets haven’t done well. In 2004, Jets made their debut in the Nigeria Premier League, but lost their top flight status again.

Today, if you asked a young child about Mighty Jets, they couldn’t describe any of the heritage that made this club famous.

Fresh ambition

Away from their historical records, there is a fresh attempt to reposition the club having returned to the professional cadre.

Hamza stated that the club’s Board of Patrons/Trustees and Management Team are working hard to achieve a turnaround.

“Our target is to make a bold challenge for promotion. We also want to get back to the Premier League and set up a reserve team,” club supremo, Hamza told supersport.com.

Interestingly, Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang, believes in the Jets project as a means of empowering the youths of the state and Hamza is excited with the commitment of the state government.

“We’re indebted to Governor Jang who wants the club to bounce back to its glory days. Governor Jang has done a lot for Jets this year,” he said to supersport.com.

To achieve this objective, former league top scorer, Ishaya Jatau, has since been contracted as head coach.

The former league top scorer is confident of reviving the club he played for in 1988.

“It’s good to be back with Jets,” Jatau told supersport.com.

Jets still remain a team that unearths top talents. In recent times, stars like Ajibade Omolade, Edward Weng, Chinedu Efugh, Ebele Obi (Enugu Rangers/Heartland) and Austin Amutu (Warri Wolves) amongst others were plucked from the club by top flight campaigners.

Jos Derby

Football in Jos is incomplete without the derby.

Although, Jets remain the biggest club in Jos, they will have to contend with the trio of Plateau United (formerly called Standard and JIB Rocks), Juth and newly formed Giwa FC

All four might be in the lower class, but you can count on Jos to produce the best Nigerian derby and the Rwang Pam Stadium is the place to be for the derbies.

“For any team to beat Jets, the team will have to play good football. Any team can win the Jos derby now,” he stated.

Change of Name

The club was renamed Nasco Jets for sponsorship reasons when Nasco Group of Companies bought the team and later Highlanders.

However, it eventually reverted to its originally team to maintain the tradition.

Profile

Full name: Mighty Jets Football Club

Nickname: Jirgi (Jets)

Founded: 1969

Ground: Rwang Pam Stadium

Colours: Red-and-Black stripes

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