How has the preparations for the 2021/2022 season been, especially on the backdrop of the achievements of last season?
Our preparation kick started for almost a month now. We started with the players that were retained, and the players that were invited by the technical crew. We are presently in Ijebu-Ode for Governor Dapo Abiodun Pre-Season tournament. We also hope to participate in the Ogunjobi Gold Cup tournament, and maybe the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa Cup or the Ottassolo tournament. We have new players in the team, and we want to give them enough challenge to blend well with the team.
We prepared very well, and that’s what gave us good results last season.
Talking about the new players, what was the selection process?
The selection process….. I think this question has to go to the technical crew. We don’t interfere in their job. We only supervise whatever they are doing. And as we all know, the game is an open game. If a player is good, we will all see it. We have to supervise, because we are shouldering the work load of the team as the managers.
We always believe that whatever the coaches bring to our table, we scrutinize and filter, to ensure whoever they are bringing in can help the team. We always want selections to be done on merit. We want to achieve with this team, and because of that, we always want the best.
Kwara United FC’s friendly match with Koller FC was disrupted last week by some miscreats. How would you describe the ugly situation?
It’s quite unfortunate. In a professional football club like this, let’s put sentiment apart, it’s not possible to force players on coaches. If you do, you can’t get the desired result. We need to educate ourselves. Football is business, and if you want to achieve, you need to put sentiments aside, select players that can give you results. This is not a mushroom club, but a professional outfit.
But, that will not make us to lose focus. We will not be carried away by the distraction. It’s obvious they are being sponsored. Why must you insist you must be signed by Kwara United FC? I worked in other states before coming down to Kwara state. Like Rivers United FC, where they are more aggressive followers of the game. I was the General Coordinator of the team, and I was not embarrassed or harassed the way I was harassed here. We came back home to develop our state and this is what we get. Football is a practical thing. Nobody can force themselves into Kwara United. If you don’t merit it, you don’t merit it.
How many players do we have Kwara United FC signed for the forthcoming season?
So far, we have about 35 registered players, and we have three U-17 players in the team.
Our youth development system is also fantastic. We have a player in the U-17 team. The young have enough courage because they play with the main team. In Europe, some notable players started playing for their senior national team at 17.
We have players in the U-17, U-20, and Super Eagles Team B. When you have good players, the national team coaches will obviously be attracted to your team. That’s why we are clamouring to always have the best legs to represent Kwara United. Four of our players were recently invited to Eagles Team B, Captain Chris Nwaeze, Stephen Jude, Afeez Nosir and Murtala Lawal. That’s a big achievement for us. In the U-20, Ejeh Isaiah, Olawale Farayola and Chris Nwaeze were part of the team. We can still have more.
It’s very unfortunate that Kwara United missed the continental cut. What’s the target for the forthcoming season?
When you finish third yesterday, today, you will want to finish first. This is part of the reasons why we want the best players here. For me, if anybody ask me, apart from the kangaroo decision that denied us our rightful place last season, we finished 3rd, and we are supposed to represent the country in the continent. We came third on merit, not through boardroom points. Football matches should not be won at the offices but on the pitch of play. This season, God’s willing; we are targeting the top position.
From a 2-0 win against Plateau in Jos, to 3-0 win at home against Katsina United in the last match of the season, how challenging was the season?
We were determined. And we had additional motivation and determination for the season after beating Plateau United in Jos in the very first match of the season. And again, we strived as a management, to pay the players and officials their salaries and bonuses as at when due. Not that the money is there, but that sacrifice was to sustain that momentum. We hope to do more this season.
Again, we paid our players salaries even during Covid-19 period, when there was no league action at all. If you get reward for service delivered, that will encourage you to do more. I will want to thank Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for giving us that opportunity.
And then too, we were able, from the money, secure permanent ownership of our players. Now we have our own players, and we are in real business. We are using tax payers’ money to run this team, and we must ensure the money we get goes to the appropriate quarters, in the running of the club.
There are allegations that it’s because some of you on board are benefiting from the non-indigenous players that’s why you look away from indigenous players. What’s your reaction to this?
Laughs….. This country…..because Ilorin itself is a country. I am from Kwara state. My dad is a son to Kamaldeen Al-Adabiy (RFA). I marred from Ilorin. How can someone sit down somewhere, and speak that way. Very funny.
Enyimba is paying up to N1m to players, Rivers up to 1.1m, Plateau 750 to 800,000, even Nasarawa is paying up to 500,000 now Abia Warriors 600,000. Then you pay your players 200,000 – 300,000 and you still go back to take from it? They don’t really know what they wanted. They started by saying they want 90% of indigenous players, later, they changed it by saying they are fighting for Kwara. If you want to fight for Kwara, let the whole zones come out and fight.
We have Kwara Cental, South and North. We are a rule in the team. We don’t take kickback, and anybody caught in the act will go. We have been using our personal money sometimes to motivate the players, just to encourage them. Then some people somewhere will come out and vomit this type of sentiment.
When people say we don’t have indigenous players in the team, it makes me cry inside me, as if I am from a different state, or our Chairman, Kumbi Titiloye is not a Kwaran, as for the other board members. We have 35 registered players in the team, the indigenous players are 11.
They are Issaa Magaji Sulaiman Zubair, Issa Gata,Musa Abdulafeez, Abdullateef Ishola, Sulaiman Mojeed, AbdulSalam AbdulSalam, Shola AbdulRaheem, Muritala Lateef, Yusuph Shina Ibrahim, Saka Habeeb and Abayomi Taofeek Adeshina
We still have about five home grown players – They were born and bred in Kwara. They are Joshua Agboola, Ayodeji Bamidele, Dele Aiyenugba, Kabir Balogun and John Emmanuel. Minus this list from 35.
Those agitating to be in the team, if they are good enough, we will be proud to have them in the team. We have 10 youth players that we are sponsoring at the Kwara Football Academy. It’s a systematic indigenization of the team.
We inherited a team that has only three indigenous players, Abdullateef Ishola, Issa Mogaji and Akeem Onigari, who was the Captain. All the players, there is no player from Irra, where I come from, or from Oro, where the Chairman comes from. Football is one language. Kwara is Kwara. Majority of them are from the Central.
Your advice to Supporters, Fans and the stakeholders based on target set?
I will want to thank the Supporters Club, the Fans Club, as well as some notable stakeholders, for their support and words of advice. They need to keepsupporting us. Our relationship with them is very cordial. They should not allow distraction. They need to educate our people about the team.
You have been in football for long. You played the game, and now, you are managing it. If you are not in football, what would have been in life?
I would have been an Uztaz, because I am a Mallam. I was born into Qur’an, and I will die inside Qur’an. After my football management career, I will go back to my Islamic School, madrasat, by the grace of Almighty Allah. Football is just by the way side. I will go back to be an Islamic scholarship.