Coach Jimoh Yinusa Kehinde is currently the Administrator of Kwara Football Academy. He spoke to Jimoh Bashir on the challenges of running the institution and other related issues. Excerpts:
When exactly did you resume here as the Administrator, and what are the major achievements so far?
I resumed on June 2nd, 2017. We give glory to God Almighty. New intakes were just coming in when I resumed then. I came up with the idea of picking those that will represent the interest of the Academy in terms of playing abilities. We gave scholarship to 20 of them. We gave them admission in line with the philosophy of the founding fathers of the institution, that they be given free accommodation, free feeding and also free training.
We have fully exposed these players, and two of them have had international trial invites, while others are playing in the local league.
The major challenge of the Academy is funding. Before I came in, better still, during the days of Clemens Westerhof as the Administrator, the Academy do get running costs, but now, government wants us to look inwards, and ensure that the Academy sustains itself. We have been managing what we have, but we still appeal to the government to come to our aid.
What categories do you have in the Academy now?
In the secondary school, we have three categories; those in Red; those in Blue; and those in Yellow. This means that we have the junior players, who are the Red class, the intermediate players, who are in Blue, and those in Yellow, who are the senior players. We have few of the senior players in the classrooms. Those who are in school and those who are under-going pure football training are being trained together on the basics of the game. The technical crew members have been doing a wonderful job, and leaving up to the expectations.
We also invest in the upgrading of the knowledge of our coaches, so as to keep abreast of modern coaching methods. The NFF organizes Coaching Clinics, the CAF License Courses every year, and our coaches do attend. Two of our Curators also attended, and they are now trained coaches. We want to believe that everybody that has anything to do with football, especially here, must have the knowledge of coaching.
You were not actually expecting this type of appointment when it came. But when you got it, did you set yourself a target?
Thank you. The appointment truly came as a surprise, because Kwara Football Academy was not in the main frame of civil service. But the challenges it posed to the government occasioned it. The Academy was then being managed by Harmony Holdings. You know Harmony Holdings is a pure business oriented entity, and football business in Nigeria has not gone to that level. They were making a lot of demands from the government to keep the place running.
But government does not want to scrap the Academy, because it was founded on good intention, to assist the development of football in Nigeria by the current Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, when he was the Governor of the state.
The challenge of finding a new identity and management regime was handed over to the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development. They needed somebody within the sports circle who can manage it. That was how I got here. And it’s because of the positions I am holding, been the Secretary of the State Football Association, and Secretary to most of the Sports Associations at the Sports Council, and as the Head of Coaching. I am also a Grade One trained coach from the Nigeria Institute for Sports (NIS), among others.
At the interview before I was appointed, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Elder Ayobola Samuel charged me to put in my best, and also ensure my best is good enough for the government. I earlier told them that I will do my best. That statement was a challenge. Putting in my best is not enough, but it must be good enough in line with the government’s expectations. That was why I gave myself the target that if I cannot match the standard already set by Clemens Westerhof, at least I should be closer to it. We have been trying to build on the successes on ground, especially in getting our players into the international footballing market.
Again, some players absconded, and they feel they can cheat the government. We have tracked some of them down, and have gotten money for the government through that. We have been able to get up to N10million. And if the government did not give us that challenge of looking inward, we may not get that. Government’s plan is really yielding results, but we need more support.
What is the relationship between the Academy and league clubs in Nigeria?
It’s wonderful. First, I must commend the Director of Football of Abubakar Bukola Saraki Football Club (ABS FC), Alloy Chukwuemeka. He has the connections, as the Secretary of the Club Owners, and we have been leveraging on that. Also, his Club, ABS FC took five of our players.
And with my personal connections with some of the clubs, many have contacted us, and have also visited the Academy to see and watch our players play. They have picked some…two are in Gombe United as we speak, two in MFM FC, one in Sunshine Stars FC, and Crown FC of Ogbomosho also picked two.
Kwara United FC has just one, and the new Technical Adviser has promised to pick more when the opportunity comes. We still have good players in our fold that teams can come and look at.
Apart from using these clubs to expose your players, what other platforms do you have?
We have partnership with the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON), and Academies all over Nigeria are also playing tournaments at intervals, which we participate in. We have trials at different places in Nigeria. Because the Academy has made a name, Scouts always invite us to bring players for trials. The Academy is on the top of the list of most Scouts in and outside the country.
How do you cope with the management of the secondary school aspect?
Yes, the Secondary School…sports and education goes hand-in-hand. But at times, it’s always difficult for students to manage themselves. But because of the experience we have…for me, it was through God’s intervention and the influence of those before me, the likes of Professor Tayo Talabi and others. They said that it’s not only sports but sports with education, so that at the end of the day, you have something to fall back on. They encouraged me to go to school. It was on the backdrop of that experience that, when I resumed here, I met the Principal, and planned on how all the students must do all classroom routines before coming out to play football. This is because if you leave it to the players, they will prefer been on the field all the time, playing football. But at the end of their career, if the energy is no longer there, what will they fall back on? That has been our campaign, and to God be the glory, the result of the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) for both 2017 and 2018 was good. Our boys came out in flying colours.
How many players do you have abroad?
We have close to 20 players, even though some of them have been there before I came in here.
How about the challenges of maintaining the facilities?
That is another major challenge that needs government’s support. We have facilities that produced world class players. We need to build on that. We are managing what we make from the secondary school, and remember, we cannot charge more than necessary for school fees.
I will at this juncture, appeal to the government to ensure that the intention of the founding fathers on the Academy are sustained.
The stakeholders too, they must support it to continue to produce better players. I want to commend the Chairman of the Coaches Association in the state, Coach Tunde Sanni. He is doing a good job.