FEATURE: Olakunle Olusegun: From Police Barracks field to stardom

Far back in the 70s, A’ Division Police Barracks, Ilorin served as the make-shift stadium for Kwara state. That was before the construction of the Kwara State Stadium Complex, Ilorin, in 1977. The ground hosted big games then, and some of the matches and notable players that participated in those matches are up till today, reference points in football circle in and around the state.

That was the pitch where Olakunle Olusegun began his career, with Arsenal Kiddies Football Academy, introduced and being managed by Soni Ahamioje.

Because of the abundant talents that exist at the grassroots, Arsenal Kiddies Football Academy was established twenty years ago at A-Division Barracks, with talented Police children forming majority of the players.

He began at age six, and rose to fill a huge gap in youth football in the state, participating in virtually all the age grade competitions, enough to prepare him for bigger occasions, from where he rose to play in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) at the age of 17, and also, the national U-17 team, Golden Eaglets.

He played in the African U-17 qualifiers and the World Cup in Brazil.

Olakunle Olusegun hails from Ekan-meje, in Oke-Ero Local Government Area of Kwara state. His father, Mr. Olusegun Alayode is a Police Inspector, while his mother is a petty trader. And his background, may have prepared him well for a hard life. Apart from playing football, Olakunle learned carpentry; he is a cobbler and a poultry farmer. He started playing football at a very young age, and by the time he was six, he has joined the famous Arsenal Kiddies Football Acadeny.

He attended Bishop Smith Memorial Primary School, Olumawu Secondary School and CAC Secondary School. He joined Kwara Football Academy from Arsenal Kiddies in 2014. He spent only a year in the institution that combines the teachings of football and education, and left because he cannot cope with the new school fees regime introduced then.

He went back to Arsenal Kiddies in 2015. Among the honours he won are Commissioner of Police U-13 competition gold as Captain, YSFON U-13 Oba of Benin Cup, also with the team he captained, and the Etisalat U-15 Kwara team, which he leads to win gold as Captain. Also in 2014, Olakunle Captained Nigerian team for the Milo U-13 in Lagos. The team defeated Ghana to win gold.

Olakunle later joined Abubakar Bukola Saraki U-15 team, and led the team to win the NPFL/LaLiga U-15 Promises competition in 2017. Olakunle was Captain of the Abubakar Bukola Saraki (ABS FC) Ilorin Football Club U-15 that won the LaLiga U-15 Promises championship, a competition that involved all the U-15 teams of all the NPFL clubs in 2017. He was picked as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament, after leading the team to victory, as they beat Katsina United 3-1 in the final.

Olakunle, because of his performance, as well as the request by LMC that he be registered for the league, was brought to the mainstream, and registered for the NPFL by ABS FC. Olakunle is a complete footballer, a gentleman, a born leader and a hard-working Entrepreneur.

TheABS Ilorin FC forward joined Boldklubben Fremad Amager, a Danish professional football club based in the district of Amager Vest, Copenhagen, in an undisclosed fee in a long term contract, last month.

He scored three goals in his debut game for Fremad Amager, and also came off the bench at Sundby Idrætspark, København in the 46th minute and scored his first goal in the 78th minute for his side’s fifth goal of the game.

Olakunle scored two goals in their 6-0 win over Vendsyssel.

The striker completed his brace in the 88th minute to enable him to score five goals in his first two games for Fremad Amager after grabbing a hat trick in their 1-3 win over B 1908 in the Danish Landspokal Cup.

He was on song again, in the 88th minute on Wednesday as they beat Holbaek 3-0 away in the Danish Cup to take his tally to six goals and four assists across all competitions.

He stressed that his Danish club has motivated him to score more goals.

The attacker said he would continue to offer his best to the club while adding that the special bonus entrenched in his contract would motivate him to beat the 15 goals mark set by the club.

“I give glory to God Almighty with my five goals in two matches. Actually I wasn’t expecting it but I knew I could do it because every time before going to the pitch, I always believe, coupled with the right mindset I must give my best,” Olakunle said.

“It’s the first big opportunity for me, and a chance I’m been looking forward to. My goal was to perform as well as possible, and get better for each match.

I am very proud to have signed my first contract abroad and it is an exciting step towards my goals for the future.

“When I was included in Nigeria’s U-17 national team, I was hoping to get my first contract abroad. Now that the shift is in place, I can focus on my development.

“I was included in trial training several times in February in Turkey at the training camp with Fremad Amager, and was able to show myself there.

“I already know several of the players, and in addition I have almost just met them all in Turkey. I have talked a lot with Sodiq and Sammy, and they have prepared me for life in Denmark.

“Both the country and the club seem like a perfect solution to me and therefore it was an easy choice.

ABS Director of Football, Alloy Chukwuemeka expressed delighted to see that Olusegun is progressing very well and that the club is happy to be part of this.

“At ABS FC, our objectives are always the same, to discover, train and nurture to stardom.

“We still have plenty of Oluseguns in ABS FC, but everyone will shine at their own time”, Chukwuemeka said.

Chukwuemeka confirmed that the player had been sent to FDC Vista of Russia since 2019 before his move to Fremad Amager.

Chukwuemeka said that the ideology and philosophy of the team has helped many players to stardom.

The Director of Football, who is also the Secretary, Premier League Club Owners Association of Nigeria disclosed that the mandate given to ABS FC management by the club’s Proprietor, former Governor of Kwara State and former Senate President, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki is to provide a platform for young talents to flourish and make the team one of the best in the country.

“I can tell you confidently that we have developed about 70% of professional players in Kwara today, that is why you can always see one or two ABS FC product in all professional clubs across the country at all levels,” he noted.

He further stated that the club’ strong football structure, which supports players development has manifested in the recent achievement of Olakunle.

His father, Mr Olusegun Alayode said that he is fully in support of his son’s career, because it came from his mind to play football.

‘I studied him, and I saw it in him that he really loves the game. And when the coach came calling, I gave him the support to train my son.

‘Anytime they want to travel, especially outside the state, the Coach will write us, and we will give him go ahead.

‘My own father was a player. He was named Apollo 11. He played for the defunct Tate & Lyle. I also played football at the secondary school level.

Olakunle also has two siblings who are also playing the game. They are Victor and Ebenezer Olusegun. They are presently with Arsenal Kiddies Academy.

The Founder of the Academy, Soni Ahamioje said that the idea to form Arsenal Kiddies Football Academy was borne out of love and respect for Coach Arsene Wenger, the former Manager of Arsenal FC of London. ‘This is a man that loves youths football and always ready to take risk with young talented players especially black players’.

According to Ahamioje, ‘based on his philosophy of youth football, I decided to emulate him and follow his footsteps. It wasn’t easy at the beginning because I never had any football coaching experience and also because of my excellent educational performances in School, I was not allowed to pursue professional football as a career by parents who were addicted to education of their children.

‘I took the bull by the horns, despite the difficult challenges, and created a grassroots kiddies football brand that people have come to cherish and emulate. My greatest joy today is; what I started twenty years ago, has blossomed to be worthy of emulation.

‘I am particularly happy with level of engagement by my grassroots coaches and children in the areas. Almost all streets in Ilorin and its environs now have a kiddies’ football team.

‘My philosophy is to combine quality education with football and to discover talents at early age and nurture them to stardom. I am grateful to God for his blessings and Kindness. I give Almighty God all the glory for what I have been able to achieve with my Arsenal Kiddies Football Academy, Ilorin.

‘Also I must put on record the support and encouragement given to me by the government and the good people of Kwara State. I must not forget the Kwara YSFON who gave us the platform to showcase our young talents at the various national competitions that we participated. ‘Equally, I am grateful to Igbo Traders Football Association (ITFA) for always giving us the opportunity to play inside the Main-Bowl of the Kwara State Stadium Complex at half time, and that endeared us to Kwara soccer fans.

‘What can I say about Abubakar Bukola Saraki Football Club (ABS FC) and Kwara United FC that created the platform for most of my boys to participate in the NFF/LaLiga U-15 Promises, where most of the talents were invited to the national U-17 team trials.

‘To God be the glory, we now have boys in both ABS FC and Kwara United FC who are now waiting for the football season to resume. The journey has not been easy. It has taken a toll on my finances and health but God is in control.

‘More than 500 Kwara youths have passed through my Football tutelage and soccer college and many more are still coming. To the glory of God, our young prodigy, Olakunle Olusegun played for Nigeria in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil after been signed by ABS FC.

‘With the dexterity of ABS FC in the management of talented players, Olakunle Olusegun signed his first professional contract abroad in September this year with Fremad Amager of Denmark. This is a major milestone and breakthrough for me as a grassroots football developer.

‘The achievement of Olakunle Olusegun has further galvanized me to do more in grassroots football development. From a humble beginning using bamboo sticks as goal posts in 2000 at A-Division field to producing a prodigy who represented Nigeria in the World Cup and now playing professional football in Europe, I am humbled with the abundant blessings of God and I will continue to worship the Almighty God till the end.

‘Our vision is to discover young talents, nurture and develop them into future stars while at the same time encouraging them to go to school to get quality education.

‘In fact, as a grassroots football academy, we don’t take any child who’s not in school. Any talented child that doesn’t have the opportunity to come to us that is not in school, I usually give the child scholarship and get the child immediately enrolled in a school. We are grateful to Focal Point school for all their educational support. ‘I am grateful to the Kwara chapter of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) and the Kwara State Police Command for their love for Arsenal kiddies football Academy. The members of A-Division Barracks family who are where most of my players are from, may God continue to bless you all’, he concluded.

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