Yusuf Abdullahi Adekunle is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a Sports Management Company, AbraySports International, and founder of AbraySports Football Club. The players’ Manager spoke to newsmen on his mission and ambition in football.
Who is Yusuf Abdullahi Adekunle?
My name is Yusuf Abdullahi Adekunle. I am from Offa, in Offa Local Government Area of Kwara state. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AbraySports International, and founder of AbraySprts Football Club of Lagos, and now of Ilorin.
I attended Baptist Primary School, Surulere, Ilorin for my primary school education. I went to Government Secondary School, Ilorin for my Junior Secondary education, and University of Ilorin Secondary School for the Senior Secondary School education. I did Accounting at Kwara State Polytechnic, and served here in Nigeria before traveling abroad.
When did you form AbraySports Football Club?
The club was formed in 2015 in Lagos. We have played numerous competitions. We started with the FA Cup, and then, the State League. We started playing in the Amateur league in 2017. This year will be our third campaign in the NLO, and we will be competing from Kwara state, having relocated the team to this state.
What really motivated you going into the management of football?
I have always wanted to give back to the society. I played the game, and while I was playing, I did not have this type of opportunity that I have now. I want to get youth off the street and also bring those that are talented up to the top level. And that’s why I am fully focusing on grassroots football. Grassroots football is the bedrock of football development anywhere. That’s where the top teams get players from. And that’s why I formed AbraySports Football Club.
You mentioned that you played the game, where, and to what extent?
Yes, I did. I started from the U-13. I played for Kwara state. I also played U-16 competitions. I graduated into playing for the defunct Pako FC of Ilorin, Kwara Stars Football Club, also defunct, and Julius Berger of Lagos, before I left for Germany for professional football. While in Germany, I played for FSB Frankfurt and Hoffenberg Kickers, for two seasons each.
Were you fully supported by your parents while playing football?
Initially, no. But after a while, my father found out that I was actually really good, and interested. He had to come to the pitch of play to watch my game, and was surprised I was a good player. So, he started supporting me. I played for Kwara State Polytechnic when in the school, and he came to watch my game. He never knew I could play, but overtime, when he saw I was good as a player, he supported me fully. I was a left footer, and I played virtually all positions in the left.
How would you describe the management of football in Nigeria?
Football is a big money business. It involves a lot of fund, especially for private football club owners. We invest a lot of money. I will always wish for a time that we will have sponsors to reduce the burden on us. We are really committing much into the system.
Why are you relocating to Kwara state from Lagos?
I have always wanted to come home, at least, to contribute my own little quota to the development of the state. After I lost my dad, I said to myself, it’s high time I came back home. And bringing the team here will also broaden football development platforms in the state, and our players here will be engaged.
It’s also a way of complementing the efforts of the state government in youth and sports development. My team is in NLO One, alongside two other clubs in the state from March when the league begins.
Another thing with Ilorin is, it’s quite a peaceful town. The hassle and bustle in Lagos is not here.
Everything is easy here, unlike Lagos where we have so much stress. For instance, securing a pitch to play is not easy in Lagos. Here, I approached the Stadium Manager, and that was it. In Lagos, there is no space to play.
My future ambition is actually to have my own mini stadium, where my team can play, and that is what we have all over Europe. Over there, even teams in fifth and sixth Divisions have their own playing grounds. That’s how to grow football and establish your own brand.
With that, you can also get sponsors easily.
What are the things that have really motivated you since coming back here with the team?
One thing I have actually noticed was that, we have fewer league teams in Ilorin, unlike in Lagos. In Lagos, we had 11 Amateur One teams, and I heard it has increased to 13. So, if my team is still in Lagos, the number would have increased to 14.
Here in Ilorin, we have just two teams, AbraySports Football Club and Gidado FC. OFC just joined us, to make it three.
Again, the atmosphere is right here. Government and the stakeholders know what is required of them, and they are doing it at the right time. The atmosphere is encouraging.
And we have gotten good players from the screenings conducted. I am satisfied with what I have now. I have 31 players, including three goalkeepers.
Again, the Kwara State Football Association has been fantastic. The Chairman, Alhaji Idris Abdullahi Musa has been so accommodating. They have made things easy for us, and they have been supporting us in everything we have been doing.
We are feeling at home here in Ilorin. Funny enough, we have had a lot of friendly matches, and we are gradually becoming part of the system here. We won the Alyuf Salam Rocks memorial competition on Wednesday, at the Main-Bowl, after beating Barrier Football Academy 2-0 in the final. It’s a great feat for us, and a good way to say, we are here for good.
Your brother, Hon. Gbenga JK organised a football competition in Offa last year. It’s like your family really loved football?
Well, I think you have said it all. We all loved the game. We all played football, but I was the only one that played professional football. I still have two other brothers who played football, apart from Hon. JK.
How would you assess the disposition of Kwara government to sports development?
I am so surprised what the government is doing in terms of youth and sports development. It’s commendable. It goes to show that the government is absolutely interested in youth and sports development. The development and renovation of the sporting infrastructure is also commendable. The stakeholders too are seriously complementing what the government is doing in terms of organising competitions to keep the players busy. The amount of tournaments I have witnessed since coming back to Ilorin is commendable. The atmosphere is great. We have different competitions for all categories of players. This is really good for the youth.
Are you thinking of going into politics, like your brother?
No. Not at all. Politics is not for me. I will never go into politics. Everybody has his own passion. My brother, Hon Gbenga had always wanted to go into politics from his youthful days. He is achieving his dreams. Football is what I like. It’s what I am comfortable with. I sleep, eat, drink, talk and do everything football. I love football.