INTERVIEW: KFA will continue to produce quality materials for world football market – Bako Ibrahim

He was a teacher, and arguably one of the most successful School Sports Officers in the state.

Mallam Bako Oladele Ibrahim’s association with the round leather game began at a tender age, and he rose to become a grassroots coach, and a teacher, Sports Officer and State Executive member of the Youth Sports Federation on Nigeria (YSFON).

He was Secretary of Kwara United Football Club between 2015 and 2019.

The Masters’ Degree holder in Sports Administration was appointed the Acting Administrator of KFA in August 2021, and seven months after, he spoke to on the challenges and prospects of the institution which combines the teachings of football skills and education.


Kindly introduce yourself sir?

My name is Mallam Bako Oladele Ibrahim. I am from Ilorin West Local Government Area of Kwara State, and born on February 6th, 1967. I attended Ansar-ud-deen Primary School, Jos, Plateau State between 1973 and 1979, and Ballah Community Secondary School between 1980 to 1985. I studied at Kwara State College of Education (1987-1990), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1994-1997) and University of Ilorin (2002-2004).

I was a class teacher, Sports Officer and grassroots coach.

I was Secretary of Kwara United FC, and today, the Acting Administrator of KFA

You were once a teacher, a Sports Officer and YSFON member in the state. How did you come into sports, and how would you describe school sports mentality?

Thank you. I will want to thank the Executive Governor of Kwara state, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for the opportunity given to me to serve as the Acting Administrator of Kwara Football Academy. I also want to thank the Executive Chairman of the Kwara State Sports Commission, Mallam Bola Mogaji for his support, always.

And back to your question. I started with sports at a tender age, and especially with football, like most of the young children in Nigeria. I started playing football even before I entered primary school. My parents bought football for me. I attended Ansar-ud-deen Primary School, Jos, Plateau State between 1973 and 1979, and Ballah Community Secondary School between 1980 to 1985. I was in the school teams at both the Primary and Secondary schools, even up to the higher institution.

As a teacher, I was Sports Officer in all the schools I had taught.  I was Sports Officer for more than 16 years, leading students through various sporting activities and competitions. Today, I can boast that I am one of the most successful Sports Officer in the state, going by the laurels I won, achievements I had, as well as the athletes I discovered.

I am also an Executive member of the Youth Sports Federation of Nigeria (YSFON). As we all know, YSFON is all about youth development through sports. We hunt for talents, groom and nurture them to stardom. My first experience as a coach was in 1989, when we took a team to Ibadan for the Oluyole Cup competition. That was my first experience as a coach. And relating that to what the Kwara Football Academy was established to do, I would say, I am in the right place.

There is no grassroots coach that doesn’t know me in this state. Immediately I assumed office as the Acting Administrator of KFA, they came here to welcome me, and we used the occasion to deliberate on how to work together to move the institution forward.

We have organized competitions among the youth teams around. The plan was to use the platform to get more talented players into the Academy.

Would you say your exploits at the grassroots was considered in appointing you as the Acting Administrator of Kwara Football Academy?

Well… I wouldn’t know, but all I know is, within the limits of my strength and knowledge, I have been able to do justice to sports, especially football development at any given situation and time. I have been able to put all I have into it. It’s God and those that made the appointment that knows the yardstick that was used in arriving at that consideration.

I was appointed on August 26th, 2021, as the 7th Administrator of this Academy. This is my 7th month in the saddle.

Between when you took over a now, how much of a difference have you made as the Acting Administrator?

Let me first of all; commend the efforts of all the former Administrators of the Academy. They all did their best, based on the available support, resources and other things at their disposal as at the time they served. They contributed their own quota to the uplift of the Academy. Before coming to KFA, I had some background information, which is helping me a lot.

As we all know, we have four pitches, and presently, they are well maintained. The pitches are all in good conditions. Its capital intensive maintaining grass pitches, but we have to cope with the challenges, because the pitches are central to what we do here.

When I assumes here, I introduced prep system, and also drew a daily routine for the two categories of students we have. We have the academic and professional students. In the academic cadre, we have students combining football with education, and in the professional cadre, we have players playing professional football.

For the students, the daily routine starts from 5.00am. Between 5.00am and 5.30am, they do their morning devotion, after which they go for early morning training. By 6.30am, they come back to prepare to go their classes for lectures. From 8.00am to 1.20pm, they have their normal school programmes, with long and short breaks in-between. Between 1.20pm to 2.00pm, they have their lunch. They also go for siesta afterwards, and for afternoon prep. And from 3.45pm to 6.00pm, they go for afternoon training, and close by 6.00pm. They are expected to have dinner by 7.00pm. Between 7.30pm and 9.00pm, they observe their evening prep. By 10.00pm, everybody goes to bed. We ensure they adhere strictly to these arrangements.

As for the professionals, they train three times daily. They will go for early morning jogging and return by 6.30am, and go for training by 8.00am, and return by 10.00am. In the afternoon, they go to the classroom where we have projector, DVD and other gadgets, which we use in teaching them tactics and techniques, and between 2.00pm and 4.00pm, they go for afternoon training.

We also have schedules for their gyms too. We have four sets, and they all take turns based on the times allocated to each set.

We have officials that are helping us to monitor the processes. We have seven coaches. And for now, we sought for the services of coaches from the Kwara State Sports Commission… about three of them, and four grassroots coaches from various clubs, to assist us in training the players and students. We engaged them on part-time basis, and pay them monthly allowances.

And back to the facilities, we have the hostel facilities, with which we accommodate our students and some members of staff. Some of the existing structures include: basketball court, one gymnasium, three blocks of students hostels (27 rooms each) and a medical center.

We just got approval to procure new mattresses for the students. I thank the Kwara State Sports Commission, and by extension, the Kwara state government, for the opportunity.

And for the Hostels, Block C is now under renovation, and is nearing completion. It will be ready within the next few days. Block B is already completed, and after completing Block C, we expect that renovation works will shift to Block A.

One of the major transformations since you assumed office was the integration of KFA into the Civil Service system. What are the challenges that come with that?

I inherited that struggle. The former Administrators started it, but I was only lucky that it materialized during my time here. The integration is commendable, and we are still working on it because the former KFA is different from the present KFA we are operating now. Presently, it’s in the mainstream civil service, under the Kwara State Sports Commission and the office of the Head of Service (HoS).

So, we have our records, and we take minimum wages as salary, and our staffers will also be getting promotions as at when due, and also retiring to get their pensions and gratuities. It’s a very nice arrangement, and we have to praise our Governor, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for the great opportunity.

How many students do you have altogether?

So far, we have 182 students. We have students on scholarships as well. They came from this state and other states of the federation, and are being sponsored by the state government. As you know, one of the mandates of the Academy was to produce players that will attract interest both nationally and internationally within the shortest period of time. That’s why we have to adopt the scholarship system to accommodate some talented players that will be marketable within a short period of time.

For the students, playing and thinking only football for a long time becomes monotonous. What other facilities do you have here to address that?

You cannot be around football all along, and expect that there would be rapid improvement, both mentally and physically, and that was why we have snooker boards for the students to have a break from football intermittently. Apart from the normal football settings, we also have five-a-side pitches, we have basketball and volleyball courts, and we are presently working on bringing in table tennis boards. It’s a gradual process.

What are some of the competitions you have attended?

We participated in various competitions in the period under review. We won the annual Eletu Cup soccer competition. We participated in a competition at Ilaji Resort, and came out victorious. The final was memorable, because we were losing by 3-0 in the first half, and our boys came back in the second half to level up. It was a wonderful experience. This year, we participated in the annual Ramat International competition in Kano, and lost to the host state at the quarter-final. We also fielded a team recently, at a Scouting programme in Keffi, Nasarawa state.

Part of our mandate was to provide the best of facilities, coaching and games program to create a perfect environment for players to develop and reach their full potentials. We develop players to play in the first team of different clubs in every part of the world as professionals, and we using some of these competitions to expose them.

As an Academy, do you have pacts with scouts and agents?

We have pacts with Agents and Scouts, both locally and internationally. We have pacts with KingKong Global Sports, and have Agents in the UK, Lithuania and others places.

Four of our boys are supposed to be in Southampton, England. We are tying up that arrangement. Some also attended various scouting programmes. Samuel Sunday will soon be in Lithuania anytime from now, so with Bashir Aboto, who is going to Southampton.

Some products of the Academy are currently playing in different clubs within and outside Nigeria.

Did you set a target for yourself when you resumed here at the Academy?

Yes. Immediately I resumed, I met with all the technical team and the players. I told them that my target was, to at least, every year, we should be able to produce 10 players that will go into the world football market. And I have given the senior players three years target. Players that are unable to attract attention within those three years will have to go. We want to see tremendous transformation and improvement in them, always.

When you mention Dennis Bonaventure, the name of KFA comes to the mind. How does KFA take the advantage of that opportunity?

We are proud to have produced him here, and he and many others are our great Ambassadors.

We have many Bonaventures here waiting to explode. And asides Bonaventure, we still have many of our products in Europe, and we will soon unveil them to the world. I will be going to Abuja to meet up with TMS Manager, to see how we can fish them out, so as to get our benefits from their movement processes.

What message or messages do you have for the government, players and members of staff?

I will want to enjoin the state government to continue to support KFA. KFA is a business venture. We are ready to use what we have here to boost the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state. I therefore, want to appeal for more funds from the government, to be able to create and sustain those windows of opportunities.

The Academy is providing a conducive and unique surrounding to keep youths away from drugs, violence and other unhealthy activities. And that’s why I will also want to employ the players to always work hard to improve on their skills and techniques.

For the members of staff, I call for more cooperation and sacrifice, not only to justify government’s continuous support, but to ensure the purpose for which the Academy was established is being achieved.

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