Yinka Ojokojo Adekanye is the Scouting Manager of Kwara United. The former top striker in Nigerian league spoke to sportsbash.com.ng on his present role, how he started as a footballer and other related issues.
How did you come into football?
Just like most kids growing up, especially in this part of the world, I started when I was in Primary School in Offa. You know when you are growing up, you like kicking just anything. From there, I developed interest in the game. I played throughout my Primary School days, same as at the Secondary School, Government Secondary School, Iyamoye, then in Kwara state, but now in Kogi state, due to the creation of Kogi state in 1991. That was around 1979 to 1980.
At the Secondary School, I was picked to represent Kwara state in 1980; that was during KWASPO 1980. I was part of the state team. I was in Form Three then.
When I left Secondary School, I started playing for a league club; that was the State League then, through late Coach Gafaru Alabi.
Before then, I had Alhaji Rasheed Balogun, popularly known as Alhaji Balinger. He loved bringing up young talented players. I was among his students then. He saw me play in Offa, took me to Ilorin. He told me, “I want you to come and play in Ilorin where people can see you”. That time, I was just finishing my Secondary School, and that was in 1981. I told him, “Alhaji, if you want me to come to Ilorin with you, you will get me admission into higher institution”. Back then, he wanted to invite three of us; myself, Muka Oyewo and Raufu Rotimi. We were all at Offa then, playing in the Local League for Kwara Breweries.
Alhaji Balinger agreed to bring me to Ilorin. He got me admission at Kwara State College of Technology, now Kwara State Polytechnic, to read Marketing. I was there for four years, where I completed both the OND and HND.
And how was your graduation from there to league football?
In 1986, I was part of the Kwara Breweries team that defeated Kwara Bombers 2-0 in the State Challenge final. It was during the time of goalkeeper Lateef Yusuf. Water Corporation was then in Division II of the Nigerian League, and Kwara Breweries was playing in no league then. That was what made a lot of people to see what we were made of. And that was how we all left for different clubs. I had the opportunity of going to Zamfara Football Club, which was then a Division II side. That was my first league club side. I played there from 1986 through to 1987, before I was invited down to Kwara Bombers. I played for six years with Kwara Bombers, from 1987 to 1992. I left Kwara Bombers in 1992 to Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) Football Club. I played there for a season, and emerged as the Highest Goal Scorer in 1992 for NPA. I got another offer from Premier Breweries of Onitsha, which later metamorphosed to Jasper Football Club of Onitsha. I equally spent only a year with them. I got another opportunity to play for Lobi Stars, when the club was known as Lobi Bank FC. Because of my performance and goal scoring prowess, that gave me the opportunity to move easily as I always have numerous offers at a time. The highest I had played in a club was two years, and that was Lobi Stars.
I left Lobi Stars in 1985/1996 season. I followed late Coach Gafaru Alabi who had wanted to take me to Katsina United that time. Very unfortunate for us, we had accident on our way to Katsina, and Coach Alabi couldn’t continue with the programme. I had to go back to Lobi Stars again to finish the season with them in 1996. I was the Highest Goal Scorer in Lobi Stars too. I scored 14 goals that season, and as a result, many clubs were after me. I decided to go to NEPA of Lagos in 1996, from where I was invited to Kwara United when it was formed in 1997. I was among the pioneer players of Kwara United in 1997. Myself, Coach Tunde Sanni, who is the present Chief Coach of the club….six of us joined from NEPA Lagos, including Ahmed Apalando, Monday Obaze and others.
Altogether, I played for about nine club sides in Nigeria, and as I was about to stop playing, I went to Gabon to play for Shell FC of Gabon. But injury did not allow me to complete my season there. So, I had to come back mid-season to play for Calabar Rovers in 1999. And that was when I stopped active football.
Meaning that you were among the team that qualified Kwara United for its first continental competition?
Yes, but I left immediately after our qualification. I did not play in the continental competition for Kwara United FC.
Why did you leave?
My decision surprised many people, including late Coach Gafaru Alabi. That’s me for you. My Coach then, late Gafaru Alabi was more than surprised. Playing in the continental competition and the national team is the dream of every player, especially then, when it was the first time Kwara United was qualifying for the CAF Cup. But then, I looked at it as a challenge to me personally. Yes, we made a marks, qualifying the team from Division II to Division I in one attempt, and in the following season, we got a continental ticket. And I looked at it, a good lot of clubs were looking for me. So, I saw it then as another opportunity to move. Coach Alabi was thinking maybe I was normal or not. I told him I was normal, and that that was what I wanted. I don’t stay too long in a club. I left and joined Calabar Rovers.
What’s your present designation in Kwara United FC?
Presently, I am the Scouting Manager of the team. I was given the job some few months ago, though I had worked as a Scouting Representative for the team before now; that was between 2014-2015, when Alhaji Ilerika Mohammed Maigidansama was the General Manager. The slot was given to the Association of Professional Footballers, and the association decided to choose me as their representative. It’s a job I know how to do best, and that was why I cherished the creation of that department, and with me as the Manager.
During the time of Coach Abdullahi Usman Biffo, I was brought in as the Personal Assistant to the coach. He is a friend, and I took up the job because I wanted my friend to succeed. We were able to make the difference. At the end of it all, we got a continental ticket. Not many clubs in Nigeria have a Scout designate. Kwara United FC is a pure professionally managed club that has a standard and structure. It’s one if the best club sides in Nigeria. The team had a Psychologist for years, and now, a Scouting Department, which many clubs don’t have; and good welfare and medical system in place. I must commend the Chairman, Kumbi Titiloye and his lieutenants for that.
What are the major impacts you have been able to make as Scouting Manager of Kwara United?
Just like I said earlier, I came in few months ago, when they have finished their recruitments before the start of the season. I have been able to support the technical department, and have been trying to work on the mentality of the players in line with the philosophy of the coaches. Presently, the mid-season transfer window just closed, and we have been able to ensure the club got quality legs to replace the players that left the club, and some other areas. I did my bit to recommend some players, some of whom have been signed, depending on the specification of the technical crew.
Apart from Scouting for players, I also read matches for the club; and equally give advice to the technical crew where necessary. Thank God the Technical Adviser has listening ears. A whole lot of things surrounds football management.
Are you thinking of one day becoming a full fletched coach?
No. not at all. I don’t see it coming. Whatever you want for yourself is what you plan for. Since I started with my career as a footballer, I don’t have it in mind to one day become a coach, because I don’t like pressure. I don’t want to work under pressure. Coaches are always under pressure. It’s a highly challenging job. It’s a job that has no job security. People used to address me as a Coach, but I used to tell them that I am not. I have prepared myself for what I am doing. And I always try my possible best to go for courses that are commensurate with what I do. I go for courses that supports my mission.
Anytime and every time I have the opportunity to improve my knowledge on management and coaching courses, I go for it. Apart from the Certificates I have in Marketing, I attended BFUT Course in Coaching, that’s Brazilian Educators’ Course, because the Brazilians do call Coaches Educators. I have done Sports Administration Course, and also have Basic Elite Certificate.
Education brings difference in coaching, especially in performance and result. Do you agree? If so, what is your advice to coaches?
Some coaches find it difficult to analyze jobs and perform because they are not educated. They lack the knowledge of coaching. Most of them don’t know how to write technical reports at all. This is modern football. How do you do research without knowledge in computer for example? You also need to keep refreshing your knowledge at intervals, because the trends keep changing. And that’s why I always cherish coaches like Coach Abdullahi Usman Biffo. When you talk about refresher courses, Biffo doesn’t joke with it. He is focused, and knows what he wants. In the very near future, certificates will determine who wants to be a coach, what level you can reach in coaching, as well as what you want to be when it comes to football management matters. Entry requirements will be fully implemented.
As a striker then, your selling point was your goal scoring ability. Why do players of this days find it difficult to score goals?
It’s the level of commitment from the players. If you have the mind as a striker, football is being played from the mind. Back then, anytime I want to go into the pitch for any match, I will tell my opponents that I will score against them, and it will happen that way, sincerely. That’s self believe. It’s about the mentality.
It’s just the mind. Then, we had great passion for the game. We don’t think much about money or other things. We always think about making names, and we definitely made the name. My name is carrying a lot about me in football circle today. But the players of nowadays, their mentality is too low. They just want to get money and get out. They are playing for money, and to a larger extent, it’s understandable.
What readily come to your mind when you look at the sacrifices you have made over time?
I see fulfilment….honestly speaking. If you look at my stature and age… by the grace of God, I will be 61 by November 27 of this year, 2024, but I don’t look it. People thought I am a small boy. I started at age 20, and stopped when I thought it was okay. Everything I have done and I am still doing in football, I thank God. I am fulfilled, and I am waxing stronger.
And how would you describe Nigeria league, especially the Nigeria Premier Football League?
Honestly, Nigeria league is just coming up. Let’s be frank with ourselves, we are far behind, but the present League Managers are doing their best. The last two to three seasons wasn’t like this. There is always room for improvement. We need to work on our facilities, especially the pitches. Where some clubs play their matches are not good at all. We need to improve on our facilities.
What do you see yourself doing in the next five years?
By the special grace of God, I want to improve on whatever I am doing, and that’s why I am doing whatever I can do today to make tomorrow better. I always want to put in my best. I want to see myself in the nearest future as the Chairman of Kwara United FC….that’s my dream. I used to tell my wife that I want to become the Chairman of Kwara United one day. I am taking after Kumbi Titiloye. He is my mentor.
Was there any moment of disappointment during your playing career?
Since I started, up till the time I called it quit, I am always playing, and always in the first eleven of my teams. Maybe, I will say, it’s only when I got injured, in 1993/1994 season. That was the first time I was invited to the senior national team, the Super Eagles. The Technical Director then, Engr. Fabian Duru was also the Technical Director of Lobi Stars. He took every responsibility. It was part of why I agreed to join Lobi Stars then, that he will facilitate my entrance into the national team, which he eventually fulfilled. I was at the Super Eagles camp, but because of my injury…knee injury, I had to leave camp. That was the greatest disappointment throughout my career.