Alhaja Segilola Alaya is the Chairman of the Female Football Development Committee of the Kwara State Football Association, and the Proprietress, Abruka Queens Football Club of Ilorin. She spoke to sportsbash.com.ng on why she formed the Club, and how the journey started.
How did you come into sports?
It was a funny journey. I was an athlete in my youthful days. I also played basketball in the primary school. My father, Alhaji Abdulkareem Laaro Balogun, the Balogun Gambari of Ilorin is a great sportsman, and we imbibed that from him. He is a great golfer, even at old age, he still plays golf.
He always told me that I should do sports, that it promotes strength and health. And that was why I was involved in sports, up to this stage. I am presently the Vice Chairman and Matron of Female Football Interest Group (FFIG), and also, Board member of Kwara FA, and Chairman, Female Football Development Committee of Kwara FA.
Why did you form Abruka Queens Football Club?
To God be the glory. It’s always my dream and desire to help people, especially the youth. I always think about how I can make the young ones great, and to the glory of God, this idea came. I cherish helping people. With the society we are in now, we have to positively engage the young ones, especially the girl-child, against social vices.
I chose to do it through sports and football especially. And it is not about playing football alone. It’s beyond that, because we have to include education and other supportive activities like vocation.
My plan for the young girls is not at the local level alone. I am planning to produce more Asisat Oshoalas, and it would happen in the nearest future, Insha Allah.
Would you say your activities in Female Football Interest Group (FFIG) fuelled your interest in forming Abruka Queens FC?
It’s the FFIG story that brought me to this level. I was invited by Oba Sulaiman ten years ago, to join FFIG when it was inaugurated in Kwara state. I must commend late Henrietta Ukagbue for her efforts. I was invited to Chair FFIG in the state. They also wanted me to be the Matron. But I told them that I will accept to be the Matron, but they need to pick another person as Chairman. That was how Mallam Mohammed Jimoh Daudu was picked as Chairman of FFIG in the state. I am the Vice Chairman of FFIG and Matron of the body. I am the one funding the activities of FFIG in the state. When we started, we included our people from Osun, Ogun and Oyo states. We organised a seminar, which I bankrolled. The aim was to have a strong FFIG in those states too. But presently, it’s only in Kwara state that FFIG is functioning. We are presently planning the 10th year anniversary of FFIG in the state.
How has been your relationship with the girls?
I can call myself a Counsellor. This is because; my advice to them has always been, to be educated, so as to have something to fall back on after football. Been a footballer does not mean they should not be educated. They can also learn other trades while playing. I always give them one example. My second child, Kamaldeen Alaya, now an Officer with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) was a player. He loved the game to the extent that it got to a stage he said he wouldn’t go to school again. I had to force him to. He even threatened to do anything to himself if I insisted. There is one woman I will never forget, Hajia Zainab Shaaba Lafiagi, the wife of former Governor, Senator Mohammed Shaaba Lafiagi. We are very close. She is like a mother and sister. She talked to him, convinced him on the need to be educated. With that, he promised to go back to school. He got admission at Al-Hikmah University, and he is now NSCDC Officer in Abuja.
And that was why I used to tell the girls that no matter your talent in football, you have to go to school. I used to counsel them on general ways of life too.
How supportive is your husband and children to this project?
I have to thank my husband very much for his support and understanding. He is a man of himself. It’s with his permission that I am doing all I am doing, not only on sports issues, but in other areas.
He always stands by me, and advises me. And my children are also supporting this project. They all love sports, and are doing all they can, to make Abruka Queens FC great. They have already created a website and official e-mail for the club. They also branded jerseys for us, and are supporting us financially. They are all happy about what I am doing.
Anytime I see my husband at my functions, I always feel great. I have a social and political club, the Marvellous Women’s Association, which now has the Men’s and Youth Wing. I have close to 100 women in the Marvellous Women’s Association. Anything I do, I am always honest with my husband. I cannot hide anything from him. He is the Spiritual Father of the Men’s Wing of the Marvellous Group. Anytime I see him at my functions, I am always free. He is always part of my programme I do everything with his knowledge and consent.
What are you doing to encourage more participation in the development of the girl-child through football?
I believe everybody has natural quality or qualities. Some also have the opportunity to exhibit these qualities. The sky is wide enough to accommodate many birds. We will keep encouraging others to come on board. With more platforms, our young girls will have many opportunities, and we ourselves need to come together. We need to break new grounds, even though we have culture and tradition.
Look at me, my husband is an Alfa, but you see the way I dress when in sports circle. This is where the problem lies, especially in this state. Sports have a peculiar dress code, and there must be that understanding. I wear trouser and track, and what I cherish in my husband is, he is a very lively person, maybe because he is exposed. He was in Egypt for 14 years, studying. He is the Chief Missioner of NASFAT today. But he is encouraging me. He used to tell me, ‘you are a leader, so, lead rightly’. I will always appreciate his support. I am enjoying the needed freedom because of his understanding. As a woman, you need the support of your husband always. My husband, Alhaji Abdullahi Aliyu Alaya is a pillar of support to me. I love him, I cherish and admire him, and I am always happy with him. He is more than a husband to me.
We have Kwara Ladies, Moje Queens of Erin-Ile, Abimbola Queens and others. Now, we have Abruka Queens. It’s good for the state, and we want more. I am the Chairman of Female Football Development Committee of the FA. More clubs are still coming. Even those that are defunct, I have started consultations with their owners on how to revive them. I am also encouraging others to join us.
What would you say about your emergence as Kwara FA Board member, against all odds?
Well, God has destined that I will be in that position. The drama of becoming member of Kwara FA was funny, but I thank God for that. It’s not my power or knowledge, but God. I have been supporting football for the past ten years, and some stakeholders have been noticing my contributions. They are the ones that encouraged me to pick form to contest the FA election, and I believe it’s a reward for my contributions. They gave me the courage and support. I thank all those that voted for me. I appreciate them, and I promise not to disappoint them.
Kwara FA is planning to organise female football competition, and as the Chairman of the Female Football Development Committee, what effort are you putting into this?
I am from Ilorin East. My Local Government Football Council Chairman, Alhaji Sulaiman Toyin Olokoba invited me to a meeting, where I encouraged us to organise female football competition. They all bought the idea. We all pledged our contributions towards making it possible. We have met with the Games Masters and Games Mistresses of schools in Ilorin East, and by 20th of this month, screening of players will hold, ahead of the commencement of the competition. I think that would be a good starting point.
And the Kwara FA too is planning secondary school female football competition in the state. We are taking it one after the other. We have a lot in the offing. After that of Ilorin East, we do that of the state, and we are also planning for the 10th year anniversary of FFIG in the state.
How would you tackle the issue of government clubs dominating the private ones?
We are all government’s babies. One day, government will realise the importance of what we are doing, and also support us. As private clubs, we are complementing the efforts of government on all fronts, and we also deserve their support. They need to support us. Whatever we do, the state has much of the glory.
What would be your advice to the coaches, players and government?
My advice to the coaches is, to see the players as their children, and take proper care of them. To me, they are all my children, and I must love and care for them.
To the players, they should be honest, and be dedicated to their work. And government needs to come to the aid of the private clubs.