His name is Kabir Balogun Olalekan, popular with the number 15 jersey. Strong, determined and ambitious, but surprisingly, these qualities and characteristics doesn’t come to play off the pitch, but on the pitch, during trainings and matches.
He is the King of Assist provider in the NPFL, having achieved that feat on three different occasions, with three different clubs.
For him, his Highest Assist in the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) is a wonderful feat achieved in a terrain where it’s rarely recognized, even though it’s an important quality in the round leather game.
In association football, an Assist is a contribution by a player which helps to score a goal. It’s a feat he has so far achieved in three separate seasons in the system, with three different clubs
He first achieved the feat with Ikorodu United in 2016, when the Lagos based club campaigned in the NPFL under the tutelage of late Coach Moorice Coreman. He had joined the club in the previous season when they were in the Nigeria National League (NNL), and helped it gain promotion to the elite league.
Kabir Balogun also achieved the feat in the 2018 season, when playing for Nasarawa United. The team was then being handled by Coach Kabir Sulaiman Dogo.
In the just concluded season, Balogun emerged again, as the Highest Assist provider, as his efforts assisted Kwara United FC to achieve a wonderful finish in the season.
In professional football, one of the most interesting and most frequently occurring elements of tactical performance is the pass. It judges the quality and effectiveness of a pass by means of observational analysis, and whether the pass, especially penetrative passes, really achieved there purposes, in linking directly to goal-scoring opportunities. This is one of the great qualities of the Abeokuta-born player, Kabir Balogun Olalekan.
This potential match-winning quality has stood him out as one of the best in the league, because that quality affords him to make the difference when the chips are down. Apart from providing assists, he has also gone ahead to score and win crucial matches for his team.
But is the feat recognized in this part of the world?
“I am trying to encourage myself because in Nigeria, they don’t believe in it. This is the quality that is being valued in Europe. For instance, Kevin De Bruyne of Manchester City of England always has several assists, and if UEFA and FIFA want to nominate players for Europe’s Best or for Ballon d’Or, he will be named. Here, they respect only Highest Goal Scorers, even if they got their goals through penalties.
“Let’s assume we have Best Goalkeepers based on that basis, genuine Highest Goal Scorers, Best Assits providers in a given season among players in the CHAN team, it would have made a better difference.
“My Highest Assist providing feat with Kwara United FC wasn’t my first. It was actually the third in my career. The first was with Ikorodu United. Then, I had 15 Assists. The second was in 2018, with Nasarawa United. Then, I scooped six Assists. With Kwara United last season, I finished with 10 Assists, and I must thank the strikers for making it count. I will also want to thank the coaches and my colleagues for believing in me.
Kabir Balogun Olalekan is good in throw-ins, corner-kicks and is a specialist in straight free-kicks. These qualities are strengths to his club.
He was born and brought up in Ilorin, where he also started his footballing career, with Young Gunners FC.
From Young Gunners, he was spotted by Kwara Football Academy scouts. At KFA, he gained a lot, learning the basic skills in the game. He made huge difference and impact, winning the NNPC/Shell Cup soccer competition among All Nigeria Secondary Schools in 2012.
He won it with players like Goalkeeper Yinka Adewale, the CHAN Eagles goalkeeper who is now with Kwara United, Issa Adeshina Gata, Deji Bamidele, both mates at Kwara United FC, Dennis Bonaventure of Nottingham Forest, Ugbo Emmanuel among others.
He was instrumental to KFA getting to the final and eventually winning the NNPC/Shell Cup, especially with his goalkeeping heroic at the quarter-final, after the two goalkeepers registered for the competition were out with injury and red card.
“At the quarter-final, one of our goalkeepers had red card, and the other one got injured. I had to be in goal to help qualify us for the semi-final. It was a sacrifice worth taking.
Kabir left KFA for Football College, Abuja, where he featured in different foreign youth competitions in Italy and Croatia. Alongside other players like Super Eagles star, Sadiq Umar, Deji Bamidele, Dennis Emmanuel, Joshua Agboola and Nura, they won the Croatian competitions.
From there, he joined Ikorodu United from Nigeria National League (NNL), helped the team to the NPFL and played one additional season. From Ikorodu United, he joined Kano Pillars. Kabir later teamed up with Nasarawa United and El-Kanemi Warriors, from where he came back Ilorin to join Kwara United.
What are his personal targets?
“My ambition is to play for the national team. I have the qualities. I am ready if the opportunity arises. I am not scared of taking up the responsibility.
“I also want to play abroad. I have the qualities to make huge impact anywhere, any day. Representing the country is an honour which any player longs for any day. I am still okay and strong. I will play as long as possible, with age on my side.
Kabir Balogun Olalekan has no identified role model as a player, but so much admires Brazilian star, Dani Alves because of the style of play of the former Barcelona player.
“I don’t really have a role model. I believe in myself. But I love Dani Alves because of how he plays, from the back to the front, with great energy, determination and enthusiasm.
And one of his best playing mates presently is Afeez Musa Olororo, a player with whom he combines very well on the field of play. Anytime I am playing at the right side, either in front or at the back of Olororo, I always feel at ease.
Kabir also analyses the chances of Kwara United FC in the forthcoming 2022/2023 CAF Confederation Cup Championship. Kwara United FC has been pitched against AS Douanes of Niger Republic in the first round, with the winner over the two legs playing Moroccan side, RS Berkane of Morocco.
“Kwara United last two seasons has been very good. We played with great determination, and the CAF Confederation Cup ticket is more or less a reward for our commitment and sacrifice.
“We are also preparing well for the CAFCC. We have good players and great team. We are determined and will do well in the competition.
Kabir, while rating the NPFL, commended the coaches and players for their sacrifice, even as he called for the return of television in the system.
“When I started playing in the league, they were showing our league on TV. But now, no. Then, players hardly go for prolonged screening in clubs, and they were popular. Now, that euphoria is down. It brings pressure on players and coaches. Then, players are well known even beyond Nigeria because SuperSport is everywhere.
“We all wanted to play abroad because of the atmosphere surrounding the bid to do so. The atmosphere here is also right, but the little difference has to do with lack of selfless management, as well as facilities. We have the money, but often not properly channeled. African players are most sort after abroad, because they adapt quickly to every situation.
For our Coaches, the difference is facilities and instruments. Our coaches are good any time any day. Government interest also plays a role sometimes.