Chairman of Kwara United Football Club, Clement Kumbi Titiloye has expressed optimism that the club will win continental ticket at the end of the ongoing NPFL season. He also spoke to sportsbash.com.ng on some of the challenges of achieving that feat and other issues, after his team defeated Niger Tornadoes by a lone goal in Ilorin on Sunday.
Can continental football return to Kwara?
With all parameters equal we should go to the continent. We have the squad capable of making it happen. The government support has been massive, players have adhered strictly to instructions and arbiters of the game need to do what is right. Let us remove politics from football.
What will you promise Kwarans at the end of the season?
Kwara United will play football. Barring these parameters I told you earlier, the club is good to go.
Looking at the Kwara United squad, scoring chances have been missed so far. What do you think has been the issue?
In football there are different departments, I am just Chairman of Kwara United. We have to engage the players gradually. We have played just 15 matches. These boys are young, I don’t believe in old people playing football. If you watch the Premier League and La Liga, young boys dominate these competitions. Last season, we didn’t have goal scoring problem. The likes of Michael Ohanu, Wasiu Alalade and Olawale Farayola left. We are still looking for players to fill the void. The boys will get there gradually.
Two seasons ago the club was not in good terms. What have you done to ensure a perfect synergy?
We realized that there were problems at the gates. Now the gates have been opened after the Covid-19 issues. We handed over gate takings to Supporters and Fans. They are in charge. Whatever they realize on match days is being paid to Kwara Internal Revenue Service. We fund their travels and give room for engagements. We are always open to suggestions from fans. Last season, a friend of mine sent a player to Kwara United but I wasn’t around. It was the Supporters that urged us to sign the lad. That player is Stephen Jude.
Is Kwara United looking at seeking sponsorship to complement government’s commitment?
There are parameters that hinder development of football in Nigeria. When we missed out on the continental ticket, the club lost €300,000 because there was a sponsorship deal attached to the qualification. When boardroom points dropped us to 4th position, what could we have done? We are trying to re-establish the link with the sponsors but they were heavily involved at the last Africa Cup of Nations. We are just re-engaging.
You have always talked about the damage politics has done to football in Nigeria. What’s your sincere advice?
In different countries I have visited, government usually provide policies that remove football business from their control. As long as government is involved, Nigerian football is going nowhere. It’s now left for government to formulate policies that will attract investors. The richest man in Africa is a Nigerian. We have thousands of Nigerians that want to invest but government interference makes them afraid. For instance, if your team from Ogun State misbehave and the Governor is close to leaders of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) or League Management Company (LMC), he will be pressurized to step down. It’s a private entity that doesn’t care whose ox is gured. They follow the rules of the game as it’s laid down.
There has been series of reports on the future of Junior Lokosa. Can you shed more light on the situation?
A Libyan club offered Lokosa contract. On getting to Tunisia where the relationship was supposed to be consummated, the team backed down and Junior informed us immediately. We advised him to come back home. We were fully aware of his movements. So there is nothing like him going AWOL as was reported.
When you were with the Abuja Football College, players were sold abroad. Why has it been difficult to replicate that at Kwara United?
Football College is a private entity, while Kwara United belongs to the government. At the private sector, I had 100% control. Here, I have board, stakeholders and supervisory board. If I want to press ahead, one might step on toes.
Is there a bridge between the Sports Commission and Kwara United?
Kwara United have no problem with the Sports Commission. The Executive Chairman is like an elder brother to me. I knew him before joining Kwara United and he is not hindering us in any form. There are different stages and steps to follow. I am answerable to Kwara Internal Revenue Service, Ministry of Finance and State Government. If I don’t carry these key stakeholders along there will be lots of problems to deal with.