For Kwara United Football Club under the current management being led by Clement Olakumbi Titiloye, it’s a new commendable moment. It’s a moment of creating records; a moment of setting new records, and a moment that encourages professionalism in football club management.
When, in September 2019, a new set of management team was announced, concerns were raised, and that has always been the feature that accompanies such a ritual, for stakeholders to react, both negatively and positively, based on perceptions.
First, the courage and foresight of the Executive Governor, Mallam AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq must be saluted, in not only constituting the board, but also supporting the team to continue to blaze the trail.
The team was primed to compete in the Nigeria National League (NNL) in the 2019/2020 football league season, but had a rise in status after just few matches in the second tier league, owing largely to the magnanimity of the state Governor, who approved the buying over of the Nigeria Professional Premier League (NPFL) slot of Delta Force, after ten matches into the NPFL season. The team however, had a rough season.
After coming out of that rough road unscathed, the lessons learnt was enough to raise the bar, beyond expectations.
It was against this backdrop, that the management defiled all odds, to assemble a team of relatively unknown but highly determined players, and the result of that exercise is evidenced with the team’s campaign in both the 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 seasons. Kwara United rose from the path of uncertainty to absolute greatness. From playing with fear to playing with flair, from playing without hope to playing with hopefulness, and from just playing to playing with purposefulness.
The team would have ended the 2020/2021 season in the second position, with 65 points, and plus 20 goals difference.
However, the outcome of the decision of the Disciplinary Committee of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) at its meeting held on August 5th, 2021, as it concerns Matchday 34 fixture played on 21th July, 2021 at Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna State, between Jigawa Golden Stars FC and Rivers United FC changed that narrative.
Rivers United FC had protested against the fielding of a player, Richard Christopher (Jersey number 8) by Jigawa Golden Stars FC in the match, on the grounds of ineligibility, having accumulated five (5) yellow cards during the season.
The NFF decision stated that Jigawa Golden Stars FC shall forfeit 3 points and 3 goals to Rivers United FC in respect of the match, for fielding an ineligible player in breach of C5 of the NPFL Rules.
The Appeal Committee of the NFF, few days later, adopted the ruling of the Disciplinary Committee, which therefore, placed Rivers United in the second position of the table, pushing Kwara United to the fourth position.
The obnoxious decision, which was ostentatiously kept till the last day of the league, favoured Rivers United FC at the expense of Kwara united FC, a team that has done everything right to win clean and clear on the pitch.
Kwara United Football Club recorded remarkable successes in the 2020/21 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) season. Some the achievements included ending the first round of the season on top of the table.
The team did not lose any match at home, and this feat had been achieved by the club for a very long time. The feat was also sustained beyond the 2021/2022 season. And for the first time in several seasons, they did not fight relegation, as was the feature before now. The team completed the double over four clubs, Plateau United of Jos, Sunshine Stars of Akure, Katsina United FC and Adamawa United FC.
Kwara United FC were rated as one of the best playing teams, and were adjudged as a surprise package of the season by the stakeholders, especially on the backdrop of previous outings. Of the 20 NPFL teams for the 2020/21 NPFL season, Kwara United paraded one of the youngest squads, with Golden Eaglets’ Monday John and Sulaiman Mojeed, both U-17, registered for the season, among many records created.
The successes recorded so far can also be traced to the unity and friendly atmosphere in and around the team, and this averted the curse that ‘each year had led from bad to worse’ which people see as a common aphorism. The narratives have no doubt, changed, and can also be sustained with the arrangements on ground in the team.
For Kwara United FC under the current management, it’s been a campaign of purposefulness, laced with professionalism, which has brought a huge difference and a great departure from the past.
Just like every other season before now, objectives were drawn, targets set, aspirations kept, and hopes hinged on many variables, which importantly has to do with the caliber of players engaged, and the capacity of the technical bench.
This new found status will continue to bring more positive exploits for the team, especially as the management is expected to build on the positives recorded, while finding solution to the negative ones.
This management, going by records, inherited just five players, all of whom are average materials, while the others were on loan from other clubs. The first very major accomplishment that metamorphosed into the present characteristics known of the club has to do with investment in recruitments, and as of today, Kwara United owns all the players in its fold.
Another very important factor that assisted the club’s cause was the prompt payment of salaries and allowances to the players and officials, even during Covid-19 period when there was no football action and the league was on break.
Also in the period under review, Kwara United have numerous of its players invited to the national teams, the U-17, U-20, U-23 and the home based Super Eagles.
The Club’s medical system was upgraded and ranks among the best so far, as players get rapid attention in cases of injuries or illnesses. The club also ranks among the best in observing Covid-19 protocols, as spelt out and adopted by the NFF and LMC. All these variables have strengthened its welfare system.
Just like the 2020/2021 season, the 2021/2022 season also started and ended positively for the team, as, against all odds, the club was considered to represent the nation in the CAF Confederation Cup.
Going down memory lane, Kwara United first played in the CAF inter-club competition in 1999/2000 season, losing out in the quarter-finals to Zamalek of Egypt.
In 2006/2007 season, the club came first in Group A of an abridged league, with 34 points, and ended up in third position after the Super Four played in Abuja. Ocean Boys won the Super Four, and joined second placed team to represent Nigeria in the Champions League, while Kwara United played in the Confederations Cup for coming third.
And 15 years after, the team was back in the continent after the 2021/2022 season, despite finishing fourth on the 2021/2022 NPFL table, just to beat the CAF registration deadline, as the Aiteo Cup was not concluded on time. The team gave good account of itself in the 2022/2023 TotalEnergies CAF Confederation Cup, losing out in the First Round to the defending champions, RS Berkane of Morocco, who are also the Champion of Champions in Africa on away goal rule, after ending it 3-3 apiece. The team had earlier dusted AS Douanes of Niger Republic out of the competition clinically, after a three goal aggregate scores.
Apart from engaging tested players, the team also employed strong technical crew, led by Coach Abdullahi Biffo at the initial stage, and currently, Coach Abdulazeez Mohammed. These are part of the ingredients that has continued to add value to the team, and which, the management will never compromise.
The hopes and prospect of achieving more successes and also breaking new grounds are high, especially with the policy that guarantees the management some level of longevity and independence.
With the Kwara United Football Club Management Corporation Law in place, the management has some level of independence at least for a period of four years, as spelt out in the law. The present management was appointed in September 2019, and will benefit from the Management Bill signed into law on May 24th, 2019.
Before now, just like it was easy for the team to go on relegation, so was it easy to change management even at the slightest record of a single game loss. That obviously gave room for inconsistency in the club’s campaign in the league, as the so called aggrieved stakeholders always undermine support for the team getting good results even at home, just to get rid of those in charge as at that time.
The last two seasons will also go down in history as the best in terms of cordial relationship among the various components of stakeholders, because of the professional way things were done. The Supporters and Fans Club also worked together to complement the efforts of the management, players and officials.
For Kwara United, its a period of hope, and a period of great prospect, under Kumbi Titiloye, a Sports Promoter and Marketer. Kumbi was born on July 30th, 1968, and hails from Oro, in Irepodun Local Government Area of the State.
He was a former player. He played for NNPC FC in 1982, Coca-Cola FC of Kaduna between 1083 and 1984, and was in University of Ilorin football team between 1986 to 1990. He also played for Sporting Hackney in UK.
The excellent facilitator and solution provider was the Administrator of Kwara Football Academy (KFA) between 2010 to 2012, and during that period, successfully got three players professional contracts in Europe, following a 10-day training tour to Belgium for the Academy team. KFA under him also won the 2011 NNPC/Shell Cup competition for All Nigeria Secondary Schools. He was also instrumental to taking the KFA team to Italy on two-week training and match tour. He also developed players that dominate the Nigeria league.
Under Titiloye, the rebuilding and rebranding processes of our darling club, Kwara United Football Club is being championed towards meeting the required pedestal for business opportunities, away from the usual social services. It’s also coming at a time the government is desperately seeking to find alternative financial windows to push the club to the next level. Even before the conclusion of the 2021/2022 season, players like Junior Lokosa, Samad Kadri, Alao Danbani, Ejeh Isaiah and others have gotten foreign offers, and are doing well in their various clubs. More will follow, in the nearest future.
Kwara government’s support and backing is key to the attainment of the new found status of the team, which is arguably one of the symbols of unity for the state.