*Nigeria is too blessed with stars
Otunba Gbenga Omole must be one of the most effective grassroots football development promoters. Years by he had the Goldenwings33 FC inside the Ojo Cantonment barracks in Lagos where he singlehandedly funds the equipment and salaries of the coaches who prepare the boys.
Like a joke that programme produced several great players who went on to demonstrate grit and fame in professional football. One of the greatest of such players is Issa Abdullahi Eliakwu who left to play with Internationale FC of Italy.
Several dozens of other young boys emerged from the ashes of the enterprise. Many of these kids never thought or dreamt of blazing career trails in football. As soon as opportunities come, Omole let’s them go to blossom and starts to groom another set.
His club was a massive nightmare to bigger teams. They believe in the pattern called ‘tiki-taka’ which allows for the boys to express their skills. His philosophy was informed by what he called ‘from the ashes of the Ojo military cantonment shall rise stars that will use their skills as license to sit with kings.’
Otunba Gbenga Omole has a long list of those who broke the ranks into professional football, he listed 21 who played for Nigerian clubs and changed the face of their families. About nine went abroad to Finland, Italy and such places. My joy is complete seeing these kids make a new life.
The Briton said in his graphic analysis that, “let me very candid with you, I don’t think any nation in the world is as blessed by God in terms of sports. Nigeria is too blessed with stars. For instance, our group is extending the dragnet to other sports. We want to raise about N200million we want to invest in 90 athletes in five sports towards 2020 Olympics called Basic Olive Opportunity Sports Training (BOOST). Details are in www.nsdfi.com
I was funding the experiment. Yes, some folks came in and milked the final outcome of my work. It did not make a meaning to me initially. I spent in excess of N15million during that six years experience before I left for Ibadan.
Each time I look back, I feel so satisfied that I touched the lives of these boys. Many of them are still playing. I feel so honoured when they call me and tell me of their exploits. I instilled the principles of self-believe, faith, confidence and goal setting in them. That has guided them through the difficult cols of life.
As the economy was getting worse and business was grinding to a halt, I had to shelve the idea but I know I am coming back to repeat the process this time around with a bigger business orientation.
I love picking a boy training them to play football. Give them their first canvass and boots. Supporting them through personal orientation and making them have faith in themselves while they work hard. In six months, you won’t believe what you are seeing in them. They have this barrack resilience of ‘I no go gree’ which takes them far.
I brought in former Udoji United FC of Awka central defender, Samad Eliakwu to manage the boys. Being a product of the barrack who went on to play in a big club, he was able to harness many of them to stardom. Some of the boys who broke the ranks to big clubs include Mathew Olorunleke, Abdulahi Isah Eliakwu, Justice Erenede, Abubakar Yakubu Akilu, Dayo Deji, Ebere Paul Onuachu, Joel Osikel, Efe Oni, David Enogela, Sunday Okwebor.
Omole was the one who brought the Belgian football coach, Tom Saintfiet, to come and coach Nigeria. On two different occasions the project did not work. He made Tom to go work in other parts of Africa. To this he asserted, Tom Saintfiet remains one of the best foreign coaches the nation would have heard. He is cerebral, he knows the African terrain so well. He reels the list of Nigerian players, where they play, how they play and what needs to be added to make them the best.