Kwara United Football Club under the tutelage of Prince Oladimeji Thompson as the President of the club gained promotion to the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) at the just concluded Nigeria National League (NNL) Northern Conference season.
In this interview with Head Sports, National Pilot Newspaper, TOYIN SAHEED, Oladimeji who is also the Chairman/CEO, Henry George Nigeria Limited revealed that criticism from stakeholders helped in leading the club to success.
He also attributed the success of the team to the immense contribution of state Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed equally acknowledge the efforts of the Sports Commissioner, Alhaji Kale Ayo Nuhu and other sports stakeholders. Excerpt.
It has been rough and tough in the just concluded NNL, how has it been taking the team back to the elite division?
Let me start by appreciating the Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, he is a sport loving person and he has created an enabling environment for us last season, which led to the promotion of the club to the NPFL. My appreciation would not be completed without mentioning the Commissioner for Sports and Youth Development, Alhaji Kale Ayo Nuhu and his Permanent Secretary, Elder Ayo Samuel for their wonderful support and also the stakeholders, the fans; they have all contributed a lot to this success.
Last season, was so rough but we thank God Almighty that we were able to overcome all the challenges to emerge the No 1 club in the Northern Conference.
Its understood that National League is not a joke, especially when it comes to promotion, what do you think the organisers can do to improve the league?
There are so many things but I must tell you the major challenge that the NNL is facing is finance. Luckily, I’m a board member of the just concluded league so; I would be able to tell you exactly that it has not been easy interms of getting sponsors because every sponsor wants to have something to do with the NPFL.
This is the major challenge that we have in the league and then towards the end of the season, we almost find it difficult to complete the league due to some of these challenges but thank God for the calibre of management we have in the league, we put heads together and make sure that the league did not suffer.
During the period the NNL board was able to get sponsor to the league, how have you been able for do this?
I told you that we had a very good rapport with the sponsor, Bet9ja. He has a team that is playing in the NPFL but unfortunately, his team has been relegated and he can’t continue with the sponsorship deal. Then we have to start looking for another sponsor for this coming season.
It is not an easy job but I think by the time the government puts more efforts to lure companies to partake or sponsor sports in Nigeria; putting certain percentage of their income into sports just as it is done abroad, if we have a lot sponsors, the league will no longer suffer. Just little percentage of their income and they make sure that it is well spent, if such is being done here, then we’ll go to the next level, because the major challenge is finance.
When you came on board, there were lots of critics, saying you are a businessman and you can’t handle football matters, what is your take on this?
In the year 2008, I had the same challenge when people said how can an hotelier, a businessman, contractor, engineer, manage football, but when you talk of administration, it is a different game entirely.
I’m not the technical person but I know how to administer a business and football is also a business.
There is no difference when you have the sense to run a business and a business is a business. I had that challenge that time and I succeeded, and it happens this time again, I also excelled and we got promotion, I think my critics has really helped me.
The Technical Adviser that worked with me then, John Obuh, left us after he took us to the Premier League, because he got an appointment to coach national U-17 and then he did very well and became a national figure.
I want to tell you that it is that same Obuh, I had a lot of belief in him because we’ve worked together but unfortunately, last year, we had a home defeat and that’s why we couldn’t make it to the premier league.
Well, anybody can say anything, but it is my belief that the government that gave me the assignment belief I will do it well, the same belief they had the other time they gave me the job.
It gives me sleepless nights and I have to double my efforts, so that we will not disappoint them. I want to thank God and all the stakeholders, for standing beside me and it is a collective responsibility, I didn’t do it alone.
Why did you pick interest in sports?
It is my passion for the youths, if you look at Nigeria today, anywhere there is a football match, everybody forget about tribe, religion and ethnics, everybody becomes one and that is the essence why I took interest in football.
I like to be in a place where there is unity, where people of different tribes come together and become one.
When Super Eagles played against Kenya in Uyo, you can see that people of different background and states became one.
What are your plans for the new NPFL season?
In 2008 when I played in the National league, after one year, I got promoted to the Nigeria Premier League, spent two years in the league and the first year, I got the fourth position, so I have gotten the experience and know what the terrain is like.
I was part of Nigeria Premier League and was even a member of the Nigeria Premier League Committee.
What are your plans to get sponsorship for the club?
That is another area we have been looking into. We want to setup a very good marketing department for Kwara United, now that we are back.
In the national league, we were struggling to get promotion, so we were being charged to diversify into other things and now that we have gotten to where we rightly belong, I think people are happy with us. I am sure because we have done very well, the companies will want to partner with us.
The most important thing is to have a good marketing department, I am sure people will want to partner with us because we are one of the big teams in Nigeria.
Are you renewing the contract of your technical crew?
As far as John Obuh is concerned, he has love for this team, he has not been giving us any problem and all of us, we are working together to go to the next level. We are definitely not building new team, we would make sure few of them that can’t match the league will go, we will maintain the same team that gave us the promotion and add few players to them.
What is your advice for the club?
My advice for the club is just to the supporters and the fans; they should continue to tolerate us and give us all the support because I really want their support.
We don’t want hooliganism, Kwara State is a state of harmony and we want it to reflect in our attitude and character.
I also want to appeal to the government to continue to give us more support because NPFL is different from the NNL, so we really need their support. This time around, we want an improved income so that we can meet up with the financial demand of the NPFL.