By Amaechi Agbo
In this interview, former Nigeria Football Federation President, Alhaji Sani Lulu discusses the view behind the floating of Folsa Football Academy and his plans for the club and its academy in few years from now.
Why Fosla Football Club at this point?
The club we inaugurated today is a fulfilment of the project we all started. Nigerians are very enthusiastic of what I am doing and everybody is supportive of what is happening in Fosla and you can see the massive turnout of people to this event. I am sincerely delighted. We started this project in 2011 and our plan was to start from primary to secondary school, identify them at that level and make sure that they pursue their football career and education. We are happy that our first and second graduates are doing well. I want to see them play for clubs not just clubs but ones that will sell in Nigeria and Africa. It is our dream and I want to believe that Nigerians will key into this programme not just for Fosla to excel but a thing that if it is acceptable to Nigerians, everybody in this country will be following this system. That is why we believe that at whatever level, Nigeria has abundant talents that will represent this country, win all trophies outside and within the country.
How do you plan to sustain these projects?
By the special grace of God and the passion we have for this project, we have been very consistent in what we are doing. Despite the challenges we are facing in participating in all the football competitions, the boys have been very consistent in their performance. We have been able to win all the competitions we could because there is an enabling environment.
Now we are going into university and it is still difficult there. My utmost objective is to say I need a university that will be under my personal supervision because I need to give them the ideal training and see that their lecture programme does not conflict with their training programme. But it is difficult over there however, I can say that Nasarawa State University is doing their best in giving us what we want but it is still not ideal. We need to give the best to these children and help them achieve their potentials. I don’t want them to leave this place, I want to keep them in Nigeria and let them play their best football. The sustainability is the love and passion we have for the project and I think Nigerians are yarning for this continuity.
The boys are not saying I should fund the project; they are coming to support us. They are the ones floating this club, we are just supporting them.
There are cases of football academies being conduit pipes for slavery and human trafficking; who would you ensure that FFC does not fall into this?
The country belongs to all of us and I will challenge all Nigerians to do the right thing. If we all know what is correct and can move this country forward, the journalists should go round and do investigation and bring out the bad eggs in academy management in the country. They should be able to also bring out the ones that are setting the pace.
When they come out with this and advise the authority, they will listen to it and ensure that the correct things are done. As far as I am concerned, I have a dream and this is my dream. Is the dream acceptable to Nigerians? Other people have similar dreams but are they in tune with what we are looking for? If they are, fine and good; let harness them and follow a particular direction. The press and Nigerians know what they want. If you want good thing, you pursue it. I am just one out of close to 200 million Nigerians, I have started a project and by the special grace of God, it will continue. If it is going to last and be sustained, it is Nigerians that are going to do it. I am here to give my best to Nigeria and to my God.
What time frame did you set for your academy projects?
We started this programme in 2011 and my dream is that by 2027, I should have built a secondary school that should accommodate at least 600 students. I should have been ready to say that my secondary school team should have become a feeder team to a club side. A club side that is within my compound in Karshi, that will have a stadium; that will have a hotel and everything that you will need to be a great club. By what we have done today, you could see that I am already ahead of my programme not because of the initiative, but God is also using the boys to achieve the expected objectives. They have made it a lot easier for us by saying they want to play club football not for any other club but for Fosla. That they don’t want to play football for any exploiter, hence their request to float the club now.
My plan was to float the club after their graduation from the university but here we are today. They mounted pressure on us that they want the club and to the glory of God, we will continue to support them. My plan was that after their graduation, I would have the money to float a club but God is using them to do great things. I am not the one funding this project, my dream was 2027 but the boys’ dreams are that it should be now. You can see one of the second phase of my programme is being started. Floating a football club was not part of my agenda now due to lack of resources but I am happy Nigerians are keying in and I am waiting for great men and women to come and support and share in our dreams to be the best in the world and not 2027. My dream is 2027 but I am consciously guiding Nigerians to do it early if they can.