My Plan For Grassroots Players In Lagos


 Opeyemi Lawal is a FIFA players’ agent and member of the English FA Coaches Association. Lawal spoke with SUNDAY AKINTOYE about his mission in Nigeria and plans for grassroots players in Lagos State

You are a FIFA players’ agent and English FA qualified coach, what is your mission in Nigeria?

I am in Nigeria to organise trials for grassroots players between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. We call the trial IGI U-19 Football Talent Hunt Tournament. It is first of its kind in Lagos and lots of youths have shown interest in the programme, knowing the benefits they will get from it.

A lot of football organisers and consultants have organised this kind of programme before without achieving result, would the players not suffer like in the previous talent-hunt programmes ?

I agree with you that such can happen but this programme is supported by Industrial And General Insurance PLC, IGI. I have worked in England and some other parts of Europe where this kind of programme worked. So I brought it to Nigeria and I hope our grassroots players will embrace it.

What would the players benefit from the programme?

We are expecting 10,000 grassroots players from 57 Local Government and Local Community Development Areas of Lagos State to participate in the programme . The programme will hold at the main bowl of the National Stadium. We will shortlist the players to 52 and would train them together for possible selection by local and foreign scouts.

What is the reward for the players that will make the final list?

My job is to observe them during the screening while some Nigerian certified coaches will shortlist the players. I have contacted scouts from Poland, Belgium, Finland and England to assess the final screening which will be anchored by John Jackson, a British qualified coach. Jackson owns a football academy in London.

Would you take all the players to Europe and who will be responsible for their travel expenses?

During the final screening, we will select players that meet our requirements out of the 52 players and sponsor them to various clubs across the continent. We have our football agents in some notable clubs in the world and I believe that Nigerian players will perform to expectations.

What about their travelling expenses?

The sponsor will be responsible for that. We are not going to collect money from the players but the prospective players are expected to pay for their registration forms at all IGI branches in Lagos and the branches of a partner bank to be designated as ‘Official Bank’ of the tournament.

How do you rate Nigerian grassroots players compared to their European counterparts?

Honestly, Nigeria has raw talented players but in Europe their players are refined. Nigeria will continue to excel in the FIFA age grade football competitions because we play physical game. In Europe their players are technically and tactically better than Nigerian players.

If we can develop our players from tender age and focus on regular developmental programmes, Nigerian players will be technically better than how they are now.

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