Lami Rachel Adamu from Jos East Local Government of Plateau State, a former international and a member of the Super Falcons to the 2000 Olympic Football Tournament in Sydney, has been in the United States for 17 going on 18 years. She was one of the lasses that represented the country in the 1990s.
She shares her love for the round leather game, her days with the team, how they stay in touch and her new business of catering for parties, packaging of suya and kilishi in the US through her outfit, Saharan Kilishi, located in New Jersey.
In 2016, Lami was amongst the Diaspora Young Professionals that were in audience with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington D.C during his first official visit to the USA.
What are you doing in the United States?
Currently, I own Saharan Kilishi. I make suya and kilishi. I supply to stores, cater for parties, I go to events and people can call and order, just trying to give people a taste of home so that they don’t miss home that much.
You are a known footballer, why did you abandon the game?
Yes. I played for Nigeria but in January of 2002, I was offered a full athletic scholarship to Bloomfield College in New Jersey and I took full advantage of the opportunity I was given. I did my undergraduate, I went ahead and did my masters, I got a job until I fell into making suya and kilishi accidentally.
I got my bachelor’s degree in 2005 and went straight to obtain an MBA at Nyack College in New York. When I graduated, I had big dreams of working for corporate America but that was not to be and I fell into financial crisis.
After graduation, I also coached both my college men’s and women’s teams as an assistant coach but now I now fully devoted to my own business. My suya and kilishi is United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified. I supply to stores, I sell on Amazon and anybody can pick it up from me as well.
My choice of business (suya and kilishi) surprised my family and friends, especially my mom, because of my educational background and exposure. But now, I have their full support and they are very proud of what I’m doing.
With my line of business, I have been fortunate to meet beautiful and prominent Nigerians from all walks of life, including the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, in 2016.
I was awestruck when I met Mr President. Although I’m very proud of my days in Super Falcons team, I believe that opportunity came because I now own my business.
Do you still miss those days with your teammates?
Of course I do. Once you love something you do so forever. Football is my passion I still play it once or twice a week, I call it my therapy. I do miss it sometimes, most especially when I see them in competition. Atimes I wish I was playing competitively, but sometimes the body says no. So, yes I miss football, that is playing in competition, but I still play once or twice a week.
How was your days in Super Falcons and how did this all began?
I was very active and curious as a kid. I played a lot with the boys in the neighborhood. I became interested in football and it turned out that I was good at it.
Like I said earlier, football is my passion. I did other sports like track and field, handball and volleyball but football will always be my favourite.
According to my mum, my father was in the Nigerian Army and fought in the Biafra Civil War but he later became a police officer.
My mum became a widow early and because she didn’t go to school, she stayed at home to take care of us; she did her best to raise us. My grandfather took my siblings and I because that’s just how it was because the children belongs to the father.
At age seven, I was sent to go live with my uncle (my mother’s younger brother) in Jos. My uncle was totally against my playing football. He tried to stop me but I was not having none of it. He was eventually prevailed upon to let me be by one of our relatives as he does not know where the game might take me and he eventually caved in.
I was very fortunate to play for the first and second generation of Super Falcons, the likes of Omolove Branch, Eucheria Uche, Florence Omagbemi, Nkiru Okosieme, Mavis Ogun, Eucharia Uche, Phoebe Ebemekoumo, Ann Chejine, Patience Evra, Maureen Madu, and Mercy Akide.
My first call up to the Super Falcons was in 1997 when I was with Oladimeji Tigress of Ilorin.
I think we were the third set, that will be the first and second World Cup and then us. It was really fun, it was really amazing to play with all these amazing players I mentioned earlier.
When I first got there I was starstruck, it was just incredible to just be in their midst. I mean I learnt a lot from them. It was a huge honour and privilege to play in those days.
Are you still in touch with your former teammates and what do you miss most about them?
Yes, although not as we used to but we still talk to each other. I know where everybody is, we communicate once in a while.
As to what I miss about them, those set of players were very different from today’s Super Falcons. I haven’t played with these sets so I don’t know much about them but those sets of female footballers – the 1991 group, 1995, etc – were amazing. The Super Falcons then were very dedicated, passionate and disciplined. We did it for the love of the game and country. We didn’t just play for money. But just like any other thing, things evolve.
Then the NFA, now NFF, respected us more than they do now because we thrived, we had good leadership, we had incredible coaches, we have lost quite a few of them. Paul Hamilton, Peter Egudia, Jossy Lad, they are all dead now. May their souls rest in peace. Coach Mabo is still alive, I see him every time I go back because I go visit him. Danladi Nasidi is still alive.
My best coach in the national team was Jossy Lad. He was quiet and gentle. His words of advice and encouragement helped me not only on the pitch but I still use them today.
“I would always be grateful to coach Mabo for being a father figure and to all the girls. Going to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games with the Super Falcons was a really beautiful experience that I will cherish for life.
We also had amazing medical team then and I still talk to Dr Iyabo Oyeniya, what an incredible woman. I talk to her more than any other player. Nkola Jackson, our physical therapist, Otaipo, I think she is in Australia. We just had an incredible team, be it the coaching staff, the medical staff and then the administrative part of it. We had one we called Mama G.
I also want to credit all female football team owners without them they wouldn’t have been us. People like Princess Jegede, Kujebola, Larry Eze in Port Harcourt, Rashidat Oladimeji and Baba Oladimeji too, Omidiran who came in later, Simbiat Abiola (May her soul rest in peace), John Siaki (May he rest in peace). Back in Jos, these were really the people that were really the foundation of female football in Nigeria. And I hope one day that we as players and as a nation will get to honour them. I think that will be a great honour for these people. I think we have to do it before the die for those still alive, they wouldn’t have been us without them. They did the best they could, they used their money, raised the teams.
You mentioned earlier that during your time the teams had so much respect. What will you say is wrong today that they have lost that respect?
Like I said, I have not been in their camps. The last time I was there was probably four years ago or so. Most of the things I know is from what I hear. Secondly, the authorities don’t respect the coaches, the continuity is not there. They will bring one former player today and once they lose a game, they switch and bring another one. When we played, it was a consistent string of coaches. We had Paul Hamilton, Coach Mabo
Peter Egudia. Coach Hamilton left and Mabo took over and it was consistent. So, I can’t speak to what is happening today because I’m not part of them and another thing, we never went on strike.
Florence Omagbemi was an incredible captain, she captained the team for as long as I know female football and she worked credibly well with the coaching and managerial staff. I just feel they respected the sets before us and our set than they do now.
So what can be done to improve that and return to respectful era?
For one, we are first and foremost players either as a male or female player, that dichotomy has to be removed and we all should be treated as Nigerian footballers. To improve women’s football in Nigeria, the NFF has to put in more resources and energy. We women’s league need to be developed just like the men’s by getting sponsorships, organise competitions for all age groups, pay better benefits and provide equipment.
Now talk about your own American dream; has America been fair to you?
America has been really good to me. I came here just to get my education. I have my bachelors, two master’s degrees and a few years later I now own my own business, I can’t complain. The country has blessed me just like a lot of people here, it is hard to break in but once you break in there are a lot of opportunities here; but I think I am ready to go back home, too.
So, what are your plans should you get the chance to return home?
To continue my business. I tell people that I have tested freedom and I don’t want to lose it. There is nothing like having your own. Working for people and working for yourself is an entirely different thing. I enjoy working for myself, I work two, three times harder but I enjoy working for myself. I am not answerable to anybody. If I don’t feel like working today, I take a break, but I love what I do. I just enjoy watching people come here, buy the suya or kilishi and relish the delicacy. It is something that reminds them of home, it is a snack on the go. I call myself ‘suya on wheels’, I bring suya to you wherever you are for a fee.
So, aside your business any plans to settle down soon?
I’m not married nor do I have kids. I love to settle down and have kids, but all those are in God’s hands. Right now I am living and doing my thing and when marriage eventually comes along the way, I will gratefully accept it because I am physically, mentally, psychologically ready for that now.