Nnaemeka Okwara, a UK-based trained football scout and fitness coach says that African football has suffered a slow growth when many expect it to compete effectively with the rest of the world.
In this interview, Okwara reveals more reasons for this poor development and proffers solutions amongst other issues.
Tell us about you and what you do?
My name is Nnaemeka Okwara. I am a professional football agent, grass root licensed football coach and also a qualified scout also referred to as talent identification; all licensed by the English Football Association. I am also a qualified fitness coach accredited by CIMSPA which is the most recognized fitness accreditation body in the UK for fitness coaches, nutrition advice and also personal training. I render professional nutritional coaching to professional athletes in order for them to achieve maximum goal. All combined, these accreditation and licenses makes Nao Sports, a sports consultancy agency which provides our clientele with the best services ranging from scouting, coaching, and fitness and visa processes .We also do contract negotiations when players get pro contracts in Europe.
How did you develop passion for African football?
My passion for African football comes through a natural love for the game as far as I can remember. With my experience gathered as a result of being grafted into the football sector in England, I decided to invest my time and effort into Africa football because that’s where the next big opportunity is due to immense talent not being scouted. Part of our job as a company is to scout through demography using Lagos State as case study to scout the best talents in Africa.
Tell us about the trainings you have had in this sector?
I had training in Football Coaching through the English FA learning and education. I also did a football course in scouting and talent identification program which entails how to scout potential athletes through the English FA learning and education. I also furthered my passion for fitness and sports through programs with YMCA fit in Central London where I learnt about the human anatomy in sports and how the human anatomy reacts to training.
I also learnt how to develop progressive over loads in athletes. I further enrolled as a football agent through the English FA. I further enrolled and self learnt contract negations through the English FA for education and learning.
What are the common mistakes being made when it comes to the growth of Nigerian/ African football?
As we all know education plays a vital in whatever one does. Constant commitment to improvement is the way to achievement. One of the common mistakes being made when it comes to African football is lack of public funding. In addition, the absence of football education for scouts, coaches and referees also hinders growth.
The dearth of adequate playing facilities including the right football pitches including sizes and surfaces is also another challenge. Lack of qualified fitness and certified coaches to run proper cardio, strength and conditioning, plyometric sessions at grass root football. Not forgetting this, the absence of long term plans and goals, is also affecting the growth of African football.
In 2022, what are the top three things a football talent should do to get signed?
When it comes to getting signed they need to understand that talent is never enough. Just being talented alone won’t get you signed. You have to combine some other traits with it. They have to have an obsession to be the best that’s a mindset you need first .They also need to train and work hard because the joy of a coach is to see a player train hard and listen. They also need to be humble. Pride goes before a fall.
Tell us about the FIFA based football development scheme?
The FIFA based scheme focuses on providing technical and human support in order to develop and foster football at all levels within the Nigerian territory. As such, the objectives of the Programme are to enable the associations to develop, strengthen and fine-tune football in all its forms, including futsal and beach soccer – from grassroots to the elite, for girls and boys, women and men – as well as their systems. The Program offers tailored support, adapted according to the individual needs through the identification of specific needs and priorities for the development of football.
What are the major differences between European and African football in terms of management?
The structure and organization makes a massive difference because the European management system is based on a long term goal to help the country’s football stable for years. A structure and a curriculum are put in place for years for a common goal. For example, the German national team came up with a plan after Euro 2004 with Joachim Lowe program which was for 15 years. Some of the players recruited were known from a very young age. They got recruited based on the style of play which met the coaches’ prerequisite
But in Africa we want quick result so managers get quick sack and majority of the foreign Coaches hired to work do not understand the demography of African football
Also African players who have played top flight football should always be given the national team job and should have a long term plan to help African football reach its peak.
Also we need to do is support ex-footballers who have played at top level for Nigerian and big European teams who understand the European and African demography that would move the our management system time we shouldn’t always call for their sack if something goes wrong all we need to do is support the process.