By: Gyang Dakwo
Football administrator and Proprietor of Youth Arise Football Academy (YAFA), Olayinka Olagbemiro has made a strong appeal for investment in grassroots football, saying it is the most important factor in Nigeria’s quest to go back to her glory days in football.
Olagbemiro also advocated for the adoption of an educational system that has sports development embedded, adding that football has a lot to offer off the pitch.
Speaking to Abuja Digest at the start of a one-month summer football camp organized by YAFA, he noted that unless football is taken to the grassroots and the young ones irrespective of gender, the fortunes of football in Nigeria will continue to dwindle.
He said Nigeria earned global respect in football in the past because there was then a cadet system of football development where players were discovered from the grassroots and nurtured through to the professional level.
The football tactician was emphatic about the need for training facilities such as standard playing pitches and equipment to be made readily available and accessible all over the country. He frowned at the situation whereby most primary and secondary schools in the urban areas neither have recreational spaces nor football fields.
According to Olagbemiro, “We must go back to grassroots football development, we cannot dodge it. We must go back to doing it properly. We must deliberately invest in it and we have to set up a roadmap that will guide us. Nigeria is blessed with a lot of talent in football and so there is a need for mentorship and support which is what YAFA is doing.
“This is the Catch Them Young ideology which has been the secret behind the successes of top-ranked footballing nations who cultivate, nurture and develop talent right from a tender age.”
Olagbemiro also pointed out that football has now gone beyond the playing pitch and offers a lot of opportunities for the youths aside from playing for clubs.
He explained that since football has a huge global market, proper orientation and in both the physical and administrative aspects of football can guide young people with an interest in the game but who cannot play to choose careers that can be utilized in the football trade.
“There is the need for Doctors, Physiotherapists, and other medical staff as well as Accountants, Lawyers, and Business Managers to take care of the contract and money aspects of football. In fact, there are a lot of opportunities in football.
Olagbemiro noted that Playtime which the holiday football camp offers is more than just fun. He explained further that when kids and teens engage in physical activity, this releases endorphins, clears their minds of stress, and improves their physical fitness. These, he said all decrease tendencies to anxiety and depression which are some of the things that lead to negative behaviors.
He, therefore, advocated for more attention to be put into developing and sustaining a practical cadet system that will serve as the foundation and support base not only for the national teams but for the development of domestic football which has the potential to contribute to Nigeria’s economic growth.