The Chairman of Wikki Tourists FC Bauchi, Alhaji Balarabe Yusuf ‘Douglas’ has said Governor Bala Mohammed’s timely intervention was what saved the club from relegation in the 2021 NPFL season. In this interview with Trust Sports, Balarabe explained how the management of Wikki Tourists has received the governor’s approval to recruit a competent coach, best players in the domestic league and the charge to go for the 2021 NPFL title. He also spoke on some important issues that have to do with organisation of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
How happy were you when Wikki Tourists survived relegation on the final day of the 2021 season?
I thank Almighty God for making it possible for Wikki Tourist FC to escape relegation last season and I am extremely happy about that feat. It was not easy but we kept fighting till we survived.
- $1.2m NNPC ‘bribe’ used to finance Jonathan, Buhari elections – Report
- Bandits impose tax on Katsina farmers
What gave you the confidence that your team would survive the relegation fight?
Despite losing very important matches, we were motivated by the unflinching support from my mentor and father, Governor Bala Mohammed. He gave me the needed confidence to keep the club in the topflight. We were not starved of funds. As a matter of fact, there were occasions he gave us twice what we requested. It may also interest you to know that the governor personally held a meeting with me where we discussed how to save the club from relegation. In fact, he immediately increased players match bonus. That timely intervention saved Wikki Tourists from relegation.
With such support from the governor, why did Wikki Tourists find themselves struggling against relegation?
We suffered as a result of past mistakes. When I was appointed, I met a coach who was employed by the past management. He wasn’t good enough for the club. I then requested for his sack and the governor approved. The coach was told to leave and I hired a more competent one. Immediately, the team picked up. Even if you have good players in your team, they must be handled by a good coach. So I can say the change of the technical crew also played a significant role in the survival of Wikki Tourists. Funny enough, some management members attempted to sabotage my efforts for me to be seen as a failure so that I will be sacked by the governor. But it didn’t work.
What are you doing to avoid a repeat of such unsatisfactory performances in the coming season?
First, I have employed a highly competent technical adviser, Coach Kabiru Dogo who has track records with different clubs in the country. I believe he is capable of restoring the lost glory of Wikki Tourists. I can tell you that even from his few training sessions with the club, our fans have seen the difference. Secondly, we have the backing of our sports loving governor to go for the best players in the domestic league. As a result, we have recruited some of the best players. So if you look at the changes we have made, we are confident we would not struggle again.
In concrete terms, what is the target for Wikki Tourists in the 2022 NPFL season?
By the special grace of God, our main target is to secure continental slot by winning the 2022 NPFL season. My boss, His Excellency, Governor Bala Mohammed wants Wikki Tourists to play continental football next season. It is for this reason that he has given us an open cheque to assemble a formidable squad. I am confident that with the support of the governor and the players we have, nothing will stop our continental ambition.
Would you encourage the technical crew to carry out total overhauling of the team?
Already, we have overhauled the players and if the new technical crew demands for another overhaul to make the club better, I will encourage them, if that will give us the desired result.
Are there any plans to attract private sponsorship to augment the financial support from the government?
We have a plan on ground and the governor has also promised to link the club with prominent companies and other private investors with a view to investing in the club to make Wikki Tourist FC financially strong. I believe the initiative will also boost football in the state and beyond.
Without doubt, you are passionate about sports. However, did your appointment as Chairman of Wikki Tourists come to you as a surprise?
There can never be any surprise in what God has done. I have a long time relationship with the governor. I have always supported him in his people oriented projects. He also knows my passion for football. Before now, I had organised series of football competitions. In one of the grassroots football tournaments I organised, the governor donated a brand new bus to the winners. I also organized a competition when he was Minister of the FCT for all the 20 LGAs in Bauchi and he donated an 18 seater bus to winner. Again I organized another football competition, he donated two vehicles. Even when he left office as FCT Minister, he still donated another bus when I organised a youth football tournament. Against this background, he always consulted me on anything that has to do with the game of football. Therefore, I was not surprised when the governor appointed me as chairman of Wikki Tourists.
What is your assessment of the running of the league by the LMC?
LMC are trying but there are problems. One of such problems is congested fixtures. Playing midweek matches is not easy. It has adverse effect on the players and clubs’ finances. I even raised this during our recent meeting. For instance, it is not easy to travel all the way from Bauchi to Kwara to play on Sunday and return to Bauchi midnight of Monday or Tuesday morning and play again on Wednesday. There is hardly time to rest and recover so fatigue naturally sets in. Honestly, our performance last season was affected by congested fixtures. I am happy that the meeting resolved that henceforth, there will be only one midweek match in a month. Apart from that, there is also the problem of sponsorship. Most clubs struggle to survive due to financial challenges. However, all hope is not lost because the League Management Company (LMC) is doing everything to improve the NPFL.
How satisfied are you with officiating in the NPFL?
Honestly, I cannot say that I am completely satisfied with officiating but I must confess that the referees are trying. However, we want improvement in the way and manner they officiate because there are a lot of shortcomings. Referees are also human so they are bound to make mistakes but some mistakes can be avoided. But there is improvement so we are all hoping for better officiating next season.