The Founder and Manager of WACO Football Academy Abuja, John Wakili has said due to lack of knowledge, agents who took former Super Eagles players, Kenneth Omeruo and Rabiu Ibrahim from his academy didn’t pay for the players.
The former Agric Lions and Taraba United player also spoke on the challenges of running a football academy in Nigeria.
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How did WACO Academy come into existence?
I started Waco Football Academy in 1995. Although I was still playing active football for NYSC, I couldn’t resist the urge to start grooming stars of tomorrow. I used to go to secondary schools in Abuja to pick interested boys to join the academy. I was training them at the Area Three playground. Although I left NYSC to play for Taraba United, I engaged a coach to take care of the academy. When I finally returned to Abuja, I took over.
Have you achieved the objective for setting up the academy?
I will say yes because we have made tremendous progress from 1995 to date. The academy has continued to grow in leaps and bounds. At the moment, my players are everywhere in Nigerian football. Some are playing for National League clubs and some are in the Nigeria Professional Football League. I have a player in Kwara United and one has just signed for Kano Pillars. It will also interest you to know that we have produced Super Eagles players. Only a few people know that Kenneth Omeruo, Rabiu Ibrahim and Daniel Etor started their football career in WACO Academy.
Considering the profile of some of the players you have mentioned, your academy must be swimming in money. How rich is WACO Academy?
It will surprise you to know that we didn’t get anything for the transfer of these players. There was no proper documentation so agents just came and took these players away. I didn’t go into any formal agreement with the agents. It is like I just did charity work. Unfortunately, none of the agents has remembered to come back and invest in the academy.
Do the players on their own come around to give support to the academy?
To be honest with you, some of them are doing their best. They have been supportive. Some send us training kits while others buy balls for the academy. We appreciate the fact that they have not completely forgotten about us. Someone like Daniel Etor who is now in Oman comes around to train with us when he is in Nigeria.
What have you done to ensure that henceforth your academy benefits from the transfer of players?
I have learnt from my past mistakes. You know I just started so I lacked the knowledge and experience. Agents who took undue advantage of me won’t succeed again. I have done all the necessary documentation of my players. None of my players can leave without my consent. My players in the NPFL are in these clubs on free loan. I can recall them to the academy anytime we get a good offer from abroad. The target is to transfer them to European clubs. It will also interest you to know that the little money we received Kwara United for Alo was what happened us to prosecute the FCT FA League. By the grace of God we defended our title and are going to participate in the amateur league playoff.
What does it take for a player to join WACO Academy?
First, you must have the ability to play football. Apart from ability, an applicant must show the required interest and commitment. We don’t just accept everybody. When you have met our conditions, you are then expected to pay a registration fee of N40,000 for a year. Once you pay, you are given two pairs of jerseys and an Identity card. Since we have no sponsor, we use part of the registration fees to run the academy.
What was the major challenge you faced when the academy started?
I will say we suffered from the lack of equipment and training kits. It was the parents of the players that kept the academy going. Some of them usually come forward to ask what we needed. Some bought balls and jerseys for us. I will say the academy was sponsored substantially by parents.
Are you sufficiently trained to be able to coach your players?
Yes, I have made sure that I am adequately trained to be able to impart knowledge of football on my players. Two years ago, I did the CAF ‘C’ licence course. Before then, I had graduated from the National Institute for Sports. Also, I have attended different coaching clinics and seminars to acquire more coaching skills.
How much support do you get from the Nigeria Football Federation?
We owners of Football academies are not getting the required support from the Nigeria Football Federation. We have continued to do it on our own without any support. Even without support, we have continued to produce players for the national teams. Like I told you earlier, some of my players have played for the Super Eagles. I believe if the football federation would support us, we would be able to do more. I can produce good players if given the necessary support.
What does it take for one to coach and succeed with young players?
You see these are boys who are between ages 13 and 14, they need to be handled with care. They are still fragile so anything can break them psychologically. To succeed with them, you must be a father, brother and friend. If you are harsh on them, they would lose self-confidence. I relate with my players as if they are my children. We do everything like one united family. Sometimes, I take them to Jabi lake to relax and learn other things outside football.
How did you start your football career?
I was the captain of my school, Barewa College Zaria. However, when I lost my uncle who was my sponsor, I couldn’t further my education. I then decided to take up football as a career. I played for National Steel FC Kaduna. When the coach of the club left to handle another club in Abuja, he insisted that I must come with him. Thrice I came but couldn’t stay. However, my family decided I should just try and stay in Abuja. That was how I joined Agric Lions. From Agric Lions, I moved to NYSC FC. It was when I played against Taraba United that they saw me and didn’t allow me to come back to Abuja. So I was signed by Taraba United where I played for three years. I was in the squad that brought Taraba United to the professional league. Along the line, I was injured so I couldn’t continue. I then returned to Abuja and was appointed coach of the female team, FCT Queens. I was coaching the team and also managing my academy.