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Najib Mabo: Keeping Mighty Jets away from relegation is big achievement

Head Coach of Mighty Jets of Jos, Rajib Mabo, has said keeping the club safe in the Nigerian National League (NNL) using young and inexperienced…

Head Coach of Mighty Jets of Jos, Rajib Mabo, has said keeping the club safe in the Nigerian National League (NNL) using young and inexperienced players is a huge achievement. In this interview with Trust Sports, the son of the legendary Coach Ismaila Mabo spoke on the performance of Mighty Jets in the current season, the support from the government of Plateau State and what he learnt from his famous father who died as the Super Falcons’ most successful coach.

With two matches remaining, how satisfied are you with the performance of your team in the 2023/2024 NNL season?  

I am grateful to God for the opportunity to serve a the Head Coach of Mighty Jets. I am satisfied with what we have achieved because if you can’t pick the Championship playoff ticket, then you shouldn’t have anything to do with relegation. Mighty Jets have nothing to do with relegation and that is why I am satisfied. Our team is made up of young players so the future is bright for Mighty Jets.

What would you say is responsible for the failed Super 8 playoff bid?

We couldn’t make it because we have a new management, a new technical crew and 80 per cent of the players are new. In Mighty Jets, we believe in discovering hidden talents. We don’t go for ready-made players. With this successful season, I think we will compete strongly for a Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) ticket next season.

It is said Jets found themselves in a group that was far above their standard. How true is this?  

It was indeed a ‘Group of death’ but it wasn’t above the standard of Mighty Jets. We competed against relegated NPFL clubs like Wikki Tourists, Nasarawa United and El-kanemi Warriors and gave a good account of ourselves. Another thing is that most of these clubs retained their experienced players while we paraded debutants. But looking at the history of Mighty Jets, no one can say that we don’t deserve respect. We are one of the biggest clubs in the North. So, I want to repeat that even as we are not going to pick one of the playoff tickets, the group wasn’t above our standard. We deserve our respect.

Would you say the right players were recruited for the task?

Yes, we did. I was able to put together a team for the future. When you recruit new players, you are not expected to deliver at once. It takes some time. I believe my management will give me more time to transform these young boys into a formidable squad. I am optimistic this set of young players will deliver for Mighty Jets in no distantB future.

What are your plans for the remaining two matches?

The plan is to beat Wikki Tourists in Bauchi or pick at least a point and then come back home to round up the season with a win over Yobe Desert Stars.

Out of the defeats suffered by Mighty Jets, which one pained you the most?

I think the most painful loss was the match we lost against Nasarawa United at home and the victory that gave me so much joy was the win over ABS of Ilorin. We defeated them 2-0 at home which lifted us higher while they went down into relegation waters. The win actually kept us safe from relegation.

You also have a secondary school boy in your team, Emmanuel Ukeyima. What have you found so special about him?

He is a rare gem. I think he is the only player in the NNL who is still in secondary school. This should tell you how talented he is. Ukeyima is very skilful, good on the ball and highly disciplined on and off the field. His vision and ball distribution is amazing. He is one of a kind and I believe he will soon excel. We are grateful for having the young prodigy in our team. I tip him to go places very soon. Please, don’t forget the name Ukeyima.

How much support are Mighty Jets enjoying from the sponsors of the club?

For several years, Mighty Jets have been receiving hundred per cent support from the Plateau State government. This is what has contributed to the continuous existence of the club. We are grateful to the government for the unwavering support.

Your dad, Coach Ismaila Mabo, was recently honoured with a posthumous award. How happy are you?

Honestly, I can’t describe my feelings. I feel very happy and proud to be the son of a legend, a true apostle of the round leather game. I am very happy. I am sure it will inspire others to write their names in gold for similar recognition to be bestowed on them even when they are gone. May his soul continue to rest in perfect peace.

You are following in his footsteps. Are you under any pressure to replicate his success?

I am not under any pressure because it is a gradual process. He was one of the most successful coaches in Nigeria but it didn’t happen overnight. Wearing his big shoes is not an easy task. He started as Head coach of Mighty Jets in the 70s, became Super Falcons assistant coach before he was finally made the Head Coach. For now, he is the Super Falcons’ most successful coach. I am working hard to be like him.

Does the name Ismaila Mabo get you things on a silver platter?

Of course, I am reaping from my dad’s labour but most of what I have achieved is based on merit. In fact, he told me to always work hard. He said I shouldn’t depend on his name to get favours from people. I have taken his advice seriously and it’s helping me. I believe in hard work, dedication and discipline.

As a football coach, what are the most important things that you learnt from your father?

I learnt a lot from him. He was a man of his words, highly principled and disciplined. He was a coach with different and positive training programmes. I also learnt punctuality and record keeping from him. It will surprise you to know that he kept the record of every line up of the matches he played in Nigerian Standard FC Jos in the 60s and Mighty Jets in the 70s. I also try to keep my records carefully. It helps to keep memories alive.

What does maintaining the Mabo family tie with Mighty Jets mean to you?

It’s a special feeling. My dad spent almost all his life time in Mighty Jets. He played and started his coaching career with Mighty Jets. Even when he played for the national team, he was a Mighty Jets player. So, I am grateful to almighty God for this opportunity to also coach Mighty Jets. I appreciate the Chairman of the club, Mr. Mbum Ferdinand, the state government, the fans and management for believing in me. Coaching this historic club means a lot to me. I am bereft of words to express my appreciation.


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