New Telegraph

Nigerian football suffers because politicians run it, says Makinwa

Ayodele Makinwa, told AJIBADE OLUSESAN in this interview that many Nigerian players are struggling in Europe because they are not professional enough in their way of life.

How has it been life after football?

It has been a long time. Time after football has been interesting but not too different because I still remain part of football as an agent now. I am working closely with players now, many of them are friends with me. We have an academy that we are working together on. It is quite busy.

What is inspired you to become an agent?

Right from when I was playing, I used to send my friends to professional clubs and I found out that it was quite natural. It is something I enjoy doing and a passion. I decided to go into it after I stopped playing football.

What have you guys done to curtail the spate of fake agents and mushroom academies that have been a huge concern to the business?

That will be difficult. I am worried about it but it doesn’t really matter. People are different, what is important to us is to do the right things and when we do these things people would see that we are different from others.

Do you have any experience on agents jeopardising player’s career?

Yes, as a player it definitely must have happened to me many times. But as an agent, I saw that agents were the ones playing the games. There were so many occasions. At least I have done a few transfers and my experiences on this transfers are that; you see some agents even within clubs, you see interests. You have the president who has his own agent, with the vice- president who has his own agent. And even within these clubs you have these same problems. Now when you have a club with this kind of problem, existing within the president and the vice president, now coming out, you are now fighting against two people. But the club wants the player. Then how do you manage such situation? Then you find out that one agent is asking for money and he is not looking after his own player and of course the player’s salary will be there. But he is going to fight against the deal for his own money. In some cases you get some agreement and they try to play clever and they start to tell you that whatever you would have agreed before would change. Some agents would not agree and say that if he is not getting his share then he is not doing nothing. Myself, I am not for the money, of course the money will come. My primary focus is to change lives, to help my own friends as I call them as I call them my friends. I try to do what is best for them. Luckily for me, I am not hungry as I have done well for myself. I am okay, as I try to make my players happy. My primary target is my player’s happiness as anything that comes after is a plus.

Are you worried about the decline of Nigerian football?

I am worried and at the same I cannot do that much. I believe our football should have gone far. Unfortunately, Just imagine what is happening now. We did not qualify for the Nations Cup U-20, that is crazy. In Africa, when you are talking about football, Nigeria must be mentioned.. It did not just start today, it has been there a long time. I hope and pray that things will change. Sincerely, politics is a big problem. As a football player, I know how they run football in developed countries. We have to take examples from developed countries, because their football is business and it is not run by politicians. They give professionals to run football. For example, they know that if I am a sporting director, then I should be the one with the job. We should seek professionals to run our sports. I understand that we have a minister. So many things have happened, just imagine what happened with the U-20.

What is the reason behind Nigerian players struggle in Europe?

Sincerely, playing in European clubs, you have to be 100% professional. Football in Europe is big business and there are lots of distractions and attractions. For sure anybody that is going to play professional football and is not focused, then there is a huge problem. You will be going to a point where you cannot move forward again. You must be up and doing. Just take a look at all these stars like Cristiano Ronaldo, you can see him always having his personal training aside from his club’s training. You have to be disciplined; many times what they complain about African players is integration. So many African players do not want to mix with foreigners when they are in their countries. They always want to stay on their own. Some of them don’t know how to adjust quickly to situations, and it becomes very difficult for them to blossom. As you all know, football is a team sport. So as a player, if you are not in a good relationship with your fellow players, they will not be connected with you and it becomes a problem. Our professionals sometimes are extravagant. There is nothing bad in looking good, but being focused is another thing as it affects them. It is not something that affects your game, but it comes into your head as you want to show off and then some people will see you and not like your kind of person as they would want to be referred to as special, which is a problem. I remember telling someone that sometimes, look at these big stars in Italy and in all parts of the world. Look at them, for example Lionel Messi, see how simple they are. Sometimes if you don’t know them, you will not even believe when you see them, because you will be expecting to see them in flamboyant outfits, but when you see them they are so simple. Some of them just wear Nike products. I was telling that person that when you see Francessco Totti, he wears Nike products and he doesn’t care, not wearing flamboyant outfit doesn’t change his name. it is who you are and not what you wear. Sometimes, people get carried away and they focus on flashy things instead of working hard.

You played for a number of clubs in Europe, which was the most challenging for you

It was when I went to Lazio that I discovered a cartilage problem that is a hole in my knee. It was difficult to compete as I had just signed for Lazio. Mainly after two, three days after pre- season, after training, my knee would be swollen and I won’t be able to train for days. It was difficult to compete, after so many physiotherapy tests on me in Seria A, with so many good players.

In which of the clubs did you enjoy your football most?

Before Lazio, every club was fantastic. Not that Lazio wasn’t fantastic, but my injury affected me there. An unforgettable experience was at Athlanta because the fans were shouting that I should be the major there. They called me Makinwasindaco . The fans hailed me so much, it was incredible.

You didn’t quite warm yourself into the hearts of Nigerians, did expectation from the fans affect you?

I was mainly disturbed by my knee problem. Then I had this recurring knee problem, it always got swollen during the time I am supposed to resume for the national team. Sometimes, I would ask myself why it would wait until when I am called to the national team, before it got swollen. then as soon as the list comes out, it would get swollen. It was a mystery. Many times I played with this problem. Many times I would come early and go to the physio for checks. After traveling, that would always make it worse because when you spend hours flying , it would worsen the knee and it would take time to heal as I had to play with it like that just to avoid sitting on the bench.

Fans didn’t know this but they wanted result from you, did that put extra pressure on you?

At times you need to look at the situation, because some tournaments, when you play 15 minutes, people will expect you to make instant impact.

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