Bayo Adigun is a young football player manager who had his playing career cut short due to the serious injury sustained while at FK Ventspils of Latvia in 2016. The former U17 Golden Eaglets player under late coach Yemi Tella, who won the U17 World Cup in 2007, was a skilful and hard defender during his playing days. The father of two and the son of Bunmi Adigun, the Leventis United FC legend, now residing in the UK, has a football academy, VIA, in the city of lbadan, Oyo State. In this interview with Sunday Telegraph, he talks about his early playing days, his saddest moment and about Sunday Oliseh, who he described as a “dictator.”
How was your early days as a young footballer and who encouraged you the most?
I started off with a boys club called Greater Tomorrow FC under late coach Baba Gomez. He was a great influence on me as a young up and coming player. I started out as a striker but later became a defender with Accurate Stars under coach Neyo.
To be honest, my early playing days were like a learning process and I must admit that my father, Bunmi Adigun, really encouraged me a lot and always told me I needed to work harder for better days to come. Maybe the fact he was also a former footballer that’s why he encouraged me.
He played for the great Leventis United team and also was capped at the senior level. He was my mentor and role model.
You must have been a very good player to have been invited to late coach Yemi Tella’s U17 team that went on to win the World Cup?
Coach Tella was a very discipled and technically sound person. He must have seen something in me that warranted my invitation to the team. I played all the qualifying matches before I left the country for trials with Sporting Lisbon of Portugal. Unfortunately on arrival back to camp I got injured. This was few days to the U17 World Cup in South Korea.
Are you saying you didn’t make the World Cup team?
I was dropped on the eve of the team’s departure. It was the saddest day of my life! I felt as if the whole world had come down on me. Nnamdi Oduamdi and I were dropped. The team went on to make history winning the World Cup. Very painful one missed out.
After I got over the injury and since I missed the Portugal deal I had to now settle for a J League deal with Kashnwa Reysol in Japan after which I later went on to play for Tokyo Verd FC.
After my contract ended l then moved to FK Bylis in Albania. Later I came home to play for a season with 3SC of lbadan and thereafter moved over to Al Tahadi of Libya. I had a great time there but the internal crisis at that time which resulted in heavy fighting and loss of hundreds of lives put an end to my stay and contract with the club as l had to leave when it got worse and President Muammar Gaddafi was killed.
On returning to Nigeria in 2015, l was signed on by Sunshine Stars of Akure but left during the season in 2016 for FK Ventspils of Latvia which unfortunately was my last bus stop as a player due to the serious injury I sustained. I had series of operations and had hopes of returning to the field in style but in one of the matches I got injured again on the same leg.
The club really tried for me but doctors advised I should just quit active football unless I wanted a permanent damage for life. So l had no choice than to take to their advice and quit at that stage of my career.
So what did you now turn to when you quit?
It was not difficult for me to choose going into player management/agent being a former player as I understood the terrain a lot. While playing as a kid I had developed a passion for it and as such it was easy for me to make the switch. I run a football academy in lbaban called VIA and the boys are being coached by a former Super Eagles player, Tony Alegbe. We also have a General Manager and Team Manager, so we run it professionally.
Though I don’t reside in the country but I do come in often. I’m happy the Academy has produced talents that are now playing in the home league and abroad.
Now that you’re into football player management do you think the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is doing enough for the development of the league and players?
Well the league is getting better but there is still room for improvement.
In that case, are you insinuating that our local coaches are doing well?
No doubt we have good indigenous coaches.
Is Samson Siasia not a product of our local coaches? He has done well with the teams he had handled in the past. I believe he should be given another chance to handle any of the national teams. Was late Keshi not a local coach? He won the Nations Cup and took Nigeria to the World Cup. I believe the NFF should encourage our local coaches the more.
Who is your greatest Nigerian player?
Aaaah that has to be Sunday Oliseh!! I watched him play while growing up. He was a dictator on the field of play, a Field Marshal on the pitch. Everything about him was to perfection. He tried his hands on coaching the Super Eagles at a point in time but threw in the towel when things were going the wrong way. I would want to see him come back to coach the Eagles in future.
The Super Eagles is coached by a foreign handler, Gernot Rohr, a German, what about our local coaches?
This is a matter of choice and opinion. Right now Rohr is doing a good job, putting together a team of young players based in Europe.
When Keshi was there didn’t he do a fantastic job and was he not a local coach so to speak?
Can one then say you are in line with the players of Nigerian descent that Rohr had flooded the team with to the detriment of the home-based players? We have an array of good players in the Nigerian League but they still have to keep playing well and improving to get invited to the national team.
The likes of Kenneth Omerou, Godfrey Oboabona and co came from our League. I think Keshi gave them the opportunity and they took the bull by the horn… today they are better off as they play in Europe for big clubs. A player who is going to follow their footsteps and break into Europe is Omojesu Oguniyi.
He is a player from VIA Academy who played for Sunshine last season – a skilful attacking midfield player. He is being sought after by many clubs both in Nigeria and abroad. Watch out for him!