By David Ngobua
The Chairman of Abubakar Bukola Saraki (ABS) Football Club, Ilorin, Seni Saraki has expressed confidence that the national U-17 team, the Golden Eaglets will do the nation proud by winning the 2019 AFCON in Tanzania. He disclosed this on Tuesday when he paid the team a surprised farewell visit at their training ground in Abuja. The football enthusiast and administrator also spoke on his team’s chances in the ongoing Nigeria National League.
What prompted you to visit to Golden Eaglets training?
Thank you. I am here to felicitate with the team, especially ahead of their visit to Tanzania for the U-17 AFCON. You know they are our ambassadors, and they need this type of motivation. Again, it’s an opportunity for me to see and talk to two of my players in the team. I have Olakunle Olusegun and Gata Mubarak in the team. They are the products of our U-15 team that won the LaLiga Promises championship in 2017. My visit will boost their morale in the African championship, from where they will fight for a World Cup ticket.
You watched the team’s training, how confident are you ahead of the U-17 AFCON in Tanzania?
The players are in good condition and shape, based on what I have seen, and also, going by the results of the matches they have played so far.
Again, we have coaches who understand the terrain. Coach Manu Garba has previously been involved in two glorious outings at this level, and Coach Nduka Upgrade, apart from been the Captain of the first team that won it in 1985, was also part of the teams that have won the title at one time or the other. I have the confidence that they will do the nation proud.
Another very important factor is the pedigree of Nigeria at youth level, both in Africa and world level.
Apart from your visit to the team today, what other means of motivation do you have for the team?
It wouldn’t just end here with this visit. I will have to re-adjust my programme and schedules, because I already promised to be in Tanzania to cheer them throughout the competition.. I will want to personally be there when the whole thing happens.
But do you think this team had the best of preparations ahead of the competition?
I am a football administrator, and I have been following the progress of this team, just like other national teams we have, and not because of my players in the team.
I will therefore, want to commend the Nigeria Football Federation for their efforts at developing football, especially at the grassroots.
I will also want to thank the League Management Company for participating LaLiga in organizing the U-15 Promises competition, which has given us the opportunity to have two players in that team.
We have six players from that class of 2017 in our main team presently, which two are in other Nigeria National League teams.
We are participating in the on-going LaLiga Promises as the defending champions. We are using that to groom the next set of champions by the grace of G
Now to your club, ABS FC, what is the expectation this season?
Thank you. The expectation is to have a successful campaign in this season’s Nigeria National League (NNL). Our target is to qualify for the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), where we rightly belong.
We are running pure professional outfit, by all standards. For this season, we have hired a coach that has gone through this journey twice before, Coach Hassan Abubakar, and we are ready for the season.
We have changed our club camp, this in order to ensure more comfortability for the players and coaches, and we will surely improve on our Welfare packages, in order to get the best out of the players. With the preparations we have put in place so far, we are hopeful of a fruitful campaign this season.
Year-in-year-out, you always have younger players in your team. What’s the secret?
ABS FC is no doubt, a modest club, and we have strived over the years to make a model for other clubs. We believe so much in the youths, and the club was initiated because of them. It’s a platform for developing and empowering the young and talented footballers. It’s a veritable platform, and a launchpad for the youths to rise to stardom. Many of them have benefited, many are currently benefiting, and many of them will still benefit. I earlier told you we are currently participating in the on-going LaLiga Promises. The current team has about 50 percent U-13 players, especially those that won the Channels Kiddies International tournament in Lagos last year. Our projection was that next season, we will play in the NPFL, and by then, they will be about 14 years old. By the time they are doing that, we are already working on another set of younger players. That is what we do at ABS FC.
And are you planning to sustain the structure?
The structure is already on ground, and was well laid. We are planning to build on that in the nearest future. Among the long term plan was to have our own stadium, and we are already working on that.Right now, we have an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kwara Football Academy, which covers technical development and player exchange, and we also hope to build on that as time goes on.
Last but not the least, what is your assessment of the Nigerian league?
We are not doing badly, despite the challenges. There is room for improvement. We are still learning, and I believe we will get there very soon. Thanks.
Source Daily Trust