SC Paderborn of Germany’s left full back, Jamilu Collins was a surprise inclusion in Gernot Rohr’s list of invited players for the AFCON qualifier against Seychelles. He is a product of Abuja Football College. In this interview with naijasportsgrill.com.ng, AFC Administrator, Clement Kumbi Titiloye, who is also a member of NFF Youth Football Development Committee sheds light on the new Eagles invitee, operations of the College and other discoveries of the College.
NSG: So far so good. How has the journey been with Abuja Football College?
Titiloye: The journey is still work in progress. It’s an academy that was founded in 2011. In our own little way, we have helped in developing young stars especially, financially-challenged young stars from all over the country. And in the process, today we can boast about 32 players playing in Europe professionally. And we are still in our mill, grinding out and churning out boys that can represent our country and represent their families by playing professionally and taking care of their families.
NSG: You said you have 32 players abroad at the moment, how do you select them?
Titiloye: Abuja Football College is a free academy. Free in the sense that you do not pay to apply. You come with your boots for trials. We do trials everyday and in the process, boys that have the required technical, physical and athletic abilities, we absorb them and assimilate them so that they can become refined players.
NSG: You just go to their homes or what?
Titiloye: They just come to our pitch for trials. Most times, we don’t know them from Adam. They just turn up and we assess them.
NSG: How do you create the awareness to attract the players?
Titiloye: Well, the brand itself has created the awareness in the sense that we play friendlies against all teams in Abuja. And we have scouts all around the country that recommend players. In the process, a lot of people have heard about the academy particularly our exploits with the Under 17 national team and the Olympic team. On our website, we have advertised extensively. In the process, boys call, parents call, relatives call that they have young stars that are desirous of playing football. So we tell them that there is no payment. Just come. We train everyday. You come, we take a look at you and see if you are good. We have a pool of UEFA Pro-licensed coaches and other Nigerian certified coaches. They decide and say ‘this boy is good, let’s develop him’. That’s the way we go about it.
NSG: How is it funded? Any foreign partnership?
Titiloye: Football College is privately-funded, nationally-funded. We don’t have any overseas sponsors.
NSG: We will come to Jamilu Collins. You said you have 32 players abroad. Which other players can we point at as AFC products even if they are not playing abroad?
Titiloye: Katsina United Football Club, a Premier League club in Nigeria is a perfect example. We have about six players that we gave out to the club. The club chairman is a friend of the College. And in the process, they helped in securing promotion for Katsina United and they are doing well in the NPFL based on about five to six players that we gave to them. Players like Faisal Sani, Frank Kappe, Odomo, Timothy Danladi, who played at CHAN, Joshua Agboola and co. These boys are doing well for Katsina United.
NSG: Jamilu has just been invited to the Super Eagles. How did you get to know Jamilu?
Titiloye: Jamilu was one of the first set of players that were screened when AFC was set up. He was screened in Kaduna and brought to Abuja as a pioneer student of the College. And as we have it, he went to Europe for one of the tournaments we featured in and a club picked him, HNK Rijeka of Croatia. I took them out for that tournament. And he played for Rijeka before he moved to Paderborn in Germany. And the story now is that he has been invited. He is a left back who can also play in central defense. He also played with the national under 20 team that featured at the Touloun tournament in France in 2012. The team that eventually represented Nigeria in the under 20 World Cup in Turkey that had the likes of Wilfred Ndidi and a host of other players who are regulars in the national team now.
NSG: We are having problems with the left back in the national team. So can you vouch for him to pin down that position?
Titiloye: Well, football is not Mathematics. Football is a game where you show yourself. Well, Jamilu has done well to have attracted interest from a club like Paderborn in Germany. Since 2012, 2013 he has been playing football in Europe. So I want to believe he has acquired some experience in technical, tactical and psychological part of football. And for the coaches to have invited him, they must have seen something.
NSG: When you took him out, was it his first tournament abroad?
NSG: When was that?
Titiloye: That was in 2012 in Croatia.
NSG: How did he play?
Titiloye: He played very well and was the cynosure of all eyes. It was from there, he was signed on by HNK Rijeka.
NSG: What qualities will he bring to the national team that is currently lacking?
Titiloye: He has youth on his side. He has experience of having been developed by UEFA Pro-licensed coaches and he has played in some tough European leagues especially in Croatia. We know what Croatia did at the World Cup. Then from Croatia, he moved to Germany. We know how developed and tough the German league is. How seriously and professionally they go about their football ethics. So I think this will bear fruit in this boy when he comes to the national team. He might be jittery initially because we are talking about the Nigerian national team that is known worldwide. But I want to believe the basics of the game will come to bear.
NSG: We want to get to know Jamilu more. How much of him did you know before he left the shores of the land?
Titiloye: I know him so much that his father happens to be my friend. He also played football in our league. We simply used to call him (his father) Collins. When we brought him to AFC, he was a disciplined player. He is calm and always yearning to learn. He is not the aggressive type but on the field of play, he plays to instruction. After six years in Europe, I want to believe he has something to offer in terms of technical input to the national team. He might be young as his first cap. Hopefully, if he plays in a tournament for Nigeria, he is a player for the future.
NSG: What plans do AFC have to produce more Jamilus?
Titiloye: Work is still in progress. After Jamilu, so many players have been developed. Sadiq Umar, who is on loan at Glasgow Rangers from Roma; we have Nura Abdulahi, who is with Roma as well but has been loaned out to a club in Italy; we have a host of boys who are doing well in their clubs. But you know, going to Europe is not a cup of tea. You are competing against indigenes of these various countries. And these players must develop themselves to the extent that beyond competing, you must excel to be chosen as first team players in these clubs.
NSG: How much have you contributed to the age-group national teams, under 17, 20, 23?
Titiloye: It is on record that since 2013, Football College produces the chunk of players that represent the country in the age-group teams. The likes of Dele Alampasu, Alfa Abdulahi, Kingsley Michael, Orji Okonkwo, many of them. Even in the current under 17 team. So we always have players that support the junior national teams not by way of asking, but by way of proving themselves and add value.
NSG: Any plans to have your own facility?
Titiloye: Yes, as we all know, even in Abuja today, Nigeria can only boast of four football pitches for all the national teams. So it is not a piece of cake to have your own facility. As it is now, the College is looking at getting its own facilities in places like Port Harcourt.
NSG: Thank you, Mr. Titiloye
Titiloye: Thanks for having me.