Cheer on Nigeria Blog reporters recently hanged out Online with Bayonle Arashi, the founder and CEO of Midas Football Academy through Google+ and he gave us insight on a lot of things concerning his new projects and how he hope to change the way footballers are recruited in Nigeria; providing more opportunity for high school and amateur players in Nigeria to be recruited in Europe and Asia. Enjoy this special interview:
Q1. What prompted you to start Midas Football Academy in Nigeria?
A1. MFA was started in response to parent needs for their children to participate actively in sports and become professionals who will go on to represent the national teams in different age grade competitions and play for top football clubs in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.
At Midas we believe Nigeria and the rest of Africa have produced some of the best talents and big stars in the world of football today, and they all started from football academies around their neighborhoods. We believe in the numerous human and natural resources that Nigeria and Africa possess most especially in the football industry and Midas Football Academy was setup to enable us recognize and deploy these talents.
Q2. Why Academy and not a professional football club?
A2. Because it is at the academy level that you can catch them young and when you look at the biggest clubs in the world and how they have evolve, most of their stars comes from their academies.
Moreover it is more affordable to operate a soccer academy than a football club, in academies you have to pay to be taught how to play football while you get paid being in a football club. Summarily academy is a thing of passion for me and I want to sit few years from now and see my academy players performing at the biggest state in different football clubs around the world.
Q3. What has the journey been like so far?
A3. It has been a mixture of joy and sadness to put it simple, Nigeria is a difficult environment generally for an entrepreneur but we have managed to survive, Midas has in the past participated in international tournaments and won trophies in Germany, Denmark, Tunisia, Israel, and South Africa.
But it’s been very tough to take our players out for further international exposure in the last few years due to many factors especially visa refusal by European and even some African country embassies. We have however kept growing with the trend and now looking into other markets especially our own local league in Nigeria and around Africa why we also go out to bring some of these international partners to Nigeria to see what we are doing.
Q4. How profitable is it to operate a football academy in Nigeria?
A4. It is a profitable venture only if you are willing to put in your all and have your fingers burnt along the way, Academy ownership is a long term investment and this is the best mentality any founder should have in other to remain sane. We have invested millions of naira into the academy and only recently did we start to have some result and our efforts being eventually recognised as one of our players signed a contract with a nationwide club and will soon be heading to Europe where we hope he can announce MFA to the world. This is an academy that has been in existence for more than 6 years. the academy has also experienced huge setbacks due to some wicked partners, losing millions of naira to people who pretended to want to help us but our honesty and focus has kept us going and we believe in the nearest future MFA will become a big brand that will be reckoned with by different organizations across Nigeria and the world.
Q5. What has been the major challenge?
A5. The number one challenge is the lack of enabling environment, most of the landed properties we could use as training pitch have been sold and the government isn’t helping the situation because the stadium which could have been an alternative means is too expensive to rent for our players to train on. Lack of partnership and sponsorship at any level to enable us prosecute our programs all year round is another major challenge we are facing and we believe we are not alone in this but we are not deterred by these situation, we have kept on moving with the few resources available to us to ensure we stay in business and keep the academy going.
Q6. What’s ahead?
A6. Our target in the next 3 years is to build two standard soccer pitches on 6 acres of land with a well-furnished hostel accommodation with all the latest football facilities. We aim to have a 120 student’s capacity hostel for the academy’s junior and senior teams with 6 coaches for both levels. All student and coaches shall reside in the academy accommodation, those that could not complete their high school education and those that are still in high school shall join academic activities of our partner educational schools. They shall seat for WAEC, NECO and GCE. There shall be scholarship opportunities for students with outstanding performance and educational result at top football and educational institutes in Europe and Americas. Since our mission is to produce the next generation of football talents and give them the best education of the game that will last them for the rest of their lives, we have ensured our academy players are a mix of different ethnic groups from around Nigeria and some from West African countries.
Q7. What are your plans in the coming months or years?
A7. We are working on two major projects that we believe will change the way players development work and how players are being recruited, we have a soccer league designed for academy players between the age of 15 to 18 years old who are either in high school or just recently graduated tagged
MIDAS LEAGUE CUP, we intend to have the program across all of Nigeria but we are starting small as every big project thus, it is expected to kick off by the end of 2015, this league has been designed since 2011 and I have had consultation and meetings with the Lagos state football association but their response has been really poor because they do not believe the project will fetch them immediate return but as the dreamer I believe this will give birth to the best legs in the game and will place Nigeria in the perfect position to be able to win the elusive senior FIFA world cup in Qatar 2022.
The other project is titled SCOUTBALLERS and this will be an online soccer player recruiting platform for high school student with football talent and amateur players in Africa to have a platform of meeting with their potential employer by combining the use of broadcast media & social network. Scoutballers will be very big and all I can say at this stage is for everyone to be on the lookout for this innovation coming from Midas.
Q8. What is the procedure for admission into the Academy?
A8. Best way is to visit the academy website at www.midasfootballacademy.com and get all the admission details on our page, players can also reach us via our official facebook page by typing the academy name in the search box. We encourage players who believe they possess extra ordinary soccer talent but without the needed fund to reach us too as we offer scholarship for players with such talent all year round and we admit players all year round too. We have decent accommodation for players all around Nigeria and train on a grass pitch at command Ipaja Lagos.
Bayonle Arashi is the founder and CEO of Midas Football Academy; he can be reached through his personal blog site on www.bayonlearashi.com, twitter:@midassoccer.