She could rightly pride herself as an owner with undauntedly one of the best club houses in the country, with state of the art facilities, but Mrs. Loretta Chigozie Odawulu chooses to keep it modest and simple. This great Amazon and owner of ODIC FC in the Nigerian lower league, including Odic Wires & Cables, spoke passionately on her unwavering attachment to youth development and empowerment as well as her dream to own a renowned football college, amongst others…
Can we meet you madam?
Yes, I’m Mrs. Loretta Chigozie Odawulu.
How exactly did all these started, let’s just take it from the very beginning?
Well, it is a passion that I had to develop into something tangible for people to see and appreciate. We started a long time ago; we started from the grassroots at Sabo primary school and today we are here.
You said you started a long time ago how long has it been?
My husband was the person financing the club before but I took over the management of the club about seven years ago.
Talking about taking up the management of the club how has the experience been like since you took over at the helms of affairs?
Running a football club is a capital intensive venture. It has not been easy or rosy but because of the passion I have for the game and the fact that I have also been putting my efforts in developing Nigeria youths, to help the less privilege to get something doing, because I have come to realize that it is not that our youths are lazy or are not talented enough but the fact is that the opportunities open to them are limited. So this is my own humble way of contributing my quota to youth development and empowerment, by keeping them busy and taking them off the streets and make them useful.
Managing a club must obviously come with lots of challenges which or what exactly can you say has been your greatest challenge?
There are lots of challenges in managing a football club which are too numerous for me to name but I cannot just pinpoint or single out any as being the biggest. However, I am facing them squarely as they come because I didn’t go into it for money but it has been as a result of the love and not for any other reason.
Have you at any time thought of throwing in the towel or asking yourself why you went into it, like regret or something?
It is not regret parse but I have had moments when I was like, oh my God, can’t I just have my peace and put a stop to all these? But I found out that I could not. So I accepted it that may be it is a responsibility that has been bestowed upon me to help the youths, so I have no other option but to continue with what I am doing.
Exactly where did these whole ideas come from?
I can’t really say, it comes the way you are seeing it. It comes to me to do this and I do it and when people come around here like you have done they appreciate it. I can’t really say I have been to this place or that place to get the idea.
I begin to wonder why did you chose football, because there are a lot of other ways that you can reach the youths and contribute your quota in youth empowerment other than through football, so why particularly did you chose football as a means to reach out to them?
From where we started from at Sabo Alaba there are a lot of raw talents that are yet to be discovered. I started running a male team because I have been thinking how I can impact on the lives of these youths, some of whom are even uncontrollable. I kept asking myself what I can do to help them because I was not happy seeing them roaming the streets. So I decided why not have a football team where we can train them and at the end of the day have them do something with their God-given talents rather than have them join all these social miscreants. So we started taking them in everyday for training from the ages of six to twenty three years because that is when they are active and give their best and we have been doing that till today and even taken it to the next level as you can see.
Will I be right to call you a philanthropist then?
(Laughs)… well if you say that, it’s okay.
Five years from now, trying to look into the future where exactly do you want this club to be?
It is a forecast though, I hope to have a football college in this complex so that we can attract people from outside here to come and probably have a feel of what they rush to Europe to acquire. We will have it in Nigeria. Yes we can do it.
Which kind of football college are you talking about is it a football academy like the Ajax, Barcelona and other major side’s academy that you are talking about or the academic type like the Nigeria Institute For Sports (NIS)?
I’m talking about a football academy; a full-fledged one with state of the art facilities like the types we have in Europe where we run complete football program.
Have you ever thought of having foreign partners or partnering some other clubs in Europe who may be interested in affiliating with you to at least help you cushion some of the financial pressure you are experiencing?
When I started I had it in mind that I want to lay a solid foundation by having or putting up a structure that will convince people that I am serious in what I am doing. Football is something that you need to convince people that there is something on the ground for the person to believe you and even be willing to put their money down. I believe that the foreign partners you are talking about will want to see something to convince them first then after that I leave you to your imagination of what would happen. I didn’t set it up for the main purpose of having them to come. We need to develop our league, our youths and our football.
You have spent so much for the game that the men should be envious and should take a cue from you, what inspires you to do all these?
Whatever I do I like putting in my best. I don’t want to tell stories, rather I want when you come here you see things and you are convinced that the person who is into this knows what he or she is doing and is really into the game. That is the inspiration. I am also doing it so that the boys will have a feel of what it is like in Europe, we have to set a standard and that is what I am doing.
Your club is still in the lower division any plans to have it move up and play someday in the premier league?
Of course we will be playing in the division 2 this season and hopefully we can gain promotion to the division one, we climb the ladder of success slowly and in no distant time I’m sure we will get there.
What exactly did you study because with the many architectural designs I have seen here may be you studied something relating to that or let me leave you to tell me yourself?
I started with NCE home economics in Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Degree in same Home Economics in Ado Ekiti University, Masters in Educational Management Planning and Policy at Lagos State University and many other professional courses both home and abroad which includes 2013 Professional certificate in Women Entrepreneurship &Leadership For Africa (WELA) from China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)Shanghai China, 2015 Masters in International Business Law (LLM)from Metropolitan School of Business & Management (MSBM)United Kingdom, 2013 Inducted into the Maritime Management Series (MMS) plus Woman of Fortune Hall of Fame, 2015 Inducted into Institute of Brand Management of Nigeria (IBMN).
Thank you so much for your time