SUPER Eagles captain, John Mikel Obi, was a kid destined for greatness long before he hit stardom, according to Babawo Mohammed Adamu – the man who first saw his latent talents on the dusty playing football pitch at the Township Primary School in the Jos metropolis. The mutual relationship between Mikel and Adamu is an open secret
in the Nigerian football world and the latter is qualified more than anyone else to speak on how the former became a soccer celebrity. “I can say without any contradiction that I was the person that discovered him (John Mikel Obi) when he was a kid then,” explained Mohammed after much prompting in an exclusive interview with MORAKINYO ABODUNRIN.
“I supported him in so many ways to become what he is today “He was playing in the street close to my area where I saw him and picked him up; and encouraged him. I remembered the first day I saw him, I called him and told him ‘with what I’ve seen, you are a very good player and you will grow to be a world class player if you continue playing this way.’ “I also told him ‘I’m available anytime you need my assistance or advise’. Since then, he started coming to my house to visit me and before you know it we became very close and I started buying football kits boots, jerseys and all.
“I also encouraged him to go to school and I decided to assist him as his family was not buoyant to sponsor him,” he revealed. Much credits have never been given for the pivotal role Adamu played in the fledging career of Obi, but Igwe or Lecturer, as he’s fondly called, is not perturbed, saying he has a telepathic understanding with the Eagles captain he often calls Chekwube. “Yeah (we have come this far) because we are straightforward to each other, we tell ourselves the truth no matter how bitter it is. He normally calls to seek for advice, and I advise him on what I know will be good for him both in his career and other issues. “Sure, he has also discussed his predicament at Chelsea and was not surprised that he is moving on to China. He got good offers from Europe now.
“Of course, many people have different opinions but Mikel is a very good guy; he is a reserved person, shy sometimes and very friendly. And he is the only player that I know who respects his old friends and is still with them till date. He is someone who likes helping the less-privileged and also his friends, most especially his old friends,” he stated. Yet for many, football agents epitomise everything wrong with the game, but Adamu reckons he is only motivated in looking at the welfare of his clients, saying his romance with football against the wishes of his parents dates back to his days in the primary school. “Yes, I agree with you that coaching is always the first option for most footballers but I think being a football agent for me was a call from God,” stated Adamu, the erstwhile captain of Jos University Teaching Football (JUTH) FC of Jos who became a licensed football agent in 2012.
“I started having interest in managing players when I was appointed the captain of JUTH FC. “Somehow, it is easy to be a football agent; while somehow it is not. The easy way is if you really know the game very well, you can identify good players quickly and introduce them to someone who is ahead of you in the business or to some coaches, but the difficult part is how to manage their attitude on the pitch and off the pitch; because a very good player without good attitude will definitely waste your time and money. “Of course, you are right to say an agent can wrongly advise a footballer but that is possible if the agent doesn’t know his work very well. But a very good agent will know how to manage his players both on the pitch and outside the pitch.
“Managing a player is not just football, you have to manage everything about him. When I started, I worked as a scout for John Ola Shittu and Adam Mohammed, popular known as Abba Muktar, and I learned a lot from this gentleman. “I think I will mention a few but have some good players in Suleiman Abdullahi ( Eintracht Breuwicth, Germany; Usman Saleh (Vikkings , Norway);Musa Yahaya ( FC Porto);Jacob Njoku ( Hapoel Kiryat , Israel).I will give God the glory for closing the year with Jacob Njoku’s deal from Tel Aviv Ramla Israel to Hapoel Kiryat Israel; Njoku was part of the U-17 team but did not make the team to the World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. I’m happy I made some good deals last year.” Yet Adamu was quick to say his happiest moment in 2016 was walking down the aisle with his fiancée to be pronounced husband and wife in a Nikah ceremony that was the talk of the town in Kaduna. They say ‘who has found a good wife, has found a good thing’ and Adamu’s face gleamed like a diamond as he discussed his four-year courtship with Dr. Hajara Saleh Bade, adding that July 30th, 2016 would forever be one of his happiest moments. “I’m seriously enjoying it (my marriage), because I believe God has blessed me with a loving, and caring wife,” Adamu said with a breathy purr as he opened up on what truly was a dramatic love affair.
“She is a wife that loves what her husband is doing as a career, she supports me very well and she is very friendly to all my players. You know, I got married the same day with my elder brother who actually got married to my wife’s elder sister. “It all started this way. I was going to Kaduna to discuss terms and conditions with Musa Yahaya football academy in 2012 and my brother gave me a message to give to his fiancée. “So, on my arrival, she (Hajara) was the first girl I saw and I introduced myself to her, then she took me to the main house and sat down, to cut it short…. We gisted about so many things and we exchanged numbers and started talking. It all started just as friends and ended being husband and wife. “You asked how does it feel that my brother and I married two sisters? I feel good and comfortable because we have the same situation in our family whereby, my two cousins married from the same family,“ he revealed.
He continued: “The truth is that I love football right from my early life. And I think my real romance with football actually started when I was in primary school and I started playing for my school (Our Lady of Fatima private school Jos) team in primary 3. “We played a competition in Plateau State. We used to call it inter primary school competition, which we became victorious at the end of the tournament. “I was selected amongst the players who represented Plateau State in the All-Nigeria Primary School Games in Lagos in 1998/1999 and we eventually came third in Lagos. “After the competition, I was invited to the state team in Jos, named The Greater Tomorrow and some of my teammates I can remember include the late Jerry Dakop, Chinedu Effugh (the current captain of Heartland), Shehu Abdullahi El-Kanemi Warriors, Víctor Obinna Nsofor, Sunday Mbah, Jude, Modilim, Ebele Obi (elder brother of Mikel obi) and Daniel Njoku-a former Enyimba and national team player. There are still so may that I couldn’t remember. “I progressed from there and I played in the Nigerian pro league and premier league.
I started my career with Plateau Pyramid of Jos then in the amateur league, then I moved to Mighty Jets of Jos and later moved to Security and Exchange Commission Football club in Abuja, before coming to JUTH FC of Jos were I captained for nine seasons. I think I spent 11 years playing with JUTH before retirement. “Of course, along the line, I desired to play abroad too and I went for trials abroad but the trials were not successful because I had some issues with my parents – they were not in support of my football career. ”They were not happy (that I wanted to go abroad) because I was in my 200level in the University of Jos (UNIJOS) when the offers came and I couldn’t go eventually.
That’s was why I played for JUTH FC for a long term since they agreed with my school schedules and allowed me to go to lectures and give me break whenever I was writing exams. So I was just playing there and schooling without the intention of leaving the club for another club. I had so many offers from so many clubs here in Nigeria but I couldn’t move then because of my programme. “I had great moments at JUTH. I was the first captain that won the Plateau State’s FA cup for the club and I was the captain when the club first got promoted from pro league to premier league. I studied Applied Psychology Diploma and also had a first degree in political science. “Even with the kind of money available to footballers today, I have no regret not playing abroad and happy with the work I’m doing right now, and I believe I was not destined for that and I have taken everything in good faith and also thank my parents for all their guidance,” he noted.