African footballers need to maximise their talents to become top professionals – CEO Nao Sports
Nnaemeka Okwara is a UK-based trained football scout and fitness coach and the CEO Nao Sports Management Limited. In this interview with JOSEPHINE OKOJIE, he spoke about African football and how footballers can maximize their talents.
Can you tell us about Nao Sports and your vision for African footballers?
My vision is for African football talents to get to the top of their careers and maximize their potential. I use someone like George Weah as an inspiration and as a yardstick for African talent.
The likes of Samuel Eto’o, Sunday Oliseh, Jay Jay Okocha, amongst others have done well for themselves. I just want African talents to get to the top of their football careers; that’s why our company provides them with the best football program where these players can be developed into elite football talent.
My vision is to make them become the most elitist footballers in Europe and give them the best of programs to take them to the zenith.
There are many sports management outfits. What makes yours different?
Our team is the most trusted because we have connections with top-quality football clubs. We have teams in the Italian and Bundesliga leagues which are some of the best places to play in Europe. We will also take our footballers to the best football academies in the world and give them the platform to showcase what they are and what they can become.
What inspired the vision?
I am a professional football agent, grass-root licensed football coach and also a qualified scout – referred to as talent identification all licensed by the English Football Association. I am also a qualified fitness coach accredited by CIMSPA which is the most recognised fitness accreditation body in the UK for fitness coaches, nutrition advice, and also personal training.
I render professional nutritional coaching to professional athletes so they can achieve a maximum goal. All combined, these accreditation and licenses make Nao Sports, a sports consultancy agency that provides our clientele with the best services ranging from scouting, coaching, and fitness and visa processes. We also do contract negotiations when players get pro contracts in Europe.
My late mother inspires me to this moment. She inspired me to become who I am today. I looked up to her as a mentor. I love her personality and nature. There are some inspirational stories in the bible from which I draw strength from also. For example the story of Joseph, who went from being a prisoner to becoming a prime minister.
What made you zealous and passionate about African football?
My passion for African football comes through a natural love for the game as far as I can remember. With my experience gathered as a result of being grafted into the football sector in England, I decided to invest my time and effort into African football because that’s where the next big opportunity is due to immense talent not being scouted. Part of our job as a company is to scout through demography using Lagos state as a case study to scout the best talents in Africa.
Can you share some experiences as a football scout?
My experience as a football agent has been amazing. It involves a lot of research on how African (Nigerian) players are moved to Europe without being scouted by the scouts of elite European teams.
It also involves scouting an array of players for trials and hoping they get pro contracts. Travelling commitments and visitation to various football academies to see the standard of football being played in that academy also poses a challenge.
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Is talent the only requirement for a footballer to get to the top?
When it comes to getting signed they need to understand that talent is never enough. Just being talented alone won’t get you signed. You have to combine some other traits with it.
They have to have an obsession to be the best, that’s a mindset you need first. They also need to train and work hard because the joy of a coach is to see a player train hard and listen. They also need to be humble. Pride goes before a fall.
What is the difference between European and African football?
The structure and organisation make a massive difference because the European management system is based on a long-term goal to help the country’s football stay stable for years.
A structure and a curriculum are put in place for years for a common goal. For example, the German national team came up with a plan after Euro 2004 with Joachim lowe programme which was for 15 years. Some of the players recruited were known from a very young age.
They got recruited based on the style of play that met the coach’s prerequisite. But in Africa, we want quick results so managers get the quick sack and the majority of the foreign.
Coaches hired to work do not understand the demography of African football. Also, African players who have played top-flight football should always be given the national team job and should have a long-term plan to help African football reach its peak.