We often hear of player-coaches in professional football, the likes of Vincent Kompany manager of Belgian club RSC Anderlecht and Wayne Rooney in charge at Derby County, an English Championship club. Have you imagined a Student-Coach?

Adeboye Ahmad Adetomiwa, a fifth year student of Agricultural and Resource Economics, at the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) is fast establishing himself as one to be reckoned with as far as collegiate football management is concerned. 

Glitzsport caught up with ‘Coach Ahmad’ recently, and he shared his thoughts on his Football Management journey, his challenges, amongst other issues.

 Tell us how a student got into coaching his mates?

The journey started when I was in my first year. I coached my class team in the sessional Awopegba Football Competition organized for first year students. We got knocked out in the Quarter Finals by the eventual Champions, the team from the Department of Mining Engineering. I coached my department’s team until my second year.

I saw a broadcast Message from Coach FAB (Femi Ayo Bright), on a Whatsapp group chat I was part of called “Inside FUTA Sports Hub.” He was looking for a manager for teams he was in charge of (Bright FC and Celtic FC). I applied to be a part of the project. Everything was online, and he didn’t give me enough details. He recruited me after he asked me certain questions, and he said I would resume work immediately when school resumed. When I returned to school, I went straight to him and had a few chats, and he told me that my job is to be manager of the team. I had a wrong idea of the role of a manager then, I thought I would be in charge of the whole team, but he gave me a part of the team to manage, which is the administrative aspect of the clubs. 

 And though I was in charge of everything about the team administratively, I was not part of the coaching team but I was always there to watch the games. Things changed for the better  at the Quarter final game at Oyemekun Grammar School, Akure, the team’s assistant coaches were not around, and I was there to perform my duties as the team’s Director of Football. At halftime, we were behind by two goals, and there was a rancor among the players. I noticed the players weren’t happy with the game approach in terms of the formation because Coach FAB is a coach that loved the 3-4-3, 3-5-2 or 3-4-1-2 formation; we were using the 3-4-3 in this game.  So I approached the Coach, he asked me to advise him on what to do and I suggested we tweak things. I told him we should use the 4-2-3-1 because our opponent loaded their midfield, and our players are finding it difficult to handle the pressure. He agreed to that and eventually we won the game. We won 3-2 and everyone was happy.

After our next game in the Instinct FUTA Champions League, Coach Fab walked up to me and said, “You’re my assistant.” From that moment I started managing two roles in the team – the administration ( Director of Football) and coaching (Assistant Coach). That was how everything started.

Can you tell us how you were able to manage both roles?

Managing both roles in the team was both challenging and fun because apart from my routine school work, I have to think about how to promote the team. Then we had a Facebook page I managed and posted content about the team.I enjoyed every moment; I was shy and couldn’t approach players and address them as a whole. 

I would say the major challenge I faced was that I couldn’t communicate well with the players. I was afraid because most of them were older than me, and managing players older than me was not easy. That was also the first thing I encountered after being appointed the coach of my department. Then I was a freshman and most of them were in their second, third or final year.

You’re often regarded as probably the most successful football coach in FUTA (till date). How true is that?

It is just people’s rating based on my achievement and trophies. But then, we have a lot of coaches that are successful in FUTA. They have impacted many lives, and they have raised a lot of top-notch players. We have Coach Femi Ayo Bright (Bright FC and Celtic FC), Coach Ibironke Peters (Positive FC), and Coach Uche, he’s a good friend of mine; we won the FUTA Vice Chancellor’s Cup in 2017.

Talking of trophies, how many have you won as a coach?

I can’t remember the amount of trophies I’ve won as a coach but I have won the  FUTA Vice Chancellor’s Cup with my faculty, won the FUTA Champions League three times, the Jihad Cup, then a lot of departmental and faculty cups, then I won the CARBELLA. Let’s say in total; I’ve won 8 trophies as a Student Coach.

With the emergence of competitions like the HiFL (Higher Institution Football League). 

Where do you see University Sports in the coming years?

I believe the emergence of the HiFL is another step for promoting university sports. In the coming years, universities will be producing prospects for the National Team. At least, we would get U -17, U-20, and U -23 prospects that we need at the higher level from each University.

How are you coping with the COVID-19 pandemic?

COVID 19 isn’t something we’re happy about, but the new life isn’t that easy because you repeat the same routine every day:  sleeping, eating, watching TV, reading books and watching movies. Personally, it’s quite challenging. 

However, I have also been busy. I’ve been thinking about taking my team to the next level because we had a competition in school before the pandemic. I’ve been having a series of classes with my players online, and we use Zoom and Web-Ex to analyze each game that we’ve played and what they think has been our significant mistakes in those games and the way we should handle such situations if they occur again.

So, for me, this pandemic has brought us all to a new life, and we are to adapt to it. We’ve not been in a situation like this, and working has not been smooth, and my players have complained about their inability to train, and they have also added weight. I’ve been reading a lot of books about coaching trying to make the most out of my time outside school.

What are the likely challenges your team is going to face when sports activities returns?

The number one challenge will be getting them to play with the right mentality after spending so much time at home without playing. Fitness would not be a problem, I trust these guys, and I’ve been following up on their fitness routine.

How is it like balancing school and coaching?

It’s not been easy, but what I’ve learnt about combining both is time management. Most of the time, we play on weekends, but certain games are scheduled on weekdays when I have a class to attend. I’ve had to beg the organizers to consider our classes when fixing games. There were moments I had to miss a class for a game; it is one of the sacrifices I have to make as a student coach.

 How far do you see yourself go in football?

I want to be a full time coach in the future. I consider myself a problem solver  and I intend on finding solutions to problems that currently exist in the Nigerian sport industry.