Traditional ruler, the Oluwo of Iwo land, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi, in this interview with SODIQ OYELEKE, talks about his sports life and his wish to acquire English giants Chelsea.
Did you indulge in sports while growing up?
I’ve been playing football since my nursery and primary school days. I like table tennis too. I played during break time at school.
Were you always on the winning or losing side?
Who will tell you that he loses? I was always on the winning side. How will I be on the losing side?
I played as a right winger.
Why did you choose to be a businessman and not a footballer?
During my time, it was tough to get parental consent to play football.
At that time, football wasn’t something they would advise you to go into. In fact, if your parents saw you playing football, it made you look unserious. So, my time was not a period when people considered making a living from football.
Did you ever get into trouble playing football?
There was a time that I got the beating of my life, when my mother saw me while she was coming back home from work.
We used to look out to know if she was coming or not but that day, she caught me. After then, I only played football and table tennis during break time in school. When I got home, it was to eat, sleep and read my books.
Do you still participate in sports?
Yes, I still play table tennis. I have a table tennis board at the palace. I am also a very good draft player. I also play Ludo and volleyball. Sometimes, I play these sports with my subjects.
Which club do you support and would love to buy?
It is Chelsea. I am a Chelsea fan.
Do you think Chelsea can yield good return on investment, if you acquire the club?
I am a Chelsea supporter. It doesn’t matter what they are doing or where they are. There would be a time that they will come back; and I will not switch because they are not doing well.
If given a free ticket to watch an international match, which would it be?
I would prefer to go and watch the World Cup or the Olympics Games. But if it is a club side, I would love to see Chelsea and Barcelona, because of my love for Chelsea.
How do you feel about the exit of Victor Moses and Mikel Obi from Chelsea?
Time flies and people get older, but they are good players that we have missed in Chelsea. I wish they can still come back. I also hope to see up-and-coming Nigerian footballers in the club.
Who is your favourite footballer?
There are many stars in the world. I can only like some but it is not that I am stuck with one. I like (Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Lionel) Messi and I wish our boys can become superstars too. That is my dream.
What of about Nigerian players?
I like Ahmed Musa. He is my guy. Alex Iwobi is good, and Samuel Chukwueze.
How do you feel watching Nigeria matches?
It is always emotional. I cannot get heart attack because I love it. You will see me moving with the ball as they play.
Would you want your children to engage in sports?
Yes. My son likes football a lot. He has about 10 footballs.
Do you watch local matches?
Yes, I do. I am floating a club right now. It is called Telu FC – TFC. I want the players to go global. I talked to Joseph Yobo, Obafemi Martins and others about it sometime ago.
Who is the most popular footballer that you have met?
Locally, I have met Nwanwo Kanu, Joseph Yobo and Samson Siasia. Obafemi Martins is close to me. Internationally, I have met David Beckham.
Do you think there is a synergy between the traditional stool and sport?
Yes and we all need to look into that. Sport is the future now. Football is the future for our kids. It is another way you can use to engage youths and our subjects from going into crime. Track and field and football also bring our subjects together and bring about unity in our domain.
Many parents don’t want their daughters to engage in sports. What is your advice to them?
We can all see that (Asisat) Oshoala has become someone in this world and I am sure people want someone like that in their families.
We have seen role models in football and many others. I believe women football will take the spotlight in the nearest future. Sports is good, it makes you healthy. I think it is something that should be encouraged.
What is your greatest concern for Nigeria football?
Most of our players become poverty-ridden after they have played so hard for this nation. Nobody cares for them and it should not be. A national hero should be a national hero forever. But in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. We do not take care of our heroes, who worked very hard for the country. This is why many of them don’t want to play for Nigeria. When some of them play for Nigeria, they don’t want to play with full commitment because when they get injured, that is the end for them. We don’t want this kind of tradition that people will not want to defend our nation to continue. Even the ones that sacrificed themselves to come and play for Nigeria, they are doing in at their own risk.
How do you think this can be tackled?
We need to invest more in our players for them to be encouraged to play with all their strength. We lose a lot of matches because of the fear of getting injured without insurance. Overseas, the country takes care of them but Nigerian players take care of themselves.