Alfred Ndukuba is a businessman of international repute and a football philanthropist. He, alongside his bosom friends and ex-Nigerian star, Kingsley Onye and Okechukwu Nzenwa are the financiers ">
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Alfred Ndukuba is a businessman of international repute and a football philanthropist. He, alongside his bosom friends and ex-Nigerian star, Kingsley Onye and Okechukwu Nzenwa are the financiers of the Nzenwa Memorial Academy FC, which was set up in memory of.....
Alfred Ndukuba is a businessman of international repute and a football philanthropist. He, alongside his bosom friends and ex-Nigerian star, Kingsley Onye and Okechukwu Nzenwa are the financiers of the Nzenwa Memorial Academy FC, which was set up in memory of the late Barrister B.S.C. Nzenwa, in whose house the famous Rangers International FC of Enugu was launched in 1970.
Ndukuba revealed their plan to establish one of the best football academies in Nigeria and Africa. In this interview with Sunday Sunsport, he spoke passionately about his relationship with Kingsley and Okechukwu as well as why they decided to pool resources in order to give succour to millions of Nigerian youths.
Tell us more about the Nzenwa Memorial Academy
It’s a youth academy we are trying to put together in order to gather the best fresh talents from all nooks and crannies of Nigeria in remembrance of the late Barrister B.S.C. Nzenwa, who was one of the founding members of the defunct Spartans FC of Owerri. And it was in his boys’ quarter that the famous Rangers International FC of Enugu was formed in 1970.
Not much has been said about him, despite his invaluable contributions to Nigerian football. He was a lover of football. Until his death, he was one of the directors of Iwuanyanwu Nationale. One of the major reasons for forming the academy is to continue the legacy he left in Nigerian football.
In cooperation with his son, Okechukwu, Kingsley Onye and I, we want to build one of the best football academies in this part of the world. The academy would be based in Aba, and we have already acquired a good site for it.
It would not only expose the players to local football, but also, serve as an avenue for exporting talented Nigerian youths to Europe.
How was the idea of the academy conceived?
The brain behind the project is Kingsley Onye. For those who may not know him, he was a former Flying Eagles, Green Eagles, Rangers and Leventis United FC of Ibadan defender. He also played professional football briefly in England before he retired prematurely due to a strange injury.
Nobody can easily forget Onye, both on and off the field. Nonetheless, he is still in the football business.
Onye has the like of John Fashanu and John Shittu as business partners. Besides, he enjoys a close relationship with top Nigerian stars in England, including Austin Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Joseph Yobo, Yakubu Aiyegbeni and Mikel Obi. To this end, he has the goodwill to ensure the success of the project beyond Nigeria and Africa.
While Onye would be directing affairs from England, Okechukwu and I would be coordinating the project here at home. We shall do our best to ensure that the late Barrister Nzenwa is fully remembered for the role he played in the development of football in Nigeria.
When is the academy taking off?
We were only waiting to get the right site and talents before we commence. We have done a lot of work, especially in abroad. As I earlier said, Kingsley has done much and he is still working hard. He is presently organising many things. In a few weeks time, he would bag his FIFA-coaching license, which will make him become an international FIFA-licensed agent.
Due to logistics, most of our activities are performed from abroad, and such takes time in a society like ours. But by the special grace of God, in the next few months, our dream will come true.
What is the main goal of Nzenwa Academy FC?
The main objective is to portray Barrister B.S.C. Nzenwa in the real light. Many people don’t know that he was one of the founding fathers of Enugu Rangers. Up till now, a lot of people don’t understand how Rangers was formed, because mid-way into the formation and organisation of the club, other people hijacked the project. Later on, it was assumed that some unknown group of people formed the club.
Moreover, we have great football talents in the eastern part of Nigeria, including the west and the north, who have to be brought to limelight. With the political connections of Okechukwu Nzenwa and the football expertise of Kingsley Onye, the sky would be our limit.
We want to export and expose the upcoming players at a cheaper rate to the football academies of some Premiership clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea. It would be an exchange programme between talents from Nigeria and those in England.
We also expect coaches from other European countries, such as Belgium and France to tap from our probable products after watching them.
We equally hope to use the academy as a breeding ground for the national Under-17, Under-21 and of course, the senior teams.
Apart from investing your personal funds, do you intend to invite sponsors to assist in the project?
Yes. Some corporate outfits have been contacted and they have expressed their willingness to identify with the project. We shall, however, not allow them to hijack our dream. We have put in place adequate sum of money to take care of the players’ welfare, including feeding and accommodation among other things throughout their stay in the camp. My personal contribution for the basic running of the academy cannot be quantified. Okechukwu has also pledged a large sum of money, while Onye has concluded plans to ship in the club’s buses. I can assure you that there won’t be shortage of funds in the project.
What is your impression about existing academies in Nigeria like the Pepsi Football Academy?
Unlike other academies, our objectives are of utmost importance. Secondly, there is the need for the young players to have someone to look up to.
They should also have the opportunity to establish cordial relationships with the proprietors of the organisation. We already have these qualities in Onye. He is a likeable personality and is an idol the players would be looking forward to.
The same goes to Nzenwa, who is also an amiable man.
In a nutshell, the academy would be in a class of its own, considering the fact that all the people involved in it are equipped with international experiences and exposure. We are on the verge of setting a pace for others to follow. Only time will tell before Nigerians begin to judge us.
Should Nigerians celebrate the academy as possible bedrock for future generations of the Super Eagles?
The Nzenwa’s has been a footballing family to reckon with in Nigeria for a long time. They have an eye for discovering good players, as they discovered some great players in the mould of Christian Chukwu, Emmanuel Okala and Adokiye Amesiemeka in the past. In our target, we will follow that style of operation and shall never disappoint.
As a busy man, how do you intend to combine your business with football?
Inasmuch as I’m busy, football is part and parcel of me. I have a passion for it. I eat, drink and sleep football. Nevertheless, we have recruited some professionals, who would see to the day-to-day running of the academy.
What kind of players are you looking out for?
We’re looking for disciplined young players, who are below 17 years old. We’ll go the extra mile to protect them so that they wouldn’t indulge in drugs and womanising, which are capable of destroying their career.
Aside football, it’s also our duty to get the best talents and be there to guide them by sending them to reputable schools for them to become responsible people in the society. We’ll be spending enough time to develop them to become good players.
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