Nnaemeka Okwara is a UK trained football scout and fitness trainer and the CEO of Nao Sports Management Limited. In this interview with JOSEPHINE OKOJIE, he talked about African football and how footballers can maximize their talents.
Can you tell us about Nao Sports and your vision of African footballers?
My vision is for African football talents to reach the peak of their careers and maximize their potential. I use someone like George Weah as an inspiration and a benchmark for African talent.
The likes of Samuel Eto’o, Sunday Oliseh, Jay Jay Okocha, among others, have done well. I just want African talent to reach the peak of their football career; that’s why our company offers them the best football program where these players can become elite football talents.
My vision is to make them the most elite footballers in Europe and to offer them the best programs to take them to the zenith.
There are many sports management outfits. What makes yours different?
Our team is the most reliable because we have relationships with top 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 show what they are and what they can become.
What inspired the vision?
I am a professional football agent, a licensed grassroots football manager and also a qualified scout – called talent identification, all licensed by the English Football Association. I am also a qualified fitness trainer accredited by CIMSPA which is the most recognized fitness accreditation body in the UK for fitness trainers, nutrition advice and also personal training.
I render professional nutritional coaching to professional athletes so that they can reach a maximum goal. All combined, these accreditations and licenses make Nao Sports a sports consulting agency that provides our clientele with the best services ranging from scouting, coaching, fitness and visa processes. We also negotiate contracts when players obtain professional contracts in Europe.
My late mother inspires me at this time. She inspired me to become who I am today. I considered her a mentor. I like his personality and his nature. There are inspiring stories in the Bible from which I also draw strength. For example the story of Joseph, who went from prisoner to prime minister.
What made you zealous and passionate about African football?
My passion for African football comes through a natural love for the game for as long as I can remember. Based on my experience gained from my transplant into the football sector in England, I have decided to invest my time and effort in African football as that is where the next big opportunity is due to the immense talent which is not detected. Part of our job as a company is to explore demographics using Lagos State as a case study to spot the best talent in Africa.
Can you share some experiences as a football scout?
My experience as a football agent has been amazing. This involves a lot of research on how African (Nigerian) players are moved to Europe without being spotted by scouts of elite European teams.
It also involves seeking out an array of players for tryouts and hoping they get professional contracts. Travel commitments and visits to various football academies to see the level of football being played at that academy also pose a challenge.
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Is talent the only condition for a footballer to reach the top?
When it comes to signings, they need to understand that talent is never enough. Just being talented alone won’t get you signed. You have to combine other traits with it.
They have to be obsessed with being the best, that’s a mindset you need first. They also have to train and work hard because the joy of a coach is to see a player train hard and listen. They must also be humble. Pride precedes the fall.
What is the difference between European and African football?
Structure and organization make a huge difference as Europe’s management system is based on a long-term goal to help the country’s football stay stable for years to come.
A structure and a curriculum have been in place for years for a common objective. For example, the German national team made a plan after Euro 2004 with a Joachim Lowe program that lasted 15 years. Some of the recruited players were known from a young age.
They were recruited based on the style of play that met the coach’s requirements. But in Africa, we want quick results so that managers are quickly fired and the majority of foreigners.
The coaches hired to work do not understand the demographics of African football. Also, African players who have played top level football should always be awarded the national team position and should have a long term plan to help African football reach its peak.