Football is serious business. This has been said severally at different forums. In Nigeria however, the game grows out of government’s magnanimity as most clubs in the country’s topflight are owned by state governments, excerpt for IfeanyiUba FC and Giwa FC.
But in Nigeria’s lower division league, the Nationwide League Division 3, a woman, Mrs Lawretta Chigozie Odawulu, the CEO of Odic Wire and Cables Limited has ventured into club ownership, and she is setting the pace. Her club, Odic Football Club owns a flourishing camp which can carter for over 35 players and officials with all modern facilities like a spacious lounge, dinning hall, a boardroom, a store room, gym, sick bay, indoor games facility, saloon, et al. Located at Old Ojo Road, off Oluti bus stop, Odawulu said the facility is open for use to other clubs and organisations. In this chat with Jacob Ajom, the club owner speaks on her dream to make Odic FC one of the best run clubs in the country. Excerpts.
What informed your decision to establish a football club?
It has been my desire to help the less privileged. Most of our youths are idle and angry too. It is not that when they channel their God-given talents to meaningful engagements they can’t make; but the fact remains that there are very few opportunities open to them. So, I decided to form a grassroots football club to assist them.
How old is the club?
Six years old and we competed in Nationwide Division 3 League in the just-concluded season. We placed 3rd in Ondo centre, where we played. This was our first experience in the league and I must tell you that it has given us the opportunity to expose our players and for the players, it exposed them to a higher level of competition. It has made them better.
Some people form clubs and only concern themselves with selling players abroad. Have you been engaged in such?
The main purpose of this club is not to sell players abroad. Like I said earlier, the need to hwlp the less privileged, give them a window of opportunity and better their future made us to form this club. We will expose them to the international community and if any of them is lucky he gets hooked up. But that is not our main concern. We have to start from somewhere. I am pained that the glory of yesteryears is gone. How do we bring back Nigeria’s glory days in football? This is our own modest contribution to the development of football in the country. We want a return to the glory days of Nigerian football. We need to restore our position among the comity of football playing nations. So we are contributing our quota to that quest.
How did you come about this massive structure, the club’s camp?
I started it out of passion. Nobody has given me a kobo since we started. From the onset, I knew football was capital intensive. I had it in mind that I want to put a structure which I can be proud of.
Odic Football Club is not just like any other club. I made use of the resources I had to make this structure possible. We have come a long way. We started from Sabo Primary School, Alaba. We have been operating as a grassroots club and we needed to move up. We registered for Nationwide League Division 3. We then moved to First Bank of Nigeria training ground, in Satellite Town. We needed a camp, where we can call our home. That was how we came to this place. I want to model the club after all modern football clubs with facilities that will enhance productivity. Clubs abroad have their camps and others use it. So the facility is open for other clubs, organisations or churches. We want to commercialise it so that it can raise money for the club. We launched the camp just before we started the league
How has this impacted on the performance of the team?
Being here has been awesome. The players stay together, play together and some bathe together. So there has been so much togetherness and it has engendered unity among the players and above all, it has given them encouragement. Definitely, even the coaches talk about enhanced performances from the players after we moved in here. A place like this can give club managers total control over their players. They have the opportunity of preparing their meals. There is a saloon and a facility for indoor games and a basketball court.
A club once spent three months in a hotel. If you check the cost on the finances of the club that will be huge.
What is your target next season?
We have had the experience and it was an amazing experience indeed. The players have seen football at another level and have been exposed to what they did not know before. We are coming out stronger and better next season.
As a woman, how do you find yourself in a male-dominated field?
I am not seeing it that way. God has bestowed upon me to take up a responsibility and I cannot shy away from it because I am a woman. At some point I almost dropped the idea but my passion to give hope to the less privileged kept me on. I am trying my best to keep my head up without allowing the men to intimidate me.
How has your husband been of support to you?
It was his dream actually but unfortunately he is late. When I said the club was six years old I was actually telling you when I took it up. If I should count the years my husband started the sponsorship of the club, it should be about 8 years now.
Would you welcome sponsors?
Of course, football is about sponsorship. Anybody or organisation that wants to partner with us is welcomed.
Have you won any silverwares since inception?
Many. We are three times winners of the M.K.O Abiola Kashimawo football tournament from 2011, 2012 and 2013. Sponsored by sky discovery sport development limited. Winners of late Okuchukwu Ezenwata Donatus Odawulu memorial cup 2009, 2010, sponsored by ODIC wire and cables company Nigeria ltd. Two times winner of Abuja interstate cup 2012 and 2013 editions.
Winner of the first edition of Osolu football tournament, sponsored by HRM, Oba Abideen Durosinmi the Osolu of Osolu kingdom. Winner of NIGSODEF 2013 Asiwaju Awosedo penalty cup. Winner of U-13 south west national football festival (2013 edition). Ojo league Cup holders from 2009 till date. Winner of the 1st edition of Akpororo Super Cup 2013. Runner up of Bale’s Cup Ilemba division 2012 edition.
Winners of 2014 U-21 open vision foundation football tournament.