i-genius member Ahmed Bayonle Arashi is a Radio & Television Broadcaster and Soccer Entrepreneur. Founder of scoutballers, Midas League Cup and Midas Football Academy. Midas Football Academy Nigeria was setup to Discover and Develop Young football players around Africa, the Academy has participated in International youth tournaments in Germany, Denmark, Israel, South Africa as well as some local tournament in Nigeria and still producing exciting young talents with a dream to build a world class football facility for them in the nearest future where the players can combine high school education and soccer to reach their full potential. To find out more read the interview below.i-genius: Why is there a need for Midas Football Academy?
Ahmed Bayonle Arashi: MFA was started in response to parent needs for their children to participate actively in sports and become professionals who will go on to represent the national teams in different age grade competitions and play for top football clubs in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas. At Midas we believe Nigeria and the rest of Africa have produced some of the best talents and big stars in the world of football today, and they all started from football academies around their neighborhoods. We believe in the numerous human and natural resources that Nigeria and Africa possess most especially in the football industry and Midas Football Academy was setup to enable us recognize and deploy these talents.
–i-genius: In what way is Midas Football Academy a social enterprise?
Ahmed: Our mission is to produce the next generation of football talents and give them the best education of the game that will last them for the rest of their lives. Mfa is a non and for profit project which some of its players attends the academy exclusively on scholarship because of their level of talent while others pay to be trained and develop their football skills, in the end we look for ways on how these young stars can further their career in different professional leagues across the world and make them achieve their purpose of becoming someone in life.
i-genius: What is an average working day like for you?
Ahmed: I start my day with a few minutes work out and set out for training to see the academy players and give them some pep talk to inspire and encourage them after which I proceed to the office for meetings and strategize on further ways to develop the academy with the staffs, I read for an hour between Monday and Friday then spend the rest of the day on internet communicating with partners overseas and looking for new opportunities for the players.
i-genius: What difficulties have you experienced setting up Midas Football Academy?
Ahmed: The number one challenge is the enabling environment, most of the landed properties we could use as training pitch have been sold and the government do not make things easier because the stadium which could have been an alternative means is too expensive to rent for the players to train on, lack of corporate partnership and sponsorship to enable us prosecute our programs all year round is another major challenge but we are not deterred by this challenges as we keep moving with the few resources available to us to ensure we stay in business and keep the academy going.
i-genius: What innovative working practices have you developed for Midas Football Academy?
Ahmed: At mfa we have a different mindset of running the academy just as a soccer training center, we include in our curriculum monthly visit of top professional stars in the professional league and ex internationals to speak with the players and motivate them to strive and become a better person, mfa is also setup as an institution where high school education will be combined with soccer training because we believe not all this players might end up becoming a professional soccer player so if you have your high school certificate at hand you could pursue a higher educational learning or do something else around the business of sports if football playing doesn’t work for you but we are not there yet but this definitely is the aim and what set us apart from other football academies.
i-genius: What are the most crucial things you have done to grow and develop Midas Football Academy?
Ahmed: We have ensured our academy players are a mix of different ethnic groups from all over Nigeria and even from some west African countries, we go round the country three major zones every year for an open and free tryouts where individuals can come to show their skills and we give the best among them scholarship opportunities to play for free in the academy for one year. We have been restricted in the last year due to political challenges in some parts of the country but we still use the power of social media to attract players across the country.
i-genius: How you have ensured that Midas Football Academy has become a sustainable business?
Ahmed: It cannot be said that the academy has become a sustainable business due to the so many challenges we face year after year but one thing we have ensured and focused on is the continuous stay in business, we make sure at no time did we close shop and say we are done even in the midst of toughest times, the academy has experienced the good and bad times in business and have also being taken advantage of by some wicked partners in the past but our honesty and open mindedness has kept us going and we believe in the nearest future mfa will be a brand to be reckoned and associated with by different organizations across Nigeria and the world.
i-genius: How do you best relax and detox from work?
Ahmed: I relax by watching live soccer games most especially the English premier league and UEFA champions league, I also engage in social activities with friends on Fridays, I love to read, I read everything entrepreneurship and business motivation. I love food, staying around the family and I go to church on Sundays.
i-genius: Do you have any exciting projects you want to share?
Ahmed: Our company has been working on two major projects that we believe will change the way players development work and how players are being recruited, we have a soccer league designed for academy players between the age of 15 to 18 years old who are either in high school or just recently graduate called MIDAS LEAGUE CUP, we intend to have the program across all of Nigeria but we are starting in Lagos and it is expected to kick off by the beginning of 2016, this project has been designed since 2012 and we have had consultation and meetings with the state football association but their response has been really poor because they do not believe the project will fetch them immediate return but as the owner of the dream, I believe this will give birth to the best legs in the game and will place Nigeria in the perfect position to be able to win the elusive FIFA world cup in Qatar 2022. The other project is titled SCOUTBALLERS and this will be a soccer player recruiting network for players in Africa, Europe and United States to have a platform of meeting with their potential employer by combining the use of broadcast media & social network.
i-genius: How do you measure the impact of your projects/work?
Ahmed: I have a personal conviction that the Midas League Cup and SCOUTBALLERS project will have a huge impact in the lives of African youths who comprises of more than 40% of any country heads, the projects are timely along with the revolution of the social media which is the way things are done and will be done in the next decades. Soccer players will have platform to showcase their talents and to help them being discovered and expose to the people in need of their talents which will in return give them a means of livelihood.
i-genius: Where would you like Midas Football Academy to be in 5 years’ time?
Ahmed: The academy shall have two standard soccer pitch on a 6 acres of land with a well-furnished hostel accommodation with all the latest football facilities. We aim to have a 120 student’s capacity hostel for the academy’s junior and senior teams with 6 coaches for both levels. All student and coaches shall reside in the academy accommodation, those that could not complete their high school education and those that are still in high school shall join academic activities of our partner educational schools. They shall seat for WAEC, NECO and GCE. There shall be scholarship opportunities for students with outstanding performance and educational result at top football and educational institutes in Europe and Americas.
i-genius: What advice would you give to those starting up a social business/project? Ahmed: Whatever you believe in, go for it and give it your all. In no time you will start seeing result and the right support will come.
This interview was conducted as part of the i-genius ‘Innovation & Sustainability’ interview series. If you would like to develop a particular aspect of your business or address something you are struggling with, then why not take our ‘Social Entrepreneur and Business mentoring’ sessions with i-genius Academy. To find out more, click here!