It was a moment, years of planning and a day to remember with football enthusiast Otuekong Nse Essien officially presented FC ONE Rocket, who are just weeks away from making their debut in the Nigeria National League, NNL, and Carabana Academy, a football school for young talents.
At the public presentation and unveiling of the football franchise in Uyo, on Friday, November 6, 2020, Essien said he is into football as a business to make and also nurture the many talents flooding the streets of Nigeria.
“Football is called a universal sport because it is loved by all people regardless of race, religion, political divide, culture, gender or age. Advanced countries of the world have found a way to make the most of this deep-rooted love for the round-leather game by converting it into a global money-spinning business venture.
“Today, some of the world’s largest GDPs are churned out from the business of football through the development of commercially-viable leagues and the private-sector ownership of football clubs.
While regretting the nature of football development in Nigeria, Otuekong Essien noted that over ninety five percent of football clubs in the country are owned by the government, thereby diminishing the true value of the sports which is worth billions.
“Regrettably, back here in Nigeria, it is despairing to note that the business and money-spinning aspect of football has almost been completely neglected. Many football scholars and followers have attributed this negligence to the fact that over Ninety-Five per cent of professional football clubs in the country are owned by Government.
“This is an utter aberration from what is tenable in other climes where football is both privately-run and privately-owned in its entirety.
“Gratefully, in Akwa Ibom State, the narrative is being gradually changed, in line with global best practice, with the advent of privately-owned football clubs which comes complete with its bountiful proceeds just lying in wait to be tapped into.”
Presenting the football franchise in a well-attended event, which had the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Udom Emmanuel, who was ably represented by the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Frank Archibong; Senator representing Uyo Senatorial District, Bassey Albert Akpan; Speaker of the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey, colleagues at the 7th Assembly, and other dignitaries.
Otuekong Essien said he was an aspiring footballer who nursed the dreams of playing footballer professional but could not due to the unfavourable conditions in his time. He established the club to help showcase talents who will fall on the wayside if platforms like FC ONE Rocket are there.
“It is common knowledge that, in my heyday, before I ventured into politics, I was a proud and aspiring footballer. Like any other young footballer, I nursed lofty dreams for the future of the round-leather game in Akwa Ibom State.
“But the unflinching benevolence of His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State and the dire need to heed the palpable yearnings to represent my people meant that those football dreams and I had to observe a momentary recess.
“I took some time out of this recess to tour the nooks and crannies of our State for a copious and painstaking assemblage of a team of talented young players and named them ‘Otuekong Nse Essien FC’.
“Otuekong Nse Essien FC took part in several grassroots football championships and won them all. The boys were so talented that I would be heart-broken every time the unwanted thoughts of abandoning them came to mind.”
FC ONE Rocket, a club derived from his name started professionally as a third division team in Nigeria in 2019, but will be playing in the second division when the season commences later this year.
“Out of the compelling need to support the wealth-creation policy of the five-point first term agenda of His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel and the need to keep these aspiring footballers off the streets by offering them a platform to showcase and nurture their talents, FC ONE Rockets – which is the acronym for “FOOTBALL CLUB OTUEKONG NSE ESSIEN ROCKETS” – was founded as a Nigeria Nationwide League One, NLO, (equivalent of division three of Nigeria Professional Football League) side in 2019.
“The suffix, “Rockets”, represents the missiles and projectiles (in football terms) with which we shall be bombarding Nigerian football en route to becoming one of the greatest football teams this country has ever witnessed which is the encapsulation of our vision and mission.
“FC ONE Rockets have since grown in leaps and bounds and today boasts of a combined staff strength of Sixty-Four (64) players and management staffers on their employ.
“Without resting on our oars, we pounced on the uncertainty, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, which rocked a Logos-based football outfit, Edwin Collins FC, and purchased their slot early this year.
“At this juncture, I am pleased to announce that FC ONE Rockets are now a Nigeria National League, NNL (equivalent of division 2 of Nigeria Professional Football League), side and will be campaigning therein when the upcoming 2020/2021 Nigeria Football League season gets underway.
“When the new season commences, FC One Rockets will be playing their home matches in Abat, Onna Local Government Area and will become the first professional football team which is based in Akwa Ibom South (Eket) Senatorial District of the State after Mobil Pegasus Football Club, donkey’s years ago.”
Otuekong Nse Essien who is popularly known as ‘Indoomitable’ also unveiled Carabana Football Academy, whose main purpose will be to scout young talents all over the world and help them through the “rough-and-tumble” of professional football in Nigeria.
“During the course of our several talent scouting programmes, we discovered a plethora of talented young footballers who were still in their formative years and therefore too young to bear through the rough-and-tumble of the professional game in the country.
“This category comprises youngsters whose body development was either too fragile or whose talents needed to be properly schooled in the rudiments of the beautiful game while being placed on monthly cash stipends.
“Driven by the passion to build them a formidable future of limitless possibilities, CARABANA FOOTBALL ACADEMY was founded in July this year, where these youngsters have been gathered into two groups; Under-17 (for those whose ages fall below 17) and Under-19 (for those whose ages fall between 17 and 19), with a two-year mentorship and tutorship plan.
The Proprietor also highlighted the achievement of FC ONE Rocket and Carabana Football Academy since their establishments in 2019.
“As an indication of the positives which the future portends for us, it has the trappings of an extraordinary accomplishment to note that in less than two years of their formation, FC ONE Rockets and Carabana Football Academy now serve as fertile breeding grounds for properly harnessed footballers in the country and beyond.
“We are pleased to announce that as a result of the sheer hard work and dedication to assigned duty of all of us at FC ONE Rockets and Carabana Academy, we have struck partnership deals with European football agencies and clubs as well as some of the top-rated Nigerian and African football clubs.
“In less than two years, these partnerships have already begun yielding tangible dividends as some of our players have had stints with European and African clubs including Altay FC of Turkey and FC Lori of Armenia as well as Ceramica Cleopatra Club of Egypt while others are at present having loan spells at Nigeria Professional Football League sides including Plateau United, Kano Pillars, Rangers, Akwa United and Dakkada FC.
“It is refreshing to reckon that as of today, no fewer than a combined total of fourteen (14) players of FC ONE Rockets and Carabana Football Academy are in the various age-grade national teams of this Country including the Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 national teams of Nigeria.
“However, in a mainly civil service state like ours and with over One Hundred (100) youths being gainfully employed through FC ONE Rockets and Carabana Academy, the journey thus far has not been devoid of its attendant financial challenges.
“All by ourselves, we have had to endure the burden of doling out millions of naira at every month’s end to keep these projects afloat and keep us in business. This burden has been made much worse by the outbreak of Covid-19 which has had a telling effect on our financial strength.
“All by ourselves, we have been able to acquire one piece each of Toyota Coaster and Toyota Hiace buses which will be used by FC ONE Rockets to traverse the length and breadth of the country in our quest to execute NNL matches in the upcoming season but that leaves us without any vehicles for the players, coaches and staff members of Carabana Football Academy.
“All by ourselves, we have acquired two standard camp hostels for the players and officials of both FC ONE Rockets and Carabana Football Academy at choice sites in the state which come complete with security and other facilities.
“But this is about the extent to which our lean resources can take us.
“We are therefore most passionately soliciting the kind support of His Excellency, our sports-loving Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, to ease some of our financial burdens especially in these perilous times.
“We also crave, out of His Excellency’s usually well-demonstrated magnanimity, that Your Excellency may consider donating a team bus to alleviate the travel concerns of the pupils at Carabana Football Academy who, at present, do not have a team bus of their own.”
Carabana FA will automatically feed players to FC ONE Rocket and other clubs in Nigeria as they look to expand their coast.
Copyright 2020 The Athletic NG. Permission to use this article or any part of it is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.theathletic.com.ng as the source.