Abu Salami has gained cult status in the image-making and photography business around Lagos and across the United Kingdom with a passionate approach that sees him portraying his subjects in shades of magical surrealism
. A new vision has given Abu no sleep at night: how to transform the aspirations of unsigned footballing talent into reality. He wants to lead Nigerian footballers to a Promised Land in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Like Joseph the dreamer, Abu has had to contend with Pharaoh and his cohort of dream killers. Several highly placed individuals with a stake in football administration have simply displayed a nonchalant attitude to something that would inevitably lift Nigeria’s place in the comity of footballing nations but more importantly contribute to economic growth through millions of Dollars in earnings from abroad. Read the shocking details below.
Abu is about to change the football talent recruitment scene for good and currently has the attention of such powerful clubs and partners as Nigerian superstar ODION IGHALO, WATFORD FC, HAMILTON ACADEMICAL FC, HEART FC (Scotland), SuperSport (DSTv), LINDA IKEJI MEDIA, ZENITH BANK, the Guardian Nigeria, PineField School, Lekki Lagos, Brilla FM, GLOW Health, among others.
Read this excerpt of my frank exchange with Abu Salami:
CI: So Abu, what is THE DREAM FOOTBALL TALENT REALITY SHOW?
AS: It is a television reality show coming out of Nigeria for Africa and the entire world showcasing the ability of young footballers aged between 13 and 18. The players run through a four-stage trial where just 15 players of outstanding skill are selected to make up a dream team which would then be ushered to Europe to be interviewed by our partner football clubs.
Clubs like Watford FC have for instance, through this project, given up to three (3) players the opportunity to attend trials while other clubs are currently coming on-board after the Press Conference we are giving in the week of 10th to 15th April, 2017. I am certain that there is opportunity for some of these talented young boys to start a career through this.
The show will kick-off screening in Abuja, Kano, Akwa-Ibom, Enugu and Lagos. The show will feature on DSTV’s SuperSport channel and other terrestrial networks. This is simply what the show is about. I hasten to add that my media partners have been phenomenal and I trust that this project will succeed because of the media’s deep interest in it. It is a symbiotic relationship that benefits everybody.
CI: So what details do interested applicants have to know about taking advantage of this project?
AS: The project is broken down into three major stages. First off, we have the adverts going out across new and traditional media to spread the awareness and this will culminate in an international press conference in April 2017 to formally announce the project.
In the second stage we would have the Screening Tour which we plan to commence in the month of July 2017. This stage will run for a period of 18 days in 5 selected states across the 6 geo-political zones in Nigeria: Abuja, Kano, Akwa-Ibom, Enugu and Lagos respectively.
The third stage which is the 'THE DREAM CAMP' is estimated to start on the 1st of August and last till 31st August, 2017. At this point the selected talents would be carefully monitored and showcased to the world and the activities would be further televised for local and international viewing to 4.7 billion viewers. Interested Sponsors can avail themselves of the following packages: Platinum Sponsor, Gold Sponsor, Silver Sponsor, Bronze Sponsor, and Naming Rights to the event.
CI: In some detail kindly tell us about what you expect of the applicants and what they should expect from you?
AS: Well, we plan to accept 30,000 applications. Application forms cost ₦3, 000 and applications are planned to still be open till July, 2017. I expect to see players who can be evaluated based on their degree of commitment, hard work, endurance, tolerance, performance, zeal, perseverance, skill sets and confidence. What players can however expect from this show is intense physical fitness training, sports education, mentoring, coaching classes, mental alertness sessions, etiquette classes and a host of other activities. We’ll publish the show schedule soon enough so stakeholders can see the exact dates for all activities.
CI: Abu, could you shed some light on why you started this new project of yours?
AS: This project has its roots in my personal experience. Before I left Nigeria to live and study in the United Kingdom I thought I possessed all the right skills and attributes to become a successful football player in Europe. When I got to the UK and played with youngsters my age it quickly and sadly dawned on me that I did not have the speed, pedigree, education and know-how of the technical aspects of the game. The culture shock overwhelmed me. I lost my passion and went on to University. So the reason I set this up is to get young Nigerian players ready to embrace a more technical kind of game, to prepare them for the culture shock of a more competitive environment. You know, players here will play on a Five-Aside turf and consider themselves to be brilliant players but when they have to play on a full pitch in front of international spectators they get confused because they don’t know how to configure their angles, or interact with their dimensions or apply a technical pattern of play etc.
We want to make this a holistic enterprise for players of significant talent so we would have their profiles on a central database with their play footage, references, verified age and the like. This way we can ensure that there is no age falsification and that other clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal can come shopping in Nigeria and Africa knowing that half the work’s been done for them.
Ultimately, I would like this to be an opportunity to give something I was never given.
CI: Why has nobody done this successfully before now?
AS: It’s primarily because we live in a society which relishes pulling down people. I spent so much time and other personal resources seeking to gain the support of a number of powerful decision-makers who could have pushed me along with two or three phone calls or emails. Instead they made many false promises and I never heard from them. There were some people who wanted me shut out of mainstream football just because they considered me an outsider. The harder it became to work with Nigerians the more disappointed I got. There I was, a man who was contributing my quota and wanting to do even more and yet no one could see the possibilities I represented.
I think why this might be different from the projects of my big brothers such as Mr John Fashanu and Mr Jay-Jay Okocha is because I’m asking the entire world to pay attention to what’s going on here by projecting our offering globally in an entertaining way so that whether a player gets signed up or not he at least gets a chance to build some self-confidence and some experience dealing with the exposure of an international career. We’ve adopted a push strategy of getting this project out rather than wait for head hunters to come in. We’ll be mentoring the players and educating them on what I call total football: training, management, fundraising, building small local teams, administration etc. We are going to focus on sports education a lot. It’s all going to be in this package.
CI: Who bought your vision and how have you managed the Nigerian environment?
AS: I realized there was no way I could make the project a success unless I first got the attention of people who are serious about human capital and youth development. I must thank the Lagos State Football Association as well as the Nigerian Football Federation for their immense degree of encouragement in ensuring that this project succeeds. They gave me a listening ear and helped me with all the tools I needed to get on with this. My sincere vote of thanks goes to Ladi Salami who is a particularly gifted football agent and who happens to be my brother. Ladi is Odion Ighalo’s agent and he has been firing from all cylinders to ensure that more teams get on board. Because of his effort, Manchester City has promised to join the project in about one week. We’ll definitely be gaining more popularity before the end of the first season.
I approached Odion Ighalo and he made it clear that he was going to support anything that would open up the doors for younger talent to blossom. I followed this with an interface with Hamilton Academical Football Club who were delightful in their response. They saw my passion and knew I meant business and immediately told me they would come on-board. In almost quick succession, I got the attention of Watford Football Club who emphasized their enthusiasm for promoting the good of football through the identification and refinement of talented youngsters. We were extremely excited to receive a favourable response from Hearts Football Club of Scotland who also decided to give players a trial. All in all, we’ve been surprised to see that international partners, as soon as we contacted them, have shown so much interest and commitment when compared to Nigeria partners.
I was really humbled to gain the support of Linda Ikeji media, whose endorsement and interest for the development of youth and sports came to me as a pleasant surprise. It’s no wonder she is an example of sterling success in her field of endeavour. Again, I thank Brilla FM, SuperSport, GLOW Health, the Guardian Nigeria newspapers, Vanguard and Zenith Bank who have demonstrated an inclination to support unsigned talent coming out of Nigeria.
CI: How do you plan to get other African countries signed up, because it is clear that this is a Pan-African project?
AS: It is my mission to find the next best African footballer through this platform. We have received several emails from players from other African countries seeking to register but unfortunately we do not have a system in place just yet to accommodate them unless they visit Nigeria physically, register and participate in the show. Fortunately, from Season Two we will be making provisions for them to be screened in their country of residence and the outstanding crop of players would then visit Nigeria to participate in the reality show. But right now we are only able to accept players who can be present in Nigeria physically to participate. I can’t promise everybody a career in football but I can create chances that they can seize.
CI: What other sponsors would you ideally like to welcome in partnering with you on this project?
AS: I am particularly keen on Coca-Cola or Pepsi because I am aware they have a strong interest in football and youth related talent. Other sponsors are welcome from other sectors including but not limited to food and beverage, oil and gas, telecoms, banking and finance, health and pharmaceuticals among others. We welcome all forms of media partnership, traditional, new media, radio, online etc. I want to encourage all celebrities across Africa to join in because the youth emulate them. So, this is an avenue for them to continue to give back. We cannot do this alone; we need the support of serious partners with an interest in a peaceful and united Africa.
CI: Then lastly, how do we find you on Social Media?
AS: My handles are @abusalamiphotography on Instagram, @abu salami on Twitter and Abu Salami on Facebook.
CI: What about THE DREAM FOOTBALL TALENT REALITY SHOW, how do we find it on Social Media?
AS: You can find the show via these handles: @thedreamfootballshow on Instagram and ‘The Dream Football Reality Show’ on Facebook. On Twitter it is @thedreamfootbal. It is football with just one letter L not two.