The name 36 Lion is a household one in Lagos, especially amongst football followers. This is a team that has nurtured some of the best known youth footballers who are making waves in world football today. A few names will suffice here. Imoh Ezekiel was so good that the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) battled Belgium to have him play for Nigeria. How can we forget Sadiq Popoola, the diminutive but sweet playing midfielder who was part of Nigeria
’s football team to the last Olympics in Brazil? Oladele Oshobe was pivotal in MFMFC’s qualification for the CAF Champions League. He is now playing professional football in Cyprus. MFMFC fans won’t forget in a hurry the contributions of Chuka Uwaga and Stanley Okorom to their darling teams excellent performance last season. Hardly would you find a club in Nigeria that does not have a player from 36 Lion in their ranks. Today, we reveal the identity of the man behind 36 Lion, Alhaji Gafar Olawale Liameed. Happy reading.
GE: Let’s meet you, sir
GOL: My name is Gafar Olawale Liameed.
GE: Where are you from
GOL: I’m a Nigerian-Beninois. Roots from Port Novo and Badagry.
GE: Tell us about dad and mum
GOL: My dad was a businessman, one of the first 10 to own a petrol station (Texaco) in Port Novo. My mother is a trader.
GE: Where are they from, dad is late and mum still alive
GOL: They are both from Benin Republic, yes my dad is late and my mother still alive.
GE: What was growing up like and where was this
GOL: Growing up was fun for me, it was in Lagos Island on Tokunboh Street between Joseph and Adams streets. The famous Campos mini stadium was a stone-throw to my house then.
GE: What specifically made growing you fun
GOL: Everything! Being able to move from one house to another freely, renting a tricycle after school and making sure you return it in time without a timekeeper. Getting involved with other kids in different games like high jumps, monkey post football games and many more. Even getting caned then was fun.
GE: How much of football did you play while growing up
GOL: Not much other than playing street football at Oil Mill street behind Holy Cross Cathedral, my primary school then. I could not make it into my secondary school team (St. Gregory’s college) because I was not good enough. I watched the game more than playing.
GE: Where did this passion for football come from
GOL: I don’t know if I can call it passion. For me football is more of a business than passion, that’s why I don’t think I’m doing anything special yet.
GE: Does sport run in your family
GOL: No, it does not, my four elder brothers are Architect, lecturer and Realtors respectively. I’m the only one that does football, they call me a maverick and I got total support from my dad since 1992 before he passed on to do whatever I liked.
GE: At what stage did it occur to you that you could make money from football without playing
GOL: 19 years ago when I started Barka Cup with 16 teams within Lagos Island. Then later formed a team from selected talents during the tournament. That gave birth to 36 Lion Football Club.
GE: Tell us the story of 36 Lion
GOL: It really started like child’s play, I truly never had any plans. I was just this stubborn young man with an understanding that it isn’t necessary to be like everyone else. Then I did a coaching course and got a US amateur license in Chicago. My thoughts then was to at least have something in my head for effective positive dissemination.
Suddenly, clubs home and abroad started requesting for our players so I took it a step further and acquired a FIFA license from NFA for players representation. This was in 2006. A year later, I tried transferring 3 players but it was not successful because the boys were tagged ‘not ready’. We then decided to focus more on Nigerian leagues starting from what was then called Amateur 3, 2 and 1. My 1st major player transfer was in 2007, Ideye Brown to Neuchatell Xamax in Switzerland. I had to wait 5 years with total endurance getting the boys ready and climbing the promotion ladder from Amateur 3 to Pro 1 which resulted in the transfer of Imoh Ezekiel from 36 Lion to Standard de Liege in Belgium.
GE: How would you describe yourself
GOL: Plain and simple.
GE: Tell us about your immediate family
GOL: I’m married with four kids. My wives are Olatanwa and Maureen and my kids are Shakira, Gafar Jr, Firdows and Akeelah.
GE: What are the challenges faced by player agents like you
GOL: I’m not a player agent anymore, gone are those days. FIFA now frowns at it because one can’t double as Club president and agent.
GE: Is any of your kids taken after you
GOL: Nope, not even my son.
GE: Your educational background
GOL: Holy Cross Cathedral (76 to 82)
St. Gregory’s College (82 to 86)
Lagos State Polytechnic (89 to 91)
University of Lagos (2010 to 2015). I studied Insurance in Laspotech and English in UNILAG.
GE: If not sport what would you have been doing
GOL: Would have been a secondary school teacher.
GE: Lagos, Nigeria is home for you, tell us about this journey
GOL: Making Lagos home was all about choice and the journey was really simple for me. Maybe because I believe every good thing in West Africa starts from Lagos.
GE: How easy was it for you to become a member of the Lagos state football association
GOL: Few of our football leaders in Lagos state suggested my name, one of them even paid for my application form for the election. All the delegates were also aware of my work with football.
GE: As a keen follower of the league, how can it become truly professional
GOL: The league can only be professional if severe sanctions are meted out to erring clubs and followed up 100%.
GE: Aside Football what other sport interests you
GOL: Track and field. Our Olympian, Seun Adigun got her first trophy from my annual track and field athletics program for our kids in Chicago then.
GE: Any regrets in life
GOL: No regrets.
GE: Any Phobia
GOL: None, no phobia.
GE: Role model
GOL: Alhaji Lateef Sowemimo, a senior friend.
GE: How religious are you
GOL: I can’t quantify how religious I’m.
GE: Can you recall anything you did while growing up that got you into trouble
GOL: I was just 16, I ran away from home overnight just to participate in an Eyo Festival. That was the only time getting caned was not fun for me.
GE: Most embarrassing moment
GOL: Can’t recall any embarrassing moment.
GE: Most cherished asset
GOL: My Qur’an is my most cherished asset.
GE: First automobile:
GOL: I got my first automobile in 1992 it was a 1988 Pontiac. My favorite brand is Mercedes.
GE: Introvert or extrovert
GOL: Extrovert but I’ve slowed down a lot.
GE: Favorite color
GE: When did you make your first millions
GOL: I made my first millions in 1994.
GE: What did you do with your first earnings in sport
GOL: I got a semi new Toyota Coaster for my football team, Lions.
GE: Who was your best friend between dad and mum
GOL: My dad was my best friend, it has now been transferred to my mum.
GE: How do you unwind
and favorite food
GOL: I go to shows once a month, especially contemporary dance shows. My favorite food is rice and stew.
GE: Most difficult phase in your life
GOL: When I lost my best friend in the year 2000
GE: Toughest decision ever taken
GOL: When I had to chose between leaving my luxury life in America and relocate to the challenging life in Nigeria
GE: Your take on government sponsorship of sports in Nigeria
GOL: Government sponsorship is the best thing that has ever happened to sports in Nigeria.
GE: What’s the biggest challenge facing football development in Nigeria
GOL: We don’t have proper youth system, our youth developers, myself inclusive need to be redeveloped.
GE: Favourite sports personality
GOL: Muhammad Ali and Zinedine Zidane.
GE: Favorite accessories
GOL: Me favorite accessories is a good wrist watch.
GE: What dictates your dress sense
GOL: My dress sense depends on the occasion, the weather or how comfortable I am in them.
GE: Favorite musician and why
GOL: Fela Kuti and Bob Marley, timelessness of their lyrics.
GE: What keeps you going
GOL: Good football keeps me going.
GE: You’ve been involved in helping so many youths play professional football, which was your biggest break
GE: Imoh Ezekiel’s transfer is my biggest break.
GE: Is it true that footballers can be ungrateful
GOL: I do not think so. It is the administrators’ character that brings out the beast in them.
GE: Why is 36 Lion FC not playing in the NPFL
GOL: Our new players now are still very young, that’s why we started again from the Nation Wide One League. We are sure they will grow into it and we’ll play in the pro soon.
GE: How far will the Super Eagles go at the World Cup
GOL: The Super Eagles will get to the Quarter finals of the World Cup.
GE: Aside 36 Lion and football, what else do you do
GOL: 36 Lion is also about Real Estate, Telecommunications and building materials.