Barrister Paul Edeh is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Naija Ratels FC, a privately-owned and run female football team in Nigeria. In this interview with select Journalists in Abuja recently, Barr. Edeh spoke extensively on his passion for girl-child and sports development amongst others.
Venturing into female football ownership and management
Unlike many, I’m into female football development to make a difference. The second reason was informed by the fact that I have always wanted to give back to the girl-child and I know if we must give back to the girl-child or any aspect of the society, we would need a platform through which we can express what we are doing. So I choose female football which is also a platform. Why? because unlike a male football, the female category is one that, even abroad the investment level is low.
You will found out that the transfer for male players is huge compared to the male category and in view of the fact that I thought people don’t want to venture into this aspect, it’s also an opportunity to see how I can make a difference, and the final reason which propelled me to venture into this is the rate at which government has neglected the girl-child. In every aspect of the society even in football, you will discover there’s parity in the payment of players for government-owned clubs that I felt, perhaps, it will make me understand why the government is doing so.
And it gives me opportunity to these young children who I have devoted time, devoted resources, and they have left all they have because they cannot become medical doctors like other persons, they can become lawyers like every other person, but have chosen football as trade. With this, we will provide that platform and in creating that platform is also giving me the opportunity to reach out to girl-child in different patterns.
It will interest you to know that sometimes last year, we visited the IDP in Benue state where we donated items to them and also reached out to as many as we could.
Interestingly we are having a retreat of the same thing sometimes this week in the Benue state IDP camp.
We intend to donate food items and also see how we can more importantly donate sanitary pads to the girls in the IDP. Our investment in this venture is within the range of half a million which we intend to give to the IDP in Benue.
Before then, I sent a team to go and spend 10 days in their camp. We use that opportunity to reach out to various sectors particularly the girl-child.
As at the last count we venture into this, we’ve invested over a N100 million in what we are doing and the question you will ask is when have we been investing this? First, we entered this venture and started in Benue.
We rented an apartment in Benue and we decided to put in place a structure.
Initial performance challenge
When we started, it wasn’t easy getting results. Almost all the games we played, we lost.
Infact, the last match we played with a national team, we lost 5 nil to Flamingos. We also lost 7 nil to the under 21 team. We went to play off in Benin, we came last. This would have discouraged us but since what informed what we are doing is not about the money or what we try to gain in return but to give back to the girl child, then we began to buy players and identify players from the grass root.
Now, I can assure you that our coaching crew is putting in their best to ensure that before the Nigerian Women Professional Football Championship League commences, the girls are fully ready. I can tell you for free that we are no longer where we started. We’ve made tremendous progress.
We have some of our players in university in 100% scholarships. Those who are still in secondary school have not been able to write WAEC, we’ve paid WAEC fees of about 15 already.
We are paying another 15 to 20 for NECO for those who are unable to register for the WAEC. We’ve gotten a coaster bus, in fact we’ve gotten two buses, we have bought our camp in Abuja and we are buying an extension in addition to that.
I want to think we are the only club in the NWFL that pays our salary on the 20th of every month. As I speak to you this month salary has been paid as at 20th. It will interest you to know that our salary wage is over a million for every month.
Currently we have two teams, one is known as Honey Baggers, we have to leave that in Makurdi. After we selected the core team, we didn’t want these girls’ dreams to be dashed, we formed another team called Honey baggers which is the same as Naija Ratel.
Just this month, we engaged a coach, a former confluence Queen assistant coach who is now with us. In addition to that, we have done so much charity work.
The flying officers’ cup which we hosted cost us over N20million and the question is where did the money go to. We accommodated the entire clubs, except for Nasarawa Amazons that paid their own accommodation. We fed all the clubs twice everyday for eight days. In addition to that, the first, second and third place got a million naira in addition to some clubs that couldn’t make it that we had to give money to.
We did live broadcast and a whole lot of things that we got from that amount. The thing is really not what we have spent, the idea behind this is not about the money not because we have so much. We felt making a difference, we do not really need to rely on individuals because some people enter into this venture because of what they will gain.
Now that we have built a formidable structure, our intention is to begin to reach out to people in society to also give back to us. In view of that, that’s why we need this core team to be able to tell our story.
Community development drive
I used this as a platform to reach out to my immediate community where I donated two transformer substations in Benue. This year, we are trying to go that route, not because we have so much but the little we have we have been able to consolidate and push it to this direction of sport. And I’m also aware that there are some people that are just there to tell the negative part of the story.