heinnews’s David Hein this week talked to Habib Rahman Waleed Alhassen, a football financial manager from Ghana who helps find and support young African football talent. They discussed finding and helping manage and support young footballers in Africa; the ugly stigma around some football managers in Africa; what players young Ghana players look up to; the Ghana national team’s performance at the 2006 World Cup; and hopes of the Black Stars at the 2010 World Cup.

heinnews: What kind of players do you manage, where are they from and how old are they?
Rahman: I manage young talented strikers, midfielders and defenders from Ghana and west-Africa. And they are 12 to 18 years of age.

heinnews: What are their biggest goals they want to achieve?
Rahman: Their goal is to become professional footballers like Jay-Jay Okocha, Michael Essien and others.

heinnews: And how do you go about making them happen?
Rahman: For those young talented footballers that I manage, they are from different football camps. But they are under my management. And I make sure they have enough training, from the camps so that they will be fitted.

heinnews: What are their biggest needs as far as management is concerned?
Rahman: Their biggest needs are training kits and also I give them some amount of money every week for transportation to training and for their food stuffs.

heinnews: How do you get in touch with the players? And how do you find them?
Rahman: The company started with one of my cousins who I thought was very talented and needed help. So both of us came together and planned this business. I didn’t send anyone abroad yet, but my style of management is convincing those boys and they come to me day by day. They some times come to me through my cousin. But for some reasons, I don’t take many of them. I take only the ones that I can manage. Because some of them require a high level of management which I cannot do.

heinnews: What do you tell the young players when they come with you?
Rahman: When they come to me, we mostly discuss managing them financially and helping them to improve their talent. And as time goes on, I find them a football team in Europe or Asia.

heinnews: And what do you tell their parents?
Rahman: I haven’t met many of their parents. But the few that I met are hoping and praying that their children turn to be stars like Michael Essien and earn much income for their family.

heinnews: And do the parents receive any money? Or do they have to pay money?
Rahman: It depends on the person and who is holding their registration card. If the registration card is with a scout, I go there and purchase the card. With that, the money goes to the coach that sold the card to me. And if the card is with the player, the money goes to him but with the signature of his parent on the agreement document.

heinnews: You have mentioned money a couple of times and that the players receive training kits and money for transportation and food. Do you give them that money?
Rahman: Yes I give them it.

heinnews: And how are you financed?
Rahman: I am a small trader. I buy and sell and I also get support from my father who is a supplier and works for Ghana National Petroleum Company (GNPC).

heinnews: One issue many in Europe see reported often is of African scouts and agents exploiting young African talent. Many people in Europe have an ugly picture presented to them. What is your response to these kinds of perceptions?
Rahman: What I know about this is that, some of the young talented players are not educated and they get cheated by their managers. And some of them don’t go by agreement. That is why I choose to go by agreement, that must be signed by both parties, for these kind of issues.

heinnews: When the young players come to you, who are the players they dream of becoming like when they get older? Ghanaians like Anthony Yeboah, Abedi Pele, Samuel Kuffour, Michael Essien or other African stars or Europeans?
Rahman: I talk to them much and sometimes it sounds like an interview. But I find out that they talk much about Michael Essien, Lionel Messi, Jay-Jay Okocha, Samuel Eto’o and others. They don’t normally talk about Abedi Pele because they don’t see him playing on the field anymore and I don’t think some of them ever saw him playing because it has been a long time since he played. Whenever you see him, then he is with sports officials on TV.

heinnews: The Ghana national team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 2006 in Germany. And the Black Stars grabbed wins over the Czech Republic and the United States before getting eliminated by Brazil, what kind of impact did their showing have on football in Ghana?
Rahman: Though we have a whole lot of football legends in our sports history, they never made it there. So we now think we are moving forward and even beating Czech Republic by two goals. This has given the Ghana football association (GFA) the strength to work hard and make sure we win the trophy in South Africa 2010.

heinnews: The Black Stars are currently in first place in Group D of the third stage of 2010 World Cup qualifiers with the group winners qualifying for South Africa. How important is it for Ghana football that they reach South Africa?
Rahman: The most important thing is that we are going to make it to the finals and make sure we bring the CUP in Ghana.

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