Goal Africa’s women’s football correspondent, Samuel Ahmadu, is a true champion when it comes to uplifting the profile of women footballers and aspires to rise to top positions in sports administration to affect some leadership changes to improve the women’s side of the game.
The award-winning journalist showed keen interest in sport when a friend introduced him to the press club in his second year at University.
He began freelancing for various media houses and featured as a football analyst during the 2010 World Cup at Grace FM/Confluence Television in Lokoja, Nigeria.
Months later, he was employed at the same media company but as an IT personnel, having studied Computer Science.
This position limited Ahmadu from accessing the newsroom but he started blogging and, in the process, fans encouraged him to launch his own platform – SavidNews.com.
He went on to undergo professional media training and quit his IT job as the top officials at the company were not in favour of him pursuing a career in journalism.
In 2013, he covered the Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa and a year later, he joined Goal.com where he has been using the platform to voice the stories of our African female footballers.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Ahmadu reveals what attracted him to women’s football and the challenges he has encountered along the way.
Sam, thank you for chatting to gsport! How are things going your side as sport gradually makes its way back?
It feels like it’s Valentines again, I am very happy to see women’s football activities back globally, including international events. It wasn’t easy during the lockdown but we had to obey the instructions of the authorities to remain safe first to promote the women’s game in Africa. However, club and international football competitions are gradually back, although traveling to cover events are still quite difficult due to the restrictions but we got to accept that we are in abnormal times and find alternative means to follow and project the sport. So, I’m more excited with the COSAFA Women’s Championship kicking off in few days. It’s the first women’s event since the African Olympic Games qualifier in March and really looking forward to more of such across the continent.
How did you manage to deal with live sport coming to a complete halt earlier this year and still produce content?
It was a very rough time to be honest, I’m not going to lie. It was really a tough period for me as a women’s football writer because there were no activities either on the continent or globally involving our enterprising African players, which is my primary focus of coverage. However, I had to start monitoring the top players, especially via their several Instagram Live interview sessions, indoor trainings and other social media activities. Luckily, we had the Belarusian women’s topflight quite active during that period and it was a relief to produce more content and following up on the progress of the impressive players there. It was difficult but at the end of the day health is more important. So, in the midst of the whole Coronavirus, the best thing to do for yourself is just to keep safe and do the little you can.
Covid-19 brought with it many negatives, what are some of the positives you drew from the situation?
“I think it helped us build genuine relationships and strong bonds in the women’s football community.” – Goal Africa women’s football correspondent, Samuel Ahmadu.
Firstly, I think it helped us build genuine relationships and strong bonds in the women’s football community. I recall being invited to interact with others from various parts of the world, including South Africa, on matters of our women’s game.
The players, officials and media were quite interactive on social media, especially via Instagram Live sessions. All of this would not have been possible before as we were all so busy living the ‘life’. Many of us had lost those real, genuine moments.
Secondly, the quarantine period encouraged more interactions, innovations, hacks, tips, and tricks to improve the fortune of the sport and also helped the community to make some important demands to the various football bodies, including FIFA, which snowballed to the timely 500,000 Dollars Covid-19 relief grant to various member associations for women’s football development.
Thirdly, it gave many, including the players, the opportunity to improve themselves academically through online courses. I had several international players who shared their knowledge from attending digital and football-related programs. There are quite a lot of positives but let me mention this few.
Let us track back. Where does your passion for sport and writing come from?
A friend introduced me to the press club in my second year back in school many years ago. The experiences hugely influenced my passion and hunger to excel in the media industry. Before my graduation, I already started freelancing and pitching stories to broadcast media houses, local and national newspaper outlets and featured as a TV football analyst during the 2010 World Cup at Grace FM/ Confluence Television in Lokoja, Kogi state, north-central, Nigeria. I got employed at the same media company months later, but as IT personnel, having studied Computer Science.
The position limited me from accessing the newsroom and I had to start writing/blogging and in the process, some fans encouraged me to launch my news platform, SavidNews.com, undergo professional media training and also teamed up to facilitate my trip for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa.
Before AFCON, I had to quit my IT job as the top officials at the company were not in favour of me pursuing my career in journalism. A year after the 2013 AFCON, I got snapped up by goal.com where I’ve been until to date trying to carve a niche for myself in the industry.
Did you always see yourself having a professional career in the sport industry?
I honestly always desired to have a professional career in sport from childhood despite limitations of resources and background. I developed huge interest back then as a regular feature on the BBC World Service and being a fan of Wigan Athletic since 2005.
“I’ve through self-sponsorship covered several women’s competitions on the continent, sometimes by road, including the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.” – Ahmadu reveals how he has been able to cover various women’s football tournaments around the globe.
My first-ever appearance on TV as an analyst during the 2010 World Cup was also a huge motivation and I saw huge prospect when I covered the AFCON in 2013 and also played host to the BBC crew. Since then, I’ve through self-sponsorship covered several women’s competitions on the continent, sometimes by road, including the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. It was simply a case that I grew the passion over the years and still desire to go higher in the sports industry, especially as an administrator.
What attracted you to women’s football in particular?
I have been watching the women’s game for a long time. But on reporting terms, it all started while I worked as an IT personnel. A founding member of Confluence Queens – a topflight women’s club in Lokoja – would often visit my office and I pleaded with him to start writing about the team. He seamlessly obliged, noting that they really lacked the media support and that was it. Luckily, I also had someone, Moses Bako, who has rich knowledge of the women’s game and helped me to easily adapt, build a strong base and relationship with several clubs, national team players and officials across Nigeria.
Joining Goal in 2014, I was engaged to cover the Nigeria Professional Football League but considered the job as a big opportunity to project a talent-rich but underpublicized sport like women’s football. Despite series of complaints of the obvious low readership of the women’s football contents then, I often loaded my bosses with many of them, after fulfilling my primary targets with the men’s coverage.
In 2015, I had to sponsor myself to the Women’s World Cup in Canada through loans and saved personal funds after having failed to access cooperate sponsorship. It was a very rough experience but that did not discourage me from covering the 2016 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Cameroon by myself and had to travel to and from by road.
I almost lost my job having gone to cover the maiden WAFU Cup in Cote d’Ivoire in 2018 after failing to communicate with my bosses officially before my road trip. The urge to be at almost every women’s football event, especially on the continent almost cost me.
After I successfully covered the 2018 AWCON in Ghana, I was made the Goal Africa women’s football correspondent, beginning in January 2019, expanding my coverage to the continent. The desire to carve a niche for myself while helping to offer a global voice for an undervalued women’s football industry in Africa were my biggest motivations for the women’s game. I religiously bank on the saying that, we rise by lifting others.
How can we as the media fill in these gaps that still prevail in women’s sport?
There are truly many gaps to fill, and firstly, I think we can do more by offering a voice for the women, amplifying what they are doing on and off the pitch without creating needless competition with the men.
I am glad that gsport has consistently been doing a lot in this direction, providing unparalleled voice and celebrating women in sport not just in South Africa but beyond. We need more dedicated platforms like gsport to raise the voices and profiles of sports women.
Secondly, we must use our outfits to consistently engage, encourage and support those in football authorities, especially women in a bid to raise the valve and create an equitably comfortable environment for the actors to thrive and industry to grow. I am not against equal pay, but in Africa, we desire equity in the treatment of sportswomen in terms of opportunities. Gladly, various sports organisations and the corporate world are beginning to embrace this in South Africa and across Africa but we must maintain our solidarity in demanding an improved treatment and inclusive governance.
What changes are you hoping to make to change the face of women’s sport for the future?
I have already begun steps to this beyond just reporting on women’s sport. I am aspiring for administrative positions in sports, including football in my community. I strongly believe, as a passionate promoter of the sport, we can also make a lot of difference from the inside if we seek to create more opportunities for sports women. I really am excited, even though I lost my elections. I had recently served as a member for the women’s football development committee of the Nigeria Football Federation and also as match commissioner. Besides my leadership aspirations, I am still focused on sustaining my media efforts in amplifying the voices and profiles of women in sports, especially in Africa.
From the stories that you have done, which one would you say was a lightbulb moment that has encouraged you to do more for women in sport?
It has to be in 2014. About a few months into my job with Goal, I had to be up late nights to produce content and conduct interviews during the U20 Women’s World Cup. I practically coined most of my writing around Asisat Oshoala from the start to the end of the competition in Canada. I got a lot of commendations for my great content, including my employers in London. You can see Oshoala’s progress from 2014 to date and it’s like a dream come true for me having used such a big platform like Goal to raise her profile.
The other was later the same year when the Nigerian women’s team reclaimed the Africa Women’s Championship in Namibia. The head coach then was unpaid for more than two years by the Federation and when I got the wind of it, I kept the news for six months, only to blow it up the night the team won the 2014 title and it drew the desired intervention of the then Nigerian government. There are quite a lot more but these two were huge for me.
What are some of your career highlights?
First, I featured as a football analyst for the first time on TV during the 2010 World Cup. Another in 2015, covering the Women’s World Cup in Canada. It was huge for me, recalling my challenges and being my first trip outside Africa and my first-ever appearance at a World Cup tournament.
I have been nominated for several national awards like the Nigeria Writers Awards and Nigeria Sports Awards twice and made the list of Under 40 influential writers in Nigeria.
I won the 2018 Nigeria Pitch Award’s Football Journalist of the Year award and was a finalist in 2019 which is yet to be announced, all just for reporting the women’s game. Sounds like a dream to me!
It also was a great honour when I was appointed as a member of the Nigeria Football Federation women’s football committee in 2017.
And, I have had the privilege to serve on the nomination and voting panels of some international football awards, notably the BBC Player of the Year since 2016 and CAF. There are so many highlights, really, too many to mention.
What is your greatest ambition?
My greatest ambition for the future is to rise to top positions in sports administration and beyond to affect some leadership changes.