Jul 2, 2011

Aminci FC Bukuru

Feeder Team Extraordinaire
Aminci is a Hausa word that means resourcefulness. In the town of Bukuru in Jos-South of Plateau State, Nigeria, a local football team by the name of Aminci that started from extremely humble beginnings about a quarter of a century ago has grown to become resourceful in so many ways.

In the mid-eighties when Aminci was founded, football has not become big business as is the case today. The mass appeal of the game at the time was solely the result of the amazing beauty of the game that attracted all regardless of geographical location or culture. This love of the game is the motivating factor that got some people mostly the Hausa community in Bukuru to set up Rangama Football Club that evolved over the decades to become Aminci Football Club.

Initially, Aminci was founded as a team for the development of local talents. Eventually it grew to become a feeder team for the Nigeria domestic football leagues. One of Aminci’s coaches, Nasa Raphael, boasts that the club is Nigeria’s leading feeder club, supplying an average of fifteen players to different clubs across the country every year. These players eventually find their ways to different clubs across Europe.

Aminci also serves the need of players wishing to reinvent themselves after losing form and teams as a consequence. They come there, rediscover themselves and find new clubs.

In the morning hours when Aminci trains, there are avid football fans around the perimeter of the pitch. They come to watch high quality football for free but also to shake hands with Europe-based stars they had seen only on TV. There is hardly any Europe-based star with roots from Jos who does not come to Aminci during the off-season in Europe. They range from Isaac Promise, to Ezekiel Bala, Enyi, Ahmed Musa, Kelechi, etc. When the richest sportsman in Nigeria, John Mikel Obi is around, the crowd becomes tremendous as fans use their mobile phones to call friends to come and see the Chelsea superstar. On the day of getting this story, I was told that had Mikel not honored a wedding invitation, I would have seen him live for the first time.

The presence of European stars is a confidence booster for the local talents on whose reason Aminci was founded. To some extent, Europe ceases to be a mystery in their minds. Playing with stars of the European Champions League should be the ultimate.

The same stars that play at Stanford Bridge, the Emirates, Old Trafford come to the dusty pitch of Baptist Primary School, surrounded by shacks to keep fit and respect that which paved the way. The pitch slopes to the east at a gradient of about seven degrees with pools of water that often deceive players by suddenly holding a fast-moving ball. These raise the question of financing. The impression is that Aminci is a place of financial drought. It was in the beginning when Aminci was a mundane club but not now that the club feeds the Nigerian and eventually European professional leagues with players on one hand and the pockets of the coaches with cash on the other. As a matter of fact, Aminci has a Director and Proprietor who goes by the name of Ibrahim ‘Bros’ Ahmed, a pale-looking man who is nevertheless feared by support coaches and players alike for his ruthlessness at shattering dreams when crossed. In view of the big business that football is currently, Mallam Ahmed regularly travels around to get players to whom he becomes a manager. At the time of compiling this story, it was rumored that about seven players were staying in his house and training with Aminci, waiting to be sold.

Jos the capital city of Plateau State has been the epicenter of Nigeria’s most ferocious religious conflict. At Aminci’s home town of Bukuru, there are separate markets, residential areas and even schools for the two major religions, Islam and Christianity. Aminci Football Club however presents an exceptional photo, that of an unusually united Nigeria. According to Coach Raphael, 60% of the players are Christians with the rest as Muslims. Over 90% of the fans are Muslims. Each time, fighting breaks, out he says, there are Christian players living under the same roof with the proprietor, a Muslim who lives in an otherwise deadly Muslim neighborhood for a Christian. Three days after the bomb blast of 24th December in Jos, the players trained together. While the fighting in Jos is essentially between the Berom and Hausas, Aminci has Berom players from the Gyel District, a no-go area for a Hausa.

What is to be leant from the coaches, footballers and fans of Aminci is that, in different ways, football is so important to them that they can carefully work to ensure peace so that they can continue to enjoy their assorted dividends of the game.

If people in Plateau State can see their possessions, loved ones and friendship as being of utmost importance, then they could also thread carefully to ensure that peace becomes enduring in the state. Aminci football by this has laid bare the fact that its resourcefulness is boundless.

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