Adieu, Kashimawo Laloko!

National Sports Festival, Pepsi Footbal Academy, team, school, students, Coach Kashimawo Laloko
Late Kashimawo Laloko

The news filtered in last month that the Parakoyi of Egba land had passed on to the great beyond. Kashimawo Laloko, a real fisher of talent had run his race. His time on earth was up.

I met Chief Kashimawo Laloko, when I joined the Pepsi football academy in 1994. As a student at Igbogbi College, I had a classmate turned friend and brother, Olalekan Aboaba who was then living inside the Yaba College of Technology staff quarters as his father was a staff of the great citadel of learning. The Pepsi football academy was then operating a centre from the Yaba College of Tech ground and having watched them train on one of my visits to my friend, I decided to pick a form and join the football school. I did that alongside my friend Aboaba and we later invited yet another class mate of ours, Olawale Shiro, and we formed what was later known as the triumvirate, something I will write about here sometime.

From being just the three of us, we later became four then five students from Igbobi College as Richard Egbaji and Temitope Olawaye all of us class mates also became students of the PFA. We never stopped talking about the academy in school. Before we knew it, dozens of Igbogbi College students were already having a life changing experience at the football academy courtesy us the “triumvirate”.

Then the big break. There was going to be a one week residential training course for the best players from every centre to converge in Abeokuta, Ogun State in the summer of 1995. I mentioned it during the closing remarks on a sports show I was the anchor, the “Young Masters” back then on MITV, incidentally it was the show designed for the triumvirate which I mentioned earlier. It was the Wole, Wale and Lekan show, the hottest teenagers in sports presentation in the 1990s. Unknown to me, the late Kashimawo Laloko, the founder of the Pepsi Football Academy, was watching. To show appreciation for the gesture which was a quantum advertisement for the programme, the man simply came to our training ground at Yaba Tech from the headquarters at Agege Stadium and handed me a complimentary form, confirming my spot at the residential training programme. That was how I found myself amidst the best legs from all over the PFA centres across the country.

To convince myself I was just not at the training programme by a stroke of chance, I put out my best performances at every training session particularly at the last screening match to pick the team of the tournament. Lo and behold, I emerged the best right back and made the team of the tournament, in the eyes of the coaches, fellow players and of course, my humble self. It was at that point that I was invited to join the Agege Centre which was the headquarters. That to me, was a promotion and from then on, I had the chance to train weekly under Coach Kashimawo Laloko and rub shoulders with the best players in Lagos State. Why not? While I played at right full back, my closest pal who played at left back took his trade to the highest level possible, playing for the Flying Eagles, the U-23 team and the Super Eagles. Oh yes, his name is Yinka Adedeji of the U-20 World Youth Championship, Netherlands 2005 fame. In that squad alone, the Pepsi Football Academy contributed no less than six players, from John Mikel Obi, Yinka Adedeji, Soga Sambo, Daddy Bazuaye, Kola Anubi to Ambrose Vanzekin. The team won the silver medal at the global showpiece.

Elderson Echiejile, Sunday Mba, Rasheed Olabiyi, Bobga Sambo, Sola Dada and several other household names, were also at a time at the academy.

Chief Kashimawo Laloko, a former Coach of the Gambia and former Technical Director of the NFF is one never to be forgotten. He may have died at the age of 76 years but his contributions to football and to sport in Nigeria and beyond will forever be remembered.

A graduate of the famous Abeokuta Grammar School, Kashimawo Laloko, himself a great track athlete during his school days, moved over to Lagos and became a teacher and Games Master at Baptist Academy, Obanikoro before moving to St. Gregory’s College where he won the Lagos Principal’s cup as coach, a feat he repeated at the National Sports Festival, Oluyole’79, winning the gold as coach of Lagos State. He was at various times, the Coach of Stationery Stores, First Bank, Zamfara Textiles FC, Enyimba FC and Wikki Tourist FC.

The coaching career wouldn’t be complete without going international and he became the national team coach of the Gambia before returning home to kick start his own project, the pioneer football school in Nigeria in 1992. Chief Kashimawo Laloko served as the Technical Director of the NFF from 1995 till 2000.

I am glad I just didn’t read about him, I met him, trained under him and received football and sporting lessons from the great icon of football. Wale Laloko, Chief Kashimawo Laloko’s son and heir apparent , was also my team mate at the academy back in the days. He must continue from where his father left off. The legacy must continue, unabated. Let me pick up my phone now and give him a ring.

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