Shola Akinlade is passionate about building platforms, first, he took on the financial sector building Paystack, a platform to facilitate payments, now for his next act he is going into the football business with the launch of Sporting Lagos Football Club, which he intends to use as a platform to promote social change.
The CEO and co-founder of Paystack unveiled his new club, Sporting Lagos Football Club on Thursday, February 4, 2022. The launch of the new club comes ahead of the start of the 2021/2022 Nigeria National League (NNL) season on Friday, February 11.
The motivation to start a club came last year when he lost his father. “Last year, I lost my dad and spent a lot of time with my 75-year-old mum. And for the first time in my life, I started thinking about what my life would look like at 75. The outcome of my reflection was a commitment to deepen my involvement in our community, which has given me so much.”
At the unveiling of the club, Akinlade explained his reason for investing in football citing the enormous potential the sport possesses.
He said, “In sports as well, we have a long history of individual Nigerians using football – and sports in general – as a platform to ascend to global recognition. Imagine if we could scale this? Imagine if we could turn football into a powerful engine that creates opportunities for even more young people?”
Already Shola has recruited a team to help him achieve this goal including Godwin Enakhena, a veteran sports journalist and administrator as Chairman of the club, Uzo Okonkwo former COO at Interstellar labs as the General manager, and Yemisi Cole as the Team Manager.
Sporting Lagos Football Club will start its campaign to progress from the second division Nigeria National League (NNL) to the first division Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) on February 12 when they meet Go Round FC at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, in their first home game.
Nigeria is a passionate footballing nation, home to a variety of African football legends from Stephen Keshi to Ahmed Musa. But this passion is not reflected in our homegrown leagues. Since the 2000s there has been a steady decline in the quality of the NPFL and NNL.
Plagued by numerous problems from declining fan attendance, to unruly behaviour by the fans who do attend games and poor officiating from the referees. The leagues have slowly lost their shine. But the clubs are the building blocks of the League and any movement to transform the league must first start at the club level. Hopefully, Sporting Lagos achieves this.