When news happens, text LT and your photos and videos to 80360. Or contact us by email or phone.
Ade trying to make a splash in Africa
ADE Akinbiyi had 13 clubs in a career spanning almost two decades.
His eight cash transfers – including two to Burnley – totalled £15.25million.
Now, in retirement, he is ready to give something back to football.
Having taken former Turf Moor team-mate Jay Rodriguez under his wing, advising him through a Clarets club record £7million sale to Southampton, he has turned his attentions further afield, to an academy in Ghana.
Although born in the London borough of Hackney, Akinbiyi has always been fully aware of his African roots.
His parents were born in Nigeria, qualifying him for a call-up.
Of the three Akinbiyi received in his career, he earned one cap in a game against Greece in 1999, ironically in his home city.
He is in the early stages of his involvement with the New Generation Academy in a neighbouring nation.
But he is hopeful of inspiring young Africans to a future in football.
“We have kids from under 13s through to under 19s.
“There are some players there who go to private schools, some come from a poor backgrounds.
“Either way, football’s their life,” said Akinbiyi, who has been to the Accra-based centre five times in the past nine months.
“The pitches they play on aren’t the greatest at all so we are looking at ways to improve that.
“Where they train at the minute is dreadful but they can still play on it and show amazing skills.”
Part of Akinbiyi’s remit is to help those who are good enough find careers in football through his association with Beswicks Solicitors, who look after a number of high profile players in England.
The company also has strong links in America, and it is in the United States where the former striker feels a number of players from the academy will break into the professional game.
Five prospects have so far been assigned to Beswicks.
“We can’t bring them over to England at the moment because of work permit regulations. It’s going to be tough for players to come here, for us it’s more a worldwide thing,” he explained.
“We are a worldwide company working in every continent. We are strong in America and that’s where we see the strongest links.”
The destination for these players is crucial – make or break – particularly for those from the poorest backgrounds.
Akinbiyi spoke of one boy who lives in a shanty town, with few possessions, not even a home address.
It’s a big responsibility to help them avoid a lifetime of poverty, but the 37-year-old is keen to make a difference in their lives.
“None of them will have been out of Ghana before, other than perhaps to play in a tournament. It’s vital for us that they go to the right clubs and get well looked after.
“It’s important for us to visit the place they are going to and make sure it’s right for them,” said Akinbiyi, who is also looking to get more involved with coaching sessions on future visits to Ghana.
“I’ve passed my UEFA A licence badge so I’m going to try to help them on the coaching side and train with the kids,” he continued.
“I don’t really miss playing myself. It was my time to finish when I did.
“The only thing I miss is the banter.
“As a footballer you’ve got to think down the line and as one chapter closes how you’re going to open a new one.
“I wanted to stay involved in the game because it was the only thing I ever wanted to do. But I didn’t know how to do that.
“Beswicks looked after me in my career so it’s a dream for me to work with the academy through them and give something back.”
Looking ahead, the work he has done in Ghana has prompted him to think about establishing his own academy one day.
“I’ve enjoyed being involved in it and I’m 100 per cent committed to it,” he said.
“We want to see how it goes in the first six months but it’s a good project for us to try to do going forward.
“The academy inspires me to do more.
“We have to do this right.
“If this one goes well then maybe in a few years’ time I could look to set up another one.”