Aduana Stars coach Yusif Abubakar reveals secret behind GPL success
At age 55, he has worked with over 10 local football clubs, including King Faisal, Accra Hearts of Oak, Gamba All Blacks, Medeama Sporting Club, Berekum Chelsea, Wassaman FC, Kpando Heart of Lions, Techiman City and currently with Aduana Stars.
After quitting his job at Techiman City in 2015, Yusif Abubakar landed at Aduana Stars who he led to Premier League glory last month, having missed the coveted title the previous season.
In an exclusive interview, Aduana’s title-winning coach told the Graphic Sports he had no regrets for moving base from Techiman to Dormaa-Ahenkro where he achieved yet another feat of adding the Premier League title to the GHALCA-organised G6 title in the just-ended season, having previously won the Premier League title with Berekum Chelsea in 2011.
Coach Abubakar spoke to Graphic Sports’ BEATRICE LARYEA during Aduana’s coronation at the Nana Agyemang Badu Park at Dormaa Ahenkro about his plans for the CAF Champions League and next season’s Premier Leaggue, as well as his future in Ghana football.
These are excerpts.
Graphic Sports (GS): Coach Congratulations for leading Aduana Stars to win their second Ghana Premier League title.
Yusif Abubakar (YA): Thank you very much!
GS: Did you ever dream of winning the league title this season?
YA: Well, sometimes you will not dream of it but if you have confidence that in the near future you must do something great for yourself. It can happen at any time. I had confidence that God-willing, I would win one of the domestic cups, especially the league trophy, after God gave me the chance to win it with Berekum Chelsea during the 2010/2011 league season and it has happened. I still feel that I will be able to win another one very soon.
GS: What was your own target when you took up this position last November?
YA: Coming to coach Aduana Stars has never been easy because I worked shortly at Techiman City and I left before the end of the first round due to certain issues. After I left I had offers from other clubs but I declined them because I wanted to sit at home and observe a few things. So after the league ended there were other offers from other clubs, but I landed at Aduana and it has never been easy because for a team that finished second on the league table last season, there was no need to have a target. From their previous performance you must expect something better than that and work towards achieving it. If they ended second last year the expectation is that you have to win the league, so I just had to be brave as a coach and it worked for me. I took a risk and took the job with expectation that I would succeed, so that’s how come I became successful. I must add that I got great support from the owner of the club, Dormaahene, management, and together with the players we made it.
GS: Weren’t you afraid of the consequences if you failed?
YA: That’s true. In fact, there were a lot of expectations when we won the G6 trophy shortly after I was employed, and they wanted the league trophy as well. But I had to be calm, brave and compose myself because the pressure was too much. At a certain stage I had to hide the pressure that was mounting on me away from the players. To them, I was very comfortable because I tried to make them feel confident in themselves, always encouraging them and telling them that we could do it. I even made them laugh when I had to, but deep within me I knew I was under pressure. Psychologically, I did not let them see it because they would be affected and that was dangerous. We were able to manage the pressure and we came out successful.
GS: What accounted for Aduana’s success this season?
YA: Total teamwork accounted for our success. Aduana Stars are a unifying team from the top hierarchy to even the ball boy on the pitch. Unity in the team, among the technical handlers and at the supporters’ front. There’s a lot of consistency at the management level and motivation from top hierarchy worked for Aduana. Most importantly, the motivation we had from the owner of the club, Oseadeeyo Agyemang Badu II, made us successful.
Aduana hardly owe their players and technical staff, we always take the winning bonuses as soon as we win the match. There were some matches that we won and he [Oseadeeyo] paid us double winning bonuses. There were matches that we drew away and we were not expecting more than what he promised us, but he paid more than that because of the commitment of the boys. That helped us a lot.
GS: Coach you talk so highly of your players. What is your relationship with them?
YA: Very cordial. I know when to joke with them and when to become serious. As soon as they see my posture they know whether I want to joke or whether I am telling them to be serious with what they are doing at a particular moment. When we are playing a match, my posture on the touchline tells them a lot. They know when I am annoyed and they can tell when I am okay with their performance. So we have a very cordial relationship.
GS: Which of the matches or games would you say was easiest and which one was the most difficult?
YA: This question has been asked severally but I always say that I have to respect the other clubs. There has never been a match that I think has been easy. Even playing against the last club on the league log was not easy because there are certain technicalities that if you are not careful they will use against you. So, I don’t underestimate any club. I can only mention some matches that when we won the happiness was more than we expected. One of such matches was the one we played against Inter Allies because I gathered that it had been a very long time since the team won against Inter Allies so that record was broken. Getting a draw against WAFA at Sogakope also made many of our supporters happy because they were the team that were chasing us on the table and the point difference was one at that time so I was happy we drew.
GS: What is your impression of the Ghana Premier League?
YA: The Ghana Premier League is competitive technically and tactically but very difficult, especially when you talk about financial issues. I think the club owners are really doing their best because it is not easy to be paying all these players at the end of the month. It is not easy playing 30 matches with all that stress that you pass through so it is very competitive to us the coaches.
GS: What is your take on the allegations of match-fixing and corruption in the league?
YA: As a coach when you tune your mind on those things you can never work because you will always feel cheated. There is no coach who has played in this season without facing challenges with match officiating but I wonder why some coaches continue talking just because they feel they should have won certain matches. The truth is that the more you do that, the more you are telling your players to relax because you are tuning the minds of your players to bad officiating or match fixing. When you do that the players will never give their best. Never allow your players to think that referees have cheated you or them. Just try to let them understand the good name that they will get if they are able to win their matches. We should always remind them of where they are coming from to help them know where they want to go instead of making them think that they have been cheated. Psychologically if you are thinking about those things you will not train the boys.
GS: Why did you report Hearts coach, Frank Nuttall, to the GFA’s Disciplinary Committee when the two clubs played in Accra?
YA: He started it but I never uttered a word. My technical team even heard it and they wanted to attack him but I stopped them. His [Nuttall’s] own technical team saw what he was doing that day. He used some abusive words and I was surprised to hear him say those things. He was thought the referee was cheating them, and even if it were so and you turn to attack the other coach, I don’t think it was professional. His attitude was bad and unprofessional and it got into Hearts of Oak supporters and they said that the referee cheated them that day. Instead of thinking of how to move ahead, he [Nuttall] was rather insulting people but I never retaliated because I was brought up by disciplined coaches.
GS: You have worked with a lot of clubs in Ghana, so which one of was your toughest job?
YA: Most of the clubs have their own style of operating. I have worked with King Faisal, National Sports College at Winneba, Accra Hearts of Oak, Gamba All Blacks, Medeama, Berekum Chelsea, Wassaman FC, Kpando Heart of Lions, Techiman City and now Aduana Stars. So if you compare all these clubs it will not be easy to say which one was difficult to handle or which one you were happy with. This is because they all have different styles of operating but you should be able to adjust to the conditions of service that you meet and that will help you get a lot of experience. What I saw at Hearts of Oak as a big club was different from what I saw at Berekum Chelsea and Medeama but I was able to adjust till I left.
GS: How long do you indend to remain with Aduana?
YA: I signed for two years and I have worked for a season with one more season remaining. In football coaches are always hired and fired, so it can happen that when things go bad they will ask me to go even before I finish seeing out my contract. But I am praying and hoping that I will be able to finish my season with Aduana without any hitches.
GS: How and when did your coaching career start?
YA: I was a footballer in Bolga so I joined Real Tamale United (RTU) shortly but because of education I did not play too well at that level so I rather started coaching a colt team in Bolga called Great Uppers around 2002. I later coached a Division One side in Bolga called Mighty Rocks before I moved to Kumasi in 2003 to work as an assistant coach at King Faisal. There I worked under foreign coaches and local coaches such as Ralf Zumdick, Hans Dieter Schmidt, Sanzio Bahner, Francis Oti Akenteng and the late Herbert Addo. So I got into coaching around 1999 or 2000. I am always grateful to Alhaji Karim Gruzah who helped me to move out of Bolga. He saw my potentials when I took an Under-12 team to Milo Games in Takoradi and he spotted me there. He saw the way I handled the boys and he told me to come and coach his colt team and when I went to Kumasi I was able to promote some of the players to the senior side and he was happy with my work. He was my first inspirer because he pushed me together with the late Afrani
GS: What do you hope to achieve in the next five to 10 years?
YA: My wish is to achieve highest quality in football and leave a legacy like our other senior coaches have left. The late Ben Kouffie, Osam Dodoo and co made great names in their coaching career so I am hoping to achieve something great that people can remember me for. As for development of players I have done a lot and I hope to do more.
GS: How prepared are you for the CAF Champions League campaign?
YA: We have started preparing mentally and I mean we have started talking to ourselves concerning how far we want to go in the tournament. I am yet to present a programme outline to management so we are on course.
GS: How far do you hope to go in the Champions League?
YA: I really want to go far and I want to make sure that I have a round team so definitely I need to recruit a few players to beef up the team. Like I told you earlier a lot of the players have done well so we are not going to let them go although their contracts have ended. I will give them the opportunity to play in Africa and I know they will deliver. My aim is to make an impact in next season’s league and the Champions League as well.
GS: Do you have plans to augment your squad for the domestic and continental campaigns?
YA: We have seen a lot of them but we will recruit just a few in Ghana and outside. I am not the one going to pay for those players so we are yet to meet with the club owner and he will give an advice on what we should do. I cannot mention names but I know that we will go in for the very best to beef up the team.
GS: Now let’s get up close and personal. What is your level of education?
YA: I am an old student of Navrongo Secondary School. I obtained my A Level Certificate there and I proceeded with coaching courses from CAF High Level Coaching Courses to CAF Licence A Courses. I later travelled to Germany to do the UEFA equivalence Licence A in 2007. Now I am thinking of getting a Pro Licence. Getting the licences has helped me a lot but the most important thing is executing them on the field of play. In coaching the theory is about 30 per cent and the practical is 70 per cent.
GS: Tell us about your family.
YA: Ooooh! I wouldn’t want to talk about my family for one or two reasons. So let’s move on.
GS:Okay! I get you but what about religion?
YA: I am a Muslim.
GS: Tell us something about yourself that we don’t know.
YA: I am a very sociable person but most importantly, I don’t like it when people undermine me. I am very open but I am not weak.
GS: Finally, how do you spend your leisure time?
YA: Watching movies. Yeah I watch movies a lot. I like action movies and Nigerian movies so whenever I am free I watch movies.