“At times, it looks silly or madness to invest your money into football,” Wilfred Kwaku Osei, popularly known as Palmer, recounts his investment into Tema Youth FC.
It’s been 15 years of acting silly or displaying madness. 15 years of emotional torture.
But, there are no regrets, just mixed emotions. Mixed emotions because he lost close friends who never believed in his passion. He lost loved ones who thought he was mad to be throwing money into football.
He had issues with his late mum because he was ‘mad’ to be investing in football.
However, he would do it over and over again even in the next world.
When Wilfred Kwaku Osei walked on to the St. Augustine’s College football field in 1998, it was for the fun of watching young boys chase football. It was fun. Nothing more.
Little did he know he was stepping into a multi-billion empire.
He never saw the light then, but seven years later, he created his own.
It was May 27, 2005 when his football, Tema Youth Fc was born.
The club that was bought for GHS 8,000 ($1,400 in the current exchange rate) is now worth five million dollars in his estimation.
He sat down with Joy Sports to recount his successes and failures managing the Club.
What influenced the formation of Tema Youth?
I had done school football at St Augustine and with what I was able to achieve through talent development with people like Michael Essien, Matthew Amoah, Anthony Obodai, Benard Don Bortey and Ishmael Addo, this gave me a close indication of my capabilities as a developer..
I was very confident that when I move into football, certainty, I would be able to offer players within that bracket opportunities and project them to stardom.
Coach Bashir Hayford impressed on me to form a club in Tema for that purpose but I never headed to it till it dawned on me to start a project of that nature.
Initially, it was purely to pick these players off the pitch; but for Tema Youth, many of them would have ended up on the streets, so I was encouraged to provide employment and also help these players who were undervalued in terms of their talent and give them exposure.
But at that time, only few could a player from the juvenile level and give him the level of exposure needed at division one and the premier levels; so Tema Youth came in handy to tap these undervalued talents and gave them the level of exposure that was needed.
I quite remember a partner, that’s Emmanuel Kofi Kyeremeh asked me what we could do. It is very simple, whilst growing up in Tema, Tema colts administrators realised that when the players graduate from the colts level, there was no opportunities for them to progress to the premier level.
Some of them were very talented but due to the fact that there was no club for them to feature, they ended as riff raffs in society, so they formed a feeder club for Ghapoha and this club was known as Tema Youth football club. This Club used to be in Division Two – those days it was Division One and Division Two; there was nothing like Premier – the feeder club Tema youth played the season unbeaten, but Ghapoha never allowed them to be promoted to the elite level in the sense that they couldn’t operate two clubs at the elite level so they more or less never allowed Tema Youth to feature at the elite level.
I saw the prowess of Tema Youth, for that matter, when I decided form my Club, I wasn’t that selfish to name the Club after myself, but to look at the prowess of people like Attah Djan, Abubakar Yakubu [late], all of them featured for Tema Youth. So, it was in principle that the name Tema Youth emerged, so I inherited what my fellow administrators at the juvenile level did sometime ago.
So it was not like you set it up from the foundation?
We set it up from the foundation. We bought Ofie Youngsters based in Oda and changed the name to Tema Youth and started to grow it organically. We were lucky to have gotten the club because the owners of Ofiye Youngsters had sold the club to Sports Net owned by Asare. What saved us was that, there was a clause in the agreement that said that if Sports Net is unable to pay, the team reverts back to the owners. Justice Amadu Tanko who has been recently appointed to a Supreme Court judge won the case for us. The league started without us because they notified the GFA about the court issue and they couldn’t have allowed us to play, so we joined the season after three matches.
How much did you buy the Club?
We paid around 800,000 cedis now GH¢8,000 or so.
Were you that rich?
By his grace, God has blessed us and we are thankful.
How would describe the journey after 15 years?
It has been very turbulent. In the sense that we’ve not had stability that would have allowed us to be at the elite level. We don’t have that, but I have over the period not judged my success based on the level that I am playing, because as coach Didi Dramani will tell you, that whenever you play clubs like Nania FC or Tema Youth, you’re playing a premiership club in disguise because they always have quality.
Look at what Accra Lions are doing; you don’t play Accra Lions and think that you’re playing a division one team, especially when you play a team like Right to Dream, it is not a division two side, it is a premiership club in disguise, so we have more or less done extremely well in terms of player development.
At a certain point, five of our players featured in the 2015 U20 World Cup Turkey. I was not part of the management team or anywhere close to that, but they featured at the African Youth Championship and four of them proceeded to play at the world cup level in Turkey, it should tell you that, we have been doing something great. That team was without Thomas Partey because Partey had moved to Atletico and he was axed from the team.
In 15 years, if you’re to describe Tema Youth in one word, what would it be?
That’s difficult, but in terms of the philosophy we set out for, we’ve achieved a lot of successes because Tema Youth as the name implies was established to develop untapped talents or undervalued talents, so in relation to that, we have been able to develop talents within Tema and its vicinity and even gone beyond that to tap these players and develop them.
Some of them are plying their trade in Europe. Judging from that, we have achieved a lot of success both on and off the field. With regards to the field, any time we have gone to the premiership, we always go on relegation in bizarre circumstances.
One, we were relegated based on point deduction, and the second one, when our boys participated at the 2015 World Cup stage, I had no option than to continue the league; if you lose four of your stars playing at the African Youth Championship and the world cup level, certainly it will affect the quality. Then came the recent one; Joseph Paintsil. This was a player who was on about ten goals, we were on the tenth position on the league table.
The moment he left the equation, we started struggling and we went on relegation under unforeseen circumstances.
However, I would say we have achieved success and I am very gratified with how the project has been projected up to this level.
In terms of assets based, we have been able to acquire thirty acres of land and our next line of action is to develop a modern facility; an academy of a nature for us to do football at a certain level. We are not doing bad at all.
What were the bizarre circumstances that got the team relegated?
These were circumstances I cannot explain…we lost 12 points in 2009 for registering on the issuance of a player ITC from the GFA, we ended losing the points. We were to CAS, but they had no jurisdiction to hear the matter. Then in 2011/12 we were again relegated before the recent one when Joseph Paintsil left the team.
The lands acquired how soon would work begin on them to set up the academy?
Exactly the vision or what we want to set up at the place, expect us to set off within two years time and to take off in a grand style. Inshallah.
When you bought the club, what was your target?
Like I mentioned before, my aim was to provide a platform for undervalued talents. I wasn’t looking at what I would get out of it, but I was interested in providing employment for the youth and I am glad we have done that and we continue to.
Have you achieved your target of setting up Tema Youth?
In terms of talent development, we have achieved our target. But, if you take the fact that I would have wished to be in premiership judging from how far we’ve come, that one I would say we have not achieved the target but certainly, we were not set up to play in the premiership, we were set up to develop talents.
In developing talents, which player has contributed to the success of Tema Youth?
If you check the numbers, that one it is undeniable fact that Joseph Paintsil has given us our biggest transfer, but judging from those who have progressed to the highest level, I will say Thomas Partey has been excellent.
This was a player at a given point coming from the reserve bench of Tema Youth. Until we got the premiership where he could have started, Thomas at Division one was reserve player so, if you want to more or less do a fair assessment of what he has been able to do in terms of progression after Tema Youth, it is Partey who has been one of the best if not the best.
What was the model you had in mind when you bought Ofie Youngsters?
We are running a simple model – to tap on undervalued talents. People that you least expect them to blossom, and I can use Ekow Benson as an example because Benson had been to many clubs and was rejected. We took him and Claude Le Roy discovered him and gave him a Black Stars call up and featured him in no less a match than Ghana vs. Brazil.
It should tell you the level we are as a club, because Ekow Benson was nowhere near stardom, yet we were able to tap this undervalued talent and gave him that level of exposure that was needed for him to blossom into a top top player, that has been model.
I need to a give a lot of credit to the founder of Liberty Professionals Club, the late Alhaji Sly Tetteh. I owe him a lot of gratitude. People did not know how close I was to this man,but he was phenomenal. I remember when Sly died, I wept like a baby. He’s a man I cannot describe because what he did for me. Dada Ansong and George Afriyie [former GFA Vice President] are very aware of what this man to did for me. He will forever remain my mentor in football.
What point would you describe as the highest point of managing Tema Youth?
I think it was in 2006/07 season in the premiership. We excelled to the extent that our goalkeeper Ernest Sowah won the best goalkeeper at the premiership level. This was a player we took from the juvenile system, that is Soccer Missionaries and if he could go and play at the premiership level and win the best goalkeeper of the season, it should tell you that we have done something good.
The same for Yahaya Mohammed, he was then a central defender. It was because of Yahaya Mohammed that inspired me to start the club Tema Youth. He was nominated as one of the best defenders in the country in 2006/07 premiership season. A player like Julius Agyabeng played all the 30 matches then, 90 minutes in total without going out of any game. It should tell you the level of medical condition of the player and the kind of training we had given him to survive in the league.
Most of the players by the end of the season became household names. In 2010/11, the Moses Ojier squad also went unbeaten 17 matches at the division one level. When they gained promotion, they survived for three seasons and I quite remember they played Medeama and I was watching a player like Francis Narh and I couldn’t believe that he was my player or that’s a player that Tema Youth has developed.
He had developed up till a certain stage that you could see that this boy has blossomed into a player for the future.
Unfortunately, the level of progression that we expected from Francis Narh, we’ve not had it up till date. We only hope and pray that Francis Narh will rediscover himself and project himself up till the level that we expect from him.
He came out of that block, within that time, we had a player like Thomas Partey, Joseph Atamah, et al. It was the best opportunity for us to have made a lot of financial gains out of that. Unfortunately, it ended up..(laughs) as my words, in terms of transfers but for 2018, the Joseph Paintsil deal, there would’nt have been anything significant in the coffers of the club.
In the next five years, Tema Youth would be 20 years. What identify are you creating for the club?
We intend to continue on our agenda of players development and wholesale basis. By this time, we expect the academy to have come to fruition and when we have those best structures in place, certainly we will be churn out a lot players.
We will do pragmatic and structured recruitment to ensure that every player that comes to Tema Youth would be of a certain quality. Within this industry, you need to be known for the type of players that you produce.
Football clubs are put in place to develop these players; others buy from feeder clubs but we want to be noted for developing quality players; nothing beyond that. We should also be able to put in place the structures that would allow these players to function at a certain level so that wherever they play, after their academy education, they would not be found wanting; they will be trained at the highest acumen of technical skills and abilities.
We don’t want them to fall short of any basic skills that they need to play at the world level. We want to churn out as many players as possible for the respective national teams at the youth level, that’s what we want to noted for.
What impact have people you worked with had on the club?
I have worked with very committed administrators: James Lamina, Alhaji Ganiu; these are my operations guys and they have been phenomenal.
I have had the opportunity to work with someone like Jerry Dugbatse, Kaka who just joined is always eager to contribute.
In relation to coaches, I have to pay homage to John Eshun, he did extremely well, old blocks like Kuuku Dadzie, Ken August; they laid the foundation, there’s coach Ibrahim Tanko, currently at UDS and Abubakar Yussif [late], they qualified us to our first premiership, Foster Abdulai, Emmanuel Odoom, the current Coach of Hearts of Oak, I can tell you in terms of youth development, Nii is above excellence; he understands what exactly we are looking for at Tema Youth, Tony Lokko who recruited the 2011/12 batch, the Moses Odjers and others and I give him a lot of credit.
In 2009, we had Attila Sekerlioglu from Austria, he also contributed his quota so far as the development of the team players were concerned. I must say that it’s been a very interesting experience I’m learning every day.
New ideas and new things, whenever we are confronted with a situation, we don’t panic. We come together, rally around each other and give ourselves the necessary support that is needed to push the club up to the level that is expected of us.
What has been the lowpoint running Tema Youth?
It is a very difficult question. At a given point, that is somewhere 2009, the partners and the shareholders that I was running the club with, all left and these were people of substance, these were people who had given me the necessary backing, the financial backing to the club and I was left alone. It wasn’t that easy trying to fund the club from a weaker budget.
Certainly, the synergy effect that we had when the two were with me will not be the same as when I was running the club single-handedly. Since 2009, It has been very very turbulent until 2018 that we were able to break through in terms of our financial standing.
Why did they leave?
Samuel Williams couldn’t take it when we were relegated in 2009. The circumstances under which we were relegated was very difficult for him to comprehend and he did not take it kindly at all.
He indicated that he was no longer interested in football. I made several overtures to him, yet he will budge. He had taken a decision that not to return to football and since that time, Samuel Williams has never engaged himself in football activities.
He was no longer interested in football, not only Tema Youth but he was no longer interested in football. With regards to Emmanuel Kofi Kyereme, he left for Canada unceremoniously so naturally, I was left with no other option than to carry on within that same time frame so that should tell you they’ve not been bad partners at all.
There is that camaraderie amongst us even up to date and anytime we chalk certain successes, they call me to congratulate us and also reassure me that even though they’ve left, they are still behind the team. So far as I am concern, this has been the soft spot.
Did you buy their shares?
No. What happened was that they had investments.
Kyeremeh for instance, transferred most of the players at that time to Berekum Chelsea by way of recouping his investments in Tema Youth and Samuel Williams the same. I must say that it is not just buying the shares. Within that time, the club was not even registered under the Register Generals Department.
It was after they’ve left that we registered the club as a company limited by shares with the Register Generals Department so I became the sole shareholder and anytime they want to come back, they are always welcome because we have been together before and we can always collaborate.
Tema Youth is looking for strategic partners so anybody who is interested in investing in a club that has a financial model to turn around the revenue fortunes of any investor, we are prepared to let go part of the shares of the company.
Can you recount the circumstances that led to Tema Youth getting relegated in 2009?
Certainly so, we had registered Emmanuel Clottey based on the issuance of ITC by the GFA. Only for GFA to turn around to tell us the player had registered illegally. We found it difficult to appreciate. This matter also went as far as CAS. Unfortunately at that time, CAS lacked jurisdiction to sit on the matter because GFA had not inserted this in its statutes the fact that when a member is aggrieved, he could go as far as CAS to seek redress.
So it was upon that basis that that matter could not travel beyond the corridors of the GFA. We had to be relegated based on 12 points deduction whilst we were lying on the sixth position on the league ladder all due to the player Emmanuel Clottey as an illegally registered player.
Any other low moments?
Yes. In 2012, we were on our way to Koforidua to play King Solomon; they had moved from old Tafo to Koforidua. When were descending a mountain, the breaks failed and the car was headed to crash a big stone, when were about to hit the stone and die, the driver stood up, lifted the car so the under of the car hit the stone. We had to exit through the top of the team bus. Luckily, no one was badly injured, just bruishes. I have not seen the car till date.
People say football drain your resources.
That’s a fact, it us undeniable fact. If you see football strictly as a business, there’s no way you’ll invest in the area. We came into this business to take boys from the streets, that was one. There’s also a desire for you to develop them up to a certain level that is appreciated because you don’t bring the person out of the street based on the fact that I need to help somebody, you need to help an extraordinary quality to develop or blossom into the best of his ability and if you’re not the type of person with the passion to do this, there’s no way you’ll venture into that project.
We did this at St Augustine for zero rated returns, we never had pesewa or penny for what ever we invested in the Essiens and Matthew Amoahs, but for the fact that we were part and parcel of their developmental process, that has been the guiding principle to propel me up to this level and if you don’t have that passion or the desire to do football, there’s no way you’ll venture into that project.
At times, it looks silly or madness to invest your money into football in the sense that you’re challenged domestically to fund for a household. It gets to the point that you’re asked to put money in a certain project, due to the fact that you some games over the weekend, you’ll have to meet the aspirations and everything of your team. That fund will have to be redirected to football
When you find your dad giving money into football, all you’ll say, this man doesn’t know what to his money.
Have you lost close people because you chose to invest in football?
I have lost lot of friends; my late mum had issues, our relationship feigned. She realised that I had not taken this option just for the fun of it because the old model had been that, football is a social event and that’s how it had to remain until I proved to her that football could be made as an economic or commercial event provided you know exactly what you’re doing and you invest prudently, you’ll certainly realise some returns.
Do you have regrets?
Not at all. I will do it over and over again, but for the negatives, I will always stand for correction, that’s the only way to achieve perfection, but I will do it over and over again. I will choose football any time.
What makes your model successful that you have no regrets?
We are running a simple model – to tap on undervalued talents. People that you least expect them to blossom, and I can use Ekow Benson as an example because Benson had been to many clubs and was rejected. We took him and Claude Le Roy discovered him and gave him a Black Stars call up and featured him in no less a match than Ghana vs. Brazil. It should tell you the level were are as a club, because Ekow Benson was nowhere near stardom, yet we were able to tap this undervalued talent and gave him that level of exposure that was needed for him to blossom into a top top player, that has been model.
I need to a give a lot of credit to the founder of Liberty Professionals Footballl Club, the late Alhaji Sly Tetteh. I owe him a lot of gratitude. People did not know how close I was to this man,but he was phenomenal.
I remember when Sly died, I wept like a baby. He’s a man I cannot describe because what he did for me. Dada Ansong and George Afriyie [former GFA Vice President] are very aware of what this man to did for me. He will forever remain my mentor in football.
What does the future look like for Tema Youth?
I think we should look forward to the future of a very great club. Who will bid our time to nurture players, take our steps and progress up to a level that is expected of us. We will not be in so much hurry, we will not cut corners for us to get to what ever level that is expected of us, but I will entreat all my other colleagues who other also into football, I know what they are going through in terms of financial situation, but with good competition, and with good prospects, ghana football would blossom into something else.
Looking back the years and the investment made, what is the current value of Tema Youth?
The value of every organisation is dependant on its assets. We have a good team, we have invested a lot into the team over the years. If I take into consideration everything Tema Youth, we are worth five million US Dollars.