They’ve been part of The SociaLiga for just a little over half a year but Raineri Ghosts FC are rapidly becoming one of the biggest clubs in the League. Their hashtags #RainIsComing & #RainIsHere have gained thousands of impressions on Social Media as they’ve built a large fanbase and on the pitch, they’ve entertained with a team built around star striker Alawam “Benzema” Shahin who leads the goal scoring chart with 5 goals in 6 games. Despite these, the most impressive thing about Raineri Ghost, most would agree, is the high level of organization & structure within the club which has trickled down from the top of the team and is evident in every single activity associated with the club. In this interview with Head Coach, Seth Abayomi and Director of Sports, Osho Olufemi they take us through the club’s journey so far.
Raineri Ghost didn’t have the best start to life on the pitch in The SociaLiga. An opening day defeat to Bravos Knights (1-0) was followed by two goalless draws against Guns FC and Citizens FC. These results saw Raineri rooted to the bottom of the Mainland Conference with 2pts and no goal scored; the worst attacking start by a team in SociaLiga history. What followed was a downpour of goals on Matchday 4 as Raineri shattered and matched various records: “Nothing (changed) really but more hard work, minutes on the training ground, players needed to get used to my methods and philosophy of playing football.” Said Seth Abayomi whose team became the first team in SociaLiga history to win 2 League games on a double matchday. “So, I would say we were a team in transition all this while.”
The poor start was a big challenge the club had to overcome and Osho Olufemi, Director of Sports addressed this as well saying: “Every team in the league has a challenge at every stage of the league, we are no exception. However, one of the challenges that stood out was keeping the energy level of our players and our fans high when the wins weren’t coming…as you can see we surmounted that successfully and we are now looking forward to the next phase.”
Shahin, who was on a 3-game goal-scoring drought, led the team to a comeback victory against reigning Mainland Champions, Royals FC with a brace before scoring another brace as Raineri crushed All Black FC 5-0, the joint biggest scoreline in SociaLiga history alongside Saints FC (vs Reds FC). Surely, they had brought the rain. Shahin’s 4 goals in 2 games saw him match Emmanuel Eze, Abdulhakim Hosumah and Abdul-jabaar Aminu’s records as the only players to score 4 or more goals in just 2 games. To put that into context, these three players were voted the top three strikers in the league last season. “The goals were great for his confidence. A striker needs to score goals but we are more concerned about his overall contribution to the team over his personal accolades,” his coach, who never doubted his quality in front of goal despite the drought, said. “It’s important that the whole team works together for each other. Consistency, improving our overall game play and taking one game at a time is what we choose to focus on right now.” Abayomi added while paying tributes to his defensive unit that has kept 3 clean-sheets this season.
With 8pts and in 2nd position in their Conference, Raineri Ghost look to be playoff bound. With first placed Bravos Knights having the best record in the Mainland Conference and a Royals team which looks to have awoken from their slumber, Raineri would face extremely difficult odds if they are to reach the league finals. When pressed to give his choice of which Island conference team had impressed him the most and who would be his preferred choice in the finals, Seth Abayomi pointed to reigning league champions, Saints FC who are on a 16-game unbeaten run: “All the island conference teams have been fantastic this season but the Saints have stood out in their overall performance.” He said but also acknowledged his team still had a long way to go before winning the league. “But to win the SociaLiga, we have to beat the best teams that are out there, so I would rather choose to focus on our own overall game-play.”
Off the pitch, Raineri Ghost are defined by their excellent quality and this is evident in the daily running of the club. Talking to Director of Sports, Osho Olufemi, we asked about how he has helped build this wonderful and well-run team. How tough it has been maintaining high standards while juggling club duties alongside personal activities/daily routine: “It has been tough as you have rightly said, but we’ve been built together from a great team of people who share the same vision and ideology towards what we do at Raineri. The structure works together to achieve one goal and once there is a passion for the game which we all share, it becomes a core activity in everyone’s daily routine. This is why I’d have to always give kudos to a great team of visionaries, every player, coach, backroom staff and ultimately our fans.”
The bond spoken about became stronger after the team won the 7th edition of the TPL. Speaking on the importance of this victory to the club’s history, Olufemi said: ”Football is a game of hard work, confidence and belief. Our synergy as a team tuned itself into the right mix of players, and a very intelligent behind the scene Raineri Team. With this, we believed and knew that wining TPL7 would give us the platform, exposure, opportunity and necessary confidence a squad would need to sit on. So, we bet on it, and went for it, simply.”
Raineri has grown past being just a club. The Raineri Foundation, an arm of the club, aims to help instill proper structures, amongst other things, in the sporting industry: “We believe a society is made up of its people, and we also understand that one of the best way to develop sports is to invest in its productive skill set. Our core concern is to develop people and commitment to developing people, structures and systems within the sport society. The Raineri Ghost Foundation is the medium via which Raineri Ghost FC exercises it’s CSRs and implements its social, educational and cultural activities. This will be aimed at projects and programs that will form part of the Raineri Ghost FC commitment to Sport.”
Raineri’s ever growing presence in The SociaLiga is no coincidence. The team’s online presence and branding is almost unmatched. Before we did leave them, our final conversation was centered around this. We asked if the team had leveraged on this (strong online presence and branding) by growing its fanbase, attracting the best available talent and attracting potential sponsors & partners. “We believe our presence both online and offline is very important to letting our audience understand who we really are and our values.” Replied Osho Olufemi as he began to eloquently thrill us on the thought process of Raineri. “We’ve continued to work on improving our processes and expressions and in many ways which has taken us on a journey of meeting new people, making new partnerships, sponsorships, volunteers and fan engagements via our campaigns and strategies. We’ve been able to really sell the Raineri brand to most who have come in contact with us to the best of our ability. We’ve had volunteers, new players, fans, sponsorships and partnerships without reaching out to most of them but the other way around. For us, either leaving drops or flooding the minds of our audience with the beauty and essence of the Raineri brand is one of our cores for anyone who comes in contact with us. Like every system, growth is required, so we wouldn’t say we are there yet, but we can say that we are currently on the highway on the journey to where we would want to be.”
Originally posted on The 12th Player