This week the Siya crew caught up with top British-based football agent, Tony Awor. Not making the grade at a professional level, Awor’s footballing career headed to university and coaching, and MLS development.
In this week’s edition of Soccer Laduma, issue 903, we invited you, our readers, to log on to the Soccer Laduma Supporters Club, where you can read an exclusive interview with Awor.
The Siya crew’s Joe Crann got in touch with the football agent.
Hope you enjoy the read. Cheers... Eddie.
Joe Crann: Tony, how did you end up in the industry in the first place? Did you have a footballing history?
Tony Awor: My footballing history is not an unfamiliar one, I started as an aspiring youth player that was not fortunate enough to be offered professional terms with the local team which is Chelsea FC. Playing ultimately lead me to university and coaching which in turn lead me to the United States and a role with Major League Soccer in player development. Having played and coached, I was not happy with how certain agents conducted themselves and made decisions for players that were not conducive to their careers going forward. So in retrospect I ended up in the industry out of a sense of moral obligation to players that I knew and/or had played with that were not having their best footballing interests met by agents at the time.
JC: Ahh sounds a familiar route! Do you personally think that football agents get a bad rap? What's been your worst experience in the industry so far (naming no names haha)?
TA: Yes football agents do get a bad rap and unfortunately there are unprofessional ones out there that perpetuate the stereotype. In my experience your reputation with players and clubs you have done business with speaks for itself, so if you conduct yourself proficiently, you don’t have to worry about the “bad rap”. In any industry that generates tens of millions each year, there is always going to be unscrupulous individuals, which I have encountered in droves. I think generally the worst thing in the industry is when a deal is scuppered by an agent (and or club sometimes) that comes out of nowhere claiming to also represent a player and makes unreasonable demands. It always ends up hurting the player because the receiving clubs don’t want the headache and will move on to other targets.
JC: Sure... And where does your African link come from? When did you start working in Africa, with African players?
TA: I have some family in Uganda and coincidentally former Kaizer Chiefs player David Obua is a cousin of mine. When I was scouting in East Africa in 2010 I found an abundance of talent (Ivan being one of them playing for Proline FC at the time). Generally when European clubs scout Africa, the West is the first place they look for the next Essien, Okocha, Drogba etc, and East Africa is largely ignored. To this day I think East Africa is an untapped talent pool which is why I have an active interest in bringing their attention to the rest of the footballing world.
JC: One of those turned out to be Ivan Bukenya, who is now at Kaizer Chiefs, how did that come about?
TA: The Chiefs deal kind of came from nowhere so I would have to put it down to their scouting due diligence. I was actually planning to move Ivan to a European league for his development, because he had played in Africa already and had just fulfilled his contractual obligation with Arbil in Iraq. For me Kaizer Chiefs is one of the biggest clubs in all of Africa, so when the opportunity presented itself, we had to look at it.
JC: Right, ok. Could you explain the process of a player signing for a club like Chiefs?
TA: In my experience not every transfer/deal is the same so the processes can vary. In Ivan's case he flew out to South Africa to train with the team so the coach and management could see his ability first hand and whether he would fit the club. After he impressed them, I then flew out to discuss terms with Bobby Motaung and agree on them, then dot the T’s and cross the I’s.
JC: Awesome. Tony, what do you find to be the biggest difference in working with English Premier League clubs and African clubs?
TA: The Obvious difference is the stature and resources available to Premier League clubs. It’s aways a learning experience working with African clubs. That being said I found that the Chiefs structure is not too dissimilar to English clubs with regards to how they conduct their player transfers and I look forward to working with them again in the future.
JC: With Ivan, a lot of people criticise him for his age and talk about his 'football age', can you comment on that at all?
TA: That’s football, fans will alway have an opinion good or bad and it's their prerogative. It does not bother Ivan whatsoever, his only motivation is to do well for Chiefs when selected to play and I echo those same sentiments. The fact that FIFA also administer random Magnetic Resonance Imaging tests under medical expert supervision makes it difficult for any player to not be the correct age.
JC: How important do you feel that it is to a player's career, for them to have the right agent?
TA: It can be the difference between just playing football as a career in any division and reaching the heights of your ability. The game is littered with players that perhaps did not make the right footballing decision based on advice from their agent at the time.
JC: Finally, have you had to deal with any strange requests from any of your players of the years?
TA: I have not had any "strange requests” from my players, fortunately, but to be a good agent you do have to be available when needed by your client. For me it is more about managing unforeseen circumstances and keeping them focused on football.