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Shakeel Abdulla can be seen standing alongside his prized pupil Sahal Abdul Samad.
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Shakeel Abdulla: The Kerala-based football agent with hawk-eye vision for talent

Shakeel Abdulla can be seen standing alongside his prized pupil Sahal Abdul Samad.
Shakeel Abdulla can be seen standing alongside his prized pupil Sahal Abdul Samad.

Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Chennaiyin FC (CFC) recently signed striker Jobby Justin on a 2-year contract ahead of the 2021-22 season. Justin joins from ATK Mohun Bagan FC in a deal that has been hailed as one of the ‘best moves’ of the transfer window. However, the transfer could well have fallen short if not for the presence of Kerala-based veteran player agent Shakeel Abdulla of Inventive Sports. Abdulla is a super agent, who has transformed the fortunes of numerous football players hailing from the Southern state.

The veteran enjoys an ability to identify a diamond from the rough, with this talent drawing rich dividends in the form of emerging superstar Sahal Abdul Samad. Samad enjoyed a lot of raw talent but did not possess the keen focus on fitness that a top athlete should maintain. This resulted in him being written off by a lot of player agents, but Abdulla was not one of them. The veteran spotted a hidden gem, having identified the potential superstar he could emerge as.

“Was confident about Samad’s ability to emerge as a top footballer”

“Samad was definitely not fit when I first saw him perform. However, there was a fighter in him which is generally visible in boys who have been brought up in the Middle East. Samad enjoyed a lot of talent but many wrote him off as incapable of playing professional football due to the lack of dedication towards fitness. However, I was confident about his talent and ability to emerge as a top footballer. While Sahal had to make a lifestyle adjustment by giving up burgers, pizzas, chips and soft drinks, the effort was all worth it,” he says in an exclusive chat with Sportsjuana.

This anecdote reminds one of the scenario in the case of Bayern Munich footballer Benjamin Pavard. Pavard was a reckless and under-confident tackler while playing for the youth team of Lille, with the player most often relegated to the sidelines. However, his agent Mohan Joseph decided to back the defender through thick and thin, investing his belief in a footballer from whom his own father held limited expectations.

“When I told his father that I wanted to sign him, he thought I was crazy. Even his father had no hope for him. But I told him this boy will play in the World Cup. And today’s he’s a world champion,” he stated in an interaction with Indian Express.

Abdulla hails from a middle-class family and developed an early love for football. However, being financially sound was also a necessity resulting in the decision to move to Dubai for working with a logistics company.

“Makes me supremely happy to see players command value they deserve”

“I moved to Dubai for a few years after completing a bachelor degree, having earned a job with a logistics company. However, my passion for Indian football resulted in the decision to return home, with the desire to make a difference. I enjoyed great contacts in states like Kerala, Maharashtra which helped in scouting young players during the early days. With consistent hard work and dedication, the results were soon visible for one and all.”

The veteran is certainly elated having transformed the lives of numerous footballers with his hard work.

“It makes me supremely happy when my clients are able to command the value they deserve in the market. It is hard work at the same time. We have to negotiate hard with the team management, resulting in the clauses being modified about 10 to 15 times. At the same time, it is all worth it if our efforts can transform a contract worth Rs 25,000 per month to that of nearly seven lakhs for the same duration.”

Abdulla prefers to controls the aces from behind the shadows, but those who truly realise his value proudly label the super-agent as one of the most influential men of Indian football. Long may the reign continue.


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