Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 3rd 2013 Contents A51
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
ZURICH---The head of skiing's world
governing body says moving the 2022
World Cup in Qatar to January would
"kill interest" in winter sports before the
Olympics that year.
International Ski Federation President
Gian Franco Kasper tells The Associated
Press he is "getting worried" that Fifa is
pushing to move the World Cup from its
traditional June-July dates because of
the summer heat in Qatar.
Fifa President Sepp Blatter has
suggested moving the World Cup to
November. UEFA President Michel
Platini prefers January, a month before
the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Kasper, an IOC member from
Switzerland, says "it would be only fair
within sports federations to respect
Ski boss worried about moving World Cup
LAGOS---Abiodun Francis Ayetimiyi was
meant to follow his father and pursue med-
icine in Nigeria. He found a different path
one morning seven years ago when he was
playing soccer and came upon another ball,
a big orange one.
The 16-year-old s natural speed and ath-
leticism now have him pursuing basketball
stardom, a dream that is becoming more
achievable in a country that produced one of
the NBA s greats but, like most of Africa, has
had little space for any sport other than soc-
cer.About 30 years after Hall of Famer Hakeem
"The Dream" Olajuwon first emerged from
the sprawling city of Lagos, Ayetimiyi is part
of a new drive for basketball here, and a chance
for new dreams in Nigeria.
"In my country I m known here, but I want
to be known elsewhere. I want my hard work
to be seen by agents, coaches. I d like to finish
high school in the US. They don t need to put
much work into me," the teenager said with
a grin, leaning forward to make his point.
Picked by the NBA as one of seven Nigerians
to attend the recent talent-scouted Basketball
Without Borders camp in South Africa,
Ayetimiyi is among a new generation ready
to ride the momentum basketball is gaining
in this West African country of nearly 160
million people, albeit decades after Olajuwon
blazed a trail.
Nigeria s participation in the 2012 Olympics
raised the international visibility of the coun-
try s basketball talent, but several Nigerians
who had already made it to international star-
dom also make it a priority to actively encour-
age the sport back home.
First came Olajuwon, the two-time NBA
champion and 12-time All-Star with the Hous-
ton Rockets. More recently there has been
Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri,
who directs the Basketball Without Borders
Africa programme and runs his own camps
in Nigeria. And former Seattle Supersonics
and Orlando Magic center Olumide Oyede-
ji. On a steaming hot Friday in the Yaba neigh-
bourhood of Lagos, Oyedeji coaches at least
250 kids from the age of five and up who prac-
tice layups, passes and basic dribbles wearing
brightly coloured T-shirts.
The 6-foot-10 Oyedeji plays with them,
towering over the youngsters who line up
laughing and clapping for each other around
four different baskets. With the blow of a
whistle, everyone stops and listens, excited to
be in his gentle, inspiring presence. The sub-
sidised camp gives the underprivileged children
a chance to learn the sport, and be close to
a Nigerian hero.
"Nigeria is my home. I started this camp
so I can share my experiences," Oyedeji said.
"I hope we can contribute to their lives and
give them hope for the future because that s
what basketball gave me. I had a difficult
Children gather close, hanging on Oyedeji s
words. Oyedeji will leave soon for Japan, where
he now plays. But his impact will remain, for
girls as well as boys.
"Even though we (girls) are not recognised
very well, we can still play. I want to be the
best and play for the WNBA," said 15-year-
old Ibeh Lucy Chinelo, who started a pickup
game during the camp s lunch break.
Her friend Ayomide Olukayode chimed in:
"I want to be a professional player and I want
to play for the national team."
Nigeria is offering more local opportunities:
high school teams, university leagues and state
franchises like Mark Mentors, Kano Pillars,
Union Bank and Dodan Warriors, who faced
off at Nigeria s own Final Four in September.
Dodan Warriors forward Ifeanyi Modo start-
ed playing at a local court in Ajegunle, a Lagos
neighbourhood known for churning out soccer
players, though also known for its slum areas
"Basketball gives you an opportunity to get
off the streets, it gives you an opportunity to
not join gangs, to go to school and to be a
better person," he said. He said that many
Nigerians leave to play in other countries
"because they need money, they need to sup-
port their families."
The reality right now is the average salary
in the Nigerian league is only about $100 a
month, said Joe Touomou, the Mark Mentors
head coach and a consultant to the Nigerian
Basketball Federation, the NBBF---"not enough
for a kid to live off."
Touomou is part of a bigger plan to encour-
age youngsters to seek careers in basketball.
That involves the promised land of playing
for college teams in the US and the chance
for two things; better coaching and a good
education---opportunities Olajuwon seized in
the early 1980s at the University of Houston,
and others have also more recently taken. Yet,
not all Nigerian kids will make it to an Amer-
ican college so there s work being done at
Nigeria s Basketball Federation wants to
foster local talents. Touomou, a Cameroonian
who played for Georgetown and turned to
coaching after an injury, is also tasked with
building coaching expertise in the capital Abuja
and its surrounding state.
"Every time I came here I was impressed
by the potential. The size, the athleticism, the
strength of the players," Touomou said of
Nigeria. "The one thing I knew was lacking
was the skills. A lot of players were not polished
yet, a lot of players lacked game experience,
a lot of players lacked good coaching."
Tijjani Umar, president of the NBBF, said
basketball in Nigeria "needs the private sector
to take interest."
Nike has signed to be the official uniform
provider for the national team and a subsidiary
of the sports management group IMG is look-
ing into Nigeria, Umar said.
DSTV, a South African satellite television
network that beams across the continent, has
a four-year sponsorship programme with the
NBBF. Live NBA games will also be broadcast
on that network to 47 territories in Africa,
including Nigeria, from this year.
"Fifty countries are watching the game and
it s unbelievable," Umar said.
Young hopeful Ayetimiyi leaps high to dunk
in Lagos, then dribbles the ball back to center
court, skipping with pleasure in his shiny
sneakers and sharp, white long-sleeved Bas-
ketball Without Borders jersey.
Basketball s exposure on TV is what changed
his father s opinion.
"My parents saw me on TV during a state
festival game and said I was too good to stop
playing," he said. "They were proud of me,
and I m lucky I have their support." (AP)
Basketball dreams growing in Nigeria
In this photo taken September 5, 2013, an unidentified player from Kano Pillars centre, in green and white jumps to make a basket, challenged by
Mark Mentors players in red and black during Nigeria's own Final Four in Lagos, Nigeria. Basketball is gaining momentum in this West African
country of nearly 160 million people which, like most of the continent, has had little space for any sport other than soccer. AP PHOTO
Links Archive October 2nd 2013 October 4th 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page