Basketball players in Festac Town have expressed their frustration over the state of Nigerian basketball, a sport many claim to be a source of hope and a way of life for youths in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area.
This followed the ban of the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBF) from all international competitions for two years, which was approved by President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, May 12.
On a visit to the newly remodeled Sprite Court on 23rd Road, Festac Town, many youths were seen gathered to play the sport that they love.
Alade Adekunle Oluwatobi, a resident, said, “If you think about it, most of the guys that normally represent Nigeria in the Olympics are international players; they go to school over there.”
“When it’s time for Nigeria to play games outside the country, that’s when they remember those guys exist, but the grass-root players are not recognized.
“Let’s develop the game. If the Nigerian league is going on well and they are giving the young guys the opportunity to play, it’s going to be okay. There are many players out there, but because of the politics and lack of structure, people that have been there are still the ones there playing the game, which is not meant to be.
“I feel banning basketball is not the way forward. We need to develop the league and bring it back. We need to organize basketball tournaments for secondary schools. Let young players start to find their careers from scratch.”
Ijekhuenmen Akere John (Sisqo), a resident who has been playing basketball for 15 years, said Nigerian basketball is not growing because there is no structure to enable talented players to thrive.
“There are a lot of young talents in this country that can play the game, but they’ve not gotten the opportunity to play in the league and everything has to do with encouragement.
“In the sense that finance, support the players, more basketball courts in their localities, look for coaches that will scout them as players, put them in the league, pay them, and make them enjoy why they need to play basketball.”
He complained about grassroots players not being recognized by the national teams and called on the NBF to pay more attention to grass-roots players.
The captain of the Festival Basketball Foundation (FBF), Nelson Uwaoma (Mutombo), said, “It’s quite unfortunate. The major cause of that is politics. It is none of our business. We are concerned about young players that are wasting away.
” We have players here that can represent Nigeria, but it all boils down to politics. Who knows who?”
Nelson Uwaoma, who is now an international scout, commended Hennessy for revamping the sprite court.
He said, “We thank God Hennessy came and did this. It’s all over Instagram and ESPN.”
In response to the current state of basketball in Nigeria, Nelson said, “The only solution is if there is a change of government.” It’s a caucus. Once we can get that caucus off, it will start to grow and we will see young players. “When we see people who have that love, we will see changes.”
According to the Minister of Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare, the ban on which was caused by a leadership tussle, was implemented to enable the ministry to revamp the sport from the grassroots and develop the domestic league.