CBL will take Nigerian children off the streets, says Udezue
In most advanced countries, sports serves as an industry that offers less privileged children opportunity to rise above their conditions and make meaning of their lives. Many talented young men from humble backgrounds have grown to become important in the society by developing their skills to become much sought after brands. Such is the opportunity the Continental Basketball League (CBL) is aiming to create for talented Nigerian children to ensure they do not take to crime.
Recently, the franchise brought the best of African and African-America talents to compete in the CBL Challenge in different countries of the continent, and now the group has begun a programme that would create different opportunities for all then participants in the competition, including coaches and their players.
Speaking on the new initiative, CBL’s Chief Executive Officer, Ugo Udezue told The Guardian of plans to carry out a massive revolution in the dunking game at the grassroots level by creating an internship programme, tagged CBL Next, that would see over N1 million children, comprising street kids and their secondary school counterparts learning the rudiments of basketball across chosen designated areas of Lagos State.
He disclosed that the CBL Next is aimed at fully engaging the children to understand the structure of the sports industry, which involves creating a platform for them to explore their potential in life.
Udezue explained that many Nigerian kids don’t know what it takes to be a sports star, referee and coach because they have nobody to mentor them in these areas.
“Getting kids out of the streets to play basketball and also learn the tenets of being a coach or referee and at the same become good ambassador of the country in any chosen career is our objective. We started this programme to educate the children in sports business and give them the chance to choose careers outside basketball.
“The CBL is targeting children, who have the ambition of becoming sports stars in not only basketball, but also other events.
“Sports, especially basketball is growing in Nigeria and we need to catch up on the opportunities in the country to open a lot of avenues for the kids to explore. We need to build careers for our kids in the area of sports business,” he said.
Explaining how the programme works, the CBL boss said the children selected would be grouped according to their areas of specialty employed by the CBL and other selected companies, who will help them to complete their education.
“This project is a Nigerian programme. We are also taking the project to all our franchise countries. The more CBL educate people the more children get the best assistance in the society.
“Government needs to improve sports in Nigeria by identifying individuals or businesses that can add value and develop the sports industry and give as much concessions as possible. I believe at some point the government will see the value from private individuals, who are developing sports and this would motivate them to give more to sports.
“I think the Nigerian market is an open market… sports is about providing entertainment. If you were providing the right entertainment you would attract the right people. We need to provide more structures for companies to be attracted to sponsor sports in Nigeria. Most people participate in sports administration because of money, but Nigeria would not grow in sports if this trend continued,” he said.
Udezue believes Nigerian sports would in the next 10 years dominate Africa and the rest of the world if other federations adopted programmes like the CBL Next programme.
“Nigerian sports will be worth a million dollar every year when things are done right,” he enthused.
Also speaking on the CBL Next programme, former Abidjan Rapids’ player, Dennis Ebikoro, who is the project coordinator, said his experience in basketball and the struggles he has been through in life would be brought to bear in the project.
“I am delighted to be part of this project. CBL is working hard to bring out the best talents in basketball. As one who has also seen the dark side of life, it would be a chance to educate the children on crimes, drug abuse and financial literacy.
“We are going all out to fish out every interested child. The academy will continue till we get our required target. CBL is also planning to take the project outside Lagos and Africa. My goal is to impact basketball and life knowledge to the children. More experienced coaches would be drafted to work with me when the programme starts,” he said.