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Mikel Raises stakes with Back2Base Talent Hunt Project

By Guardian Nigeria
02 July 2022   |   2:37 am
When former Super Eagles and Chelsea star, John Obi Mikel, showed up at the Evans Square, Ebute Metta in Lagos to play football with locals on the sandy pitch, many had wrongly suggested

Mikel with some of the participants during his Back2Base project in Lagos

When former Super Eagles and Chelsea star, John Obi Mikel, showed up at the Evans Square, Ebute Metta in Lagos to play football with locals on the sandy pitch, many had wrongly suggested it was another publicity stunt common with ex-internationals.

But Mikel, who was media-shy even during his active days, had more genuine intentions as he was determined to help raise new superstars, not just in football but also in basketball and tennis through his new project.

By the time Mikel rounded up the talent hunt program, with a sudden appearance last week Wednesday at Ojo Street in the heart of the densely-populated Obalende area of Lagos, it was an anti-climax of a loaded three-week schedule. He was greeted with wide jubilations as the fans jostled to catch a glimpse of one of Africa’s most-accomplished football stars.

The Back2Base project decided to extend his goodwill to the Para-soccer players, who were surprised by the kind gesture of monetary and wheelchair donations from the Chelsea legend.

“I am aware there are a lot of talents out there, but if we don’t come to their aid and provide them platforms to exhibit what they’ve got, they may not be able to actualise their potential,” Mikel noted as he reckoned his journey as a little boy on the streets of Jos to becoming a global superstar.

After several months of research and combing the streets of Lagos, Mikel and his team, led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder of Avianna & Harvey Entertainments, Ahmed Fadekemi, announced the modalities for the first edition of the Back2Base talent hunt project.

From the onset, the intention was crystal different from the tons of the other talent hunt programmes that would ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ by demanding various sums of monies from enthusiastic youngsters and only using a fraction of what is gathered for the set-out purpose.

The UNILAG Sports complex was chosen for the three-day talent-hunt programme, and it recorded a massive turnout with many coming from far and wide wanting to be a part of the fanfare.

Unfortunately, the rigorous process of selecting those to feature in the three-day programme had long been concluded and there was very little that could have been done to accommodate the ‘gate crashers.’

With seasoned coaches, Judges along with Mikel himself on the ground all through the three-day exercise, outstanding athletes across the three sports were selected for what can be best described as life-changing opportunities.

Even for those that ended up not being selected as the top guns, their joy knew no bounds with the presence of Mikel, who took part in the action with the kids and was all over them for photo ops and all forms of support.

“I have only seen him (Mikel) on the television before, but now I have seen him in real life, took pictures with him and he even personally spoke with me after I lost my game” one of the participants declared.

It was equally heart-warming to see the Minister for Youth and Sports, Sunday Dare, also coming to identify with Mikel and the children.

The Minister acknowledged the huge investment Mikel would have made to put up a project of this magnitude and assured him of getting positive results very soon.

“You have chosen the path that is less travelled, and I think your investment in these young ones would bear good returns. This would give Nigeria the opportunity to have younger Mikels in football, basketball and tennis,” Dare stated.

Emma Jebutu and Toyin Asogba emerged as the most outstanding boys and girls in the tennis category with the duo of Mathew Abamu and Destiny Okhinye finishing as the runners-up.

In the Basketball, Ayomide Lasisi, Chika Okafor and Kunle Adesuyi were selected as the top three performers.

Adebayo Mubarak, Monday Pius and Samuel Adefeso were the top three players selected from the football event.

After treating these youngsters to an exquisite dinner in a five-star hotel, where Mikel shared some of his success secrets with the eagerly attentive teenagers, he promptly fulfilled the cash promised the outstanding athletes.

In all, a total of N6million was given out to the athletes, while another N600,000 was given to the Ladies’ Basketball team that were unable to take part in the talent hunt programme due to the rules adopted for this first edition.

Many were equally blown when Mikel also announced that he would from his own pocket invest back in the community.

The original plan with the Back2Base programme is to invest three per cent of total monies made from sponsorship back into the community, but with no sponsors this first edition, Mikel is taking the challenge head-on.

“Well for me, there is nothing too much to do to see smiles on the faces of these children and also on their parents’ faces, the goal is to help as many people as possible with what God has given me,” Mikel, who is Nigeria’s Youth Ambassador declared.

While the assessment of the successes and few flaws from the first edition taken care of, Mikel has promised something bigger in the next edition to be held at a yet-to-be-decided location soonest.