Giants of Africa light up Maiduguri, start Senegal camp

Pius Ayinor

Masai Ujiri’s Giants of Africa basketball camp held in Maiduguri, Borno State last Friday for the children in the troubled Nigerian city to mark the end of the 2018 activities in Nigeria. The programme run by the Toronto Raptors President provided basketball and life training to 105 youngsters at the National Stadium in Lagos from August 21 to 25 before the team flew out of the Murtala Muhammed Airport Saturday afternoon for the trip to Dakar. Thursday was marked out for wheelchair basketball training with a lot donations made to the players in Lagos.

Masai who spoke with journalists at the departure of the airport said going to Maiduguri was quite emotional for the group.

He said, “Going back to Maiduguri made me happy as I grew up not too far away from there. The people, the city and the youth of Maiduguri deserve to be given an opportunity to live without fear.

“Yes, it was really worth the try for us in Maiduguri. We saw the same kind of passion and talent we have seen in other places. That zone may been quite under turmoil for years now but the children there are humans like us; they love basketball and they want to live like other people in Lagos, Nairobi or New York. The situation over there is quite beyond their control but nobody can put down their passion for sports and good life.

“The visit also provided us a lot of opportunities to reflect over a lot of things. For instance my partner Godwin Owinje lived in that city as a child for about seven or eight years and had a lot of catching up to do. I lived in Zaria and had visited Maiduguri few times growing up and I saw a lot of old friends over there too.

“I can’t forget how the teens and adults received us and savoured every moment while it lasted.”

Giants of Africa, the not-for-profit co-founded by Raptors president, Ujiri are working across seven countries across the African continent this August. Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Giants of Africa has hosted basketball camps and community outreach initiatives in Rwanda, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. The programme in Senegal began Sunday morning.

Ujiri earlier on said, “Over the past 15 years, I have seen the impact basketball can have not only on one kid, but also on their entire community.

“When I started Giants of Africa, I envisioned providing African youth access to the game and empowering them to achieve their greatest potential. With 63% of Africa’s population below the age of 25, we have a huge goal and responsibility to help them develop. We are excited that this year we are able to extend our reach further across the continent to help realize that dream.”

The organization had girls’ camps in tandem with its boys’ camps in Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. Giants of Africa also activated local outreach initiatives in the communities of Kakuma, Maiduguri as well as Bingereville, Ivory Coast.