No sport is unAfrican

As you are reading this, the final game of the tournament should be on. What, the Americans are not the other team?

The early days of the world basketball showcase saw unparalleled interest in the tournament from the people of the continent as we followed the fortunes of “our people.”

Just as it was with the recent Fifa World Cup soccer tournament where we all rallied behind the five continental representatives- Angola, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Tunisia ‘ and hooted for them through the vicissitudes of Germany 2006, so was it during the Fiba World Championship as we clapped and cried for Angola, Nigeria and Senegal through the vicissitudes of Japan 2006.

Senegal? Yes, Senegal. As in them of the Lions of Teranga fame who humbled defending champions France at that World Cup soccer tournament before this one we had this year.

Unfortunately, unlike their boot and ball counterparts, the hoop and ball Senegalese found the going in Japan hard-going.

Part of the case for the Senegalese was the absence of several professional players who opted to stay at home and rest, ahead of the new National Basketball Association (NBA) season in the United States.

And so the Senegalese left the tournament through the first door marked “Exit”.

Not so Angola and Nigeria. They gave as good as they got.

The southern African country boasts of a competitive domestic basketball league that has enticed many of the local stars to ply their trade at home. Of the contingent that represented country and continent so well in Japan, only one is based abroad. Joaquim Gomes plays for Eiffel Towers of Holland.

Coach Alberto Carvalho led his charges admirably against European basketball heavyweights Germany and Spain and into the next 16.

There they fell to France 68-62, even though a lot of money had been on the Africans carrying the day.

Nigeria also flew the continental flag high. However, they were handicapped by the absence of several of their leading players who, like their Senegalese counterparts, decided to stay at home and recharge their batteries for the NBA.

Only Ima Udoka of the New York Knicks answered the call to national duty. A sprinkling of American college players put up a commendable supporting act.

And so the West Africans went on to perform as befitting representatives of their country and continent. They shocked all and sundry when they won their opening game of the tournament.

It was not a just a victory but a Victory. The Nigerian victims were no less than the defending champions themselves- Serbia and Montenegro!

Somehow, the Nigerians then went on to lose their next three games before they rallied back to beat Lebanon. That victory propelled them into the round of 16.

As with Angola, here the Africans would again lose an encounter they were widely fancied not to. Nigeria fell to a Germany led by the great Dirk Nowitzki of NBA renown. It was a one-point game.

The achievements of the African sides in Japan are best appreciated if one considers that the rest of the participants had most of their weapons of mass destruction in their armouries.

For example, the United States boasted of such NBA pillars as Lebron James, Anthony Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

The point to note from the feats of our representatives in Japan? There is no game that we can say Africa cannot play!

And so we applaud the move by the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (Anoca) Zone Six to have disciplines such as taekwondo and tennis included on the menu for their Anoca Zone Six Under-17 Games set for the Lesotho capital Maseru early next month. Way to go, Anoca!

We have children. We have many children. We continue to bring more into the world. As you are reading, some are being produced, others reproduced. Ditto when I was writing.

Now, can any one parent tell me that they know for sure what sport will interest their child? Can they tell me as the little one is having its umbilical cord cut that they know for sure what sport Baby will grow up to excel in?

If they cannot, then I say let us offer as wide an array as we can of sport so that our children who are our future, will not ever have to suffer from want. Our parents were not so lucky as they grew up on a limited diet of soccer for the boys, netball for the girls and lots of track and very little field for everyone.

The field was available for later when they had to work others’ fields in the manner of the biblical hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Woe betide anyone who so much as contemplates setting into a motion a process that will see me and mine in that situation again!

And so we cannot tire for the work is much, even though the time and resources may be limited. We need to continue to answer the questions posed by the present, while addressing the imbalances of the past, and working to ensure that we meet the time-frames of the future.

The Chinese philosopher demanded that a thousand flowers be allowed to bloom. I say let us make available to ourselves and ours a thousand sporting disciplines.

There is nothing in us that says we cannot do what we set our minds to do. Attitude, aptitude and application determine altitude’for any one! And do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

Let it be no mystery when we make history!

September 2006
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