Home Sports OLOPADE: WITH MY LOVE FOR WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL, IT’S BYE TO FOOTBALL

OLOPADE: WITH MY LOVE FOR WHEELCHAIR BASKETBALL, IT’S BYE TO FOOTBALL

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From Football to Special Sports

Football has been part of my life for quite some time, in fact I am more addicted to the game and my love for it knows no bound. Of course it is the most followed sport in the world.

However, I have suddenly developed great passion for the wheelchair basketball and with the rate with which I am going, I don’t see myself been separated from the sport. If I may put it this way, its bye bye to football because I have made up my mind to give everything I have to ensure the game gain prominence in Nigeria.

 

Why the Sudden Interest in Special Sports?

If you love human beings, especially the physically challenged, you will like to be involved with everything they are doing, you will fall in love with them. I am somebody that loves associating with people who don’t believe that nothing is impossible. This is the way I see these athletes, despite their conditions, they have this self belief that disability is not inability, hence their resolve to get something positive done.

These are guys with talents in them and they have taken the bull by the horns to make use of their talents not only to their own benefits but to bring honour to their country and I think this is enough conviction for any lover of human beings to embrace a sport like wheelchair basketball and that is the push I have to associate myself with the game.

 

Is He Done with Football?

Although football remains a game I so much love, but my love for wheelchair basketball seems to be overriding that. Maybe I should say it is bye to football. When it comes to administering sports in this country, I would prefer to administer special sports. I would be happy contesting for the board membership of the Nigeria Paralympics Movement, rather than seeking to become a board member of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

Many people are battling for football positions because of certain reasons but for a sincere lover of human beings, special sports is the best game to administer.

 

Wheelchair Basketball: The journey So Far

As you know, nothing good comes so easily especially when it come attracting the interest of people towards a particular sports apart from football. This notwithstanding, I have been trying to do what must be done since I became the President of the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of Nigeria.

I knew it will not be easy but it is that knowledge that has been helping us. Of all sports, wheelchair basketball is the least that you will expect Nigerians to embrace but I want to tell you that within a short time, we have been able to see the positives and that has made the journey so far good even though not smooth but I have great belief that it will get better.

For the past two years, we have been having a competition tagged the Victor Ochei Wheelchair Basketball Championship and recently, we had the third edition, which goes to tell you that things are already taking shape.

 

Wheelchair Basketball Championship

The third edition of the Victor Ochei Wheelchair Basketball was nothing but a huge success. It was a success in every aspect, funding, sponsorship, attendance and standard. The championship, which started three years ago is our flagship, it started as a local event then but now it has gone international. Three Africans countries took part in this year’s edition: Ghana, which has two teams in the championship, Togo and the Republic of Benin and with that, our players have gained more exposure.

In terms of funding, we did not need to rely on the sports ministry to get this done and that has being one of our goals, to get things done without much reliance on funds from the ministry.

 

On Performance of Local Teams

The performance of local teams lends credence to the fact that the championship has improved. Unlike in the past edition, teams from outside Lagos and Delta did put up inspiring performance, which saw Oyo State surprisingly emerging champions. Before then, it used to be Lagos and Delta dominating but this year none of the two sides made it to the final. Oyo defeated Edo in the final to win the trophy. Let me use this medium to commend the Oyo State Commissioner for Sports who showed interest in the state team by exploiting our flexible recruitment system to recruit players. Imo State also deserved commendation for organising themselves very well.

 

Hon. Victor Ochei and the Game

Honourable Victor Ochei is a long time friend he is a kind hearted person. Knowing full well the type of person he is, a lover of the physically-challenged, I decided to get in touch with him when I emerged the president of the Wheelchair Basketball Federation. Being a man that wants to give back to the society, he offered to join me in the crusade to lift the special athletes and that was what brought about the Victor Ochei Basketball Championship, which he has been bankrolling for the past three years.

Hon. Victor Ochei never thought about it twice before accepting to take up the position the Grand Patron and Major Supporter and Number one fan of the Nigeria Wheelchair Basketball and further backed it up with actions that gave birth to the first-of-its-kind annual Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in Nigeria, which he single-handedly sponsored.

I don’t want to look like blowing his trumpet but I am bold to say that this is a kind of man that Nigeria needs, he is compassionate, generous, articulate and very humane.

At this point, we really want to appreciate him for not only identifying with us but also bringing in his friends to associate themselves also with the special sports.

 

Plans for Next Edition

Going by the huge success recorded at this year’s edition, we are already looking forward to a more glorious event next year. This year we had teams from neighbouring African countries participating, which would have even been more, but for the last-minute withdrawal of South Africa. In the next edition we would definitely have more entries and hopefully, the standard would be higher.

 

Wheelchair Basketball Mini League

Yes, we are going to have a mini league but that will not be something we will rush into doing. I believe in doing well what is worth doing at all. So we are looking at next year. Like the Hon. Victor Ochei championship, we are going to have a virile league with strong private sector involvement.

 

Private Sector Involvement

We intend to woo the private sector through transparency. I will explain. When we finished the first edition of the Hon. Victor Ochei Championship, we went to our sponsor and gave him the breakdown of how the funds he gave us were spent. He was surprised and excited and this has encouraged him to do more for us. In this year’s edition, we had some private organisations such as Heritage Bank, Ecobank and the Delta State Oil Commission, Legend Interiors, Davnoutch Ltd & Peculiar Limited joining us. We will soon give them the details of how their monies were spent. By doing this, we believe more private organisations would be interested in working with us.

Let me tell you, we have a healthy bank account apart from the backing we received from our patron as well as other sponsors. In a nutshell, I am sure that with the level of transparency we are displaying, we will get more support and that will really help our course because we want to run this federation in a way that is different from how others are doing it.

 

Foreign Support

We have already entered into technical partnership with the German Olympic Committee. Our application got the Germans’ interest and attention because of the way we packaged our request. About 20 other African countries made similar applications but ours got their approval.

 

Gains of the Partnership

We stand to gain a lot from the partnership. Two of our coaches will be trained in Germany with all expenses paid by the German Olympic Committee while they will also come down here to hold a clinic that will involve our players, coaches, referees and other stakeholders including you the media. This is aimed at equipping us better to get more understanding about wheelchair basketball. Interestingly, the Germans have also promised to help us with some equipment, hopefully, we are looking at May this year as the possible date for this to happen.

 

Dreams for Wheelchair Basketball in Nigeria

Wheelchair basketball is a sport that can bring more honours to Nigeria if it is taken seriously and that is why I am doing all I can to make sure the game thrives. We must look elsewhere to win laurels for this country it should not be football alone and I am going ready to give it all to actualize this target.

 

Plans of Wheelchair Basketball Federation

When you talk about what plans we have in the federation, I will tell you it is huge, just as the task itself is very huge. I am a kind of person that hates failure I hate to hear or to think that something is impossible especially when the target is aimed at bringing in progress. So as the president of this federation, I have so many plans and same thing applies to the federation as a body.

Like I told you my dream is to take wheelchair to the top, I want to see the sport getting the attention of many Nigerians, the kind of attention that football is getting and for this to happen, the federation has to make some headway through various programmes and activities.