By Jacob Ajom
President of the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri has called on African leaders to provide the enabling environment for the development of sports in the continent.
Ujiri who led to the Raptors to their first NBA title in 2019, the first team outside America to achieve that in the history of the NBA, declared in Lagos that African youths were the most talented but lacked the enabling environment to excel.
“It hurts when you see the abundance of talent in the continent, yet they have nowhere to horn their skills and become the stars they deserve to be,” Ujiri said, adding, “do you know there are a number of Serena Williams walking the streets of African cities who have never touched or seen a tennis racket in their lives?”
Narrowing his concern to his country, Nigeria, Ujiri advised that the change must start with the appointment of sports ministers. “We have to put people who are experts in sports. As sports ministers,” he said, wondering, “why do they appoint people who do not have any knowledge in sports as ministers?”
He observed sadly, that the national stadium, Lagos was an eyesore and lamented its present state of decay. “Let us lock that place for about two years and refurbish it to world standard. That stadium can generate a lot of employment for the youth, revive business around the area and encourage our national teams. That place can also house standard hotels and lots more.”
Ujiri still finds it hard to believe he midwifed a team from outside America to win an NBA title.
“I still pinch myself to know if it is actually real that we are the 2019 NBA champions. I still ask my wife, if I was still in a dream land. It shows that there are no limits to what anybody can achieve. It should inspire millions of youths in Africa,” he said.