LAGOS – Basketball is fast leaving a strong footprint on the African continent but it requires a lot of sacrifices from local players.
It was based on this that Nigeria's Kelechi Anuna embarked on a shoe drive that has seen him distribute shoes to various kids at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos recently with hope to extend it next year to other parts of the country.
The Nigeria guard - who was part of the silver winning squad of the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 in Tunisia - told FIBA.basketball that incessant requests by friends for playing shoes gave him the initiative to set up the Kelechi Anuna Shoe Drive Foundation.
"I started sports with soccer and my friends were always asking me very often to give them boots because some of them come to the field without playing boots. When I moved on to basketball in the United States of America, I found out that I had to adapt to basketball because no-one was really interested in playing soccer."
"The requests kept coming for me to help with my playing shoes from friends back home in Nigeria. When I turned professional and made the national team, the requests increased and that helped me to start the Kelechi Anuna Shoe Drive campaign," he explained.
Anuna said that the pleas from young players who often come to him left him in a precarious situation as there was no way of denying them what would help them achieve their dreams.
"Initially, my plan was to distribute about 60 shoes on a first-come, first-serve basis but before I got to the stadium, there were about 150 kids on ground and out of this number were 22 girls. What I did was to get all 22 of them out and gave them shoes first and the other boys had to settle for the remainder of the shoes. Of course not all of them got but I now have an idea on what number to be ready for the next time.”
The 29-year-old says that the captain of the Nigeria national team, Ike Diogu is already discussing with him to make the project a better one.
“Looking forward to the next edition, I am happy that the national team captain, Ike Diogu is thinking about joining in to help the teeming players who need assistance. We’re looking forward to collaborating on a project in either Orlu or Owerri in Imo State [Nigeria] where we hail from sometime in June because my Shoe Drive campaign is annual,” the Raleigh native pointed out.
Speaking on how he gets the shoes, he revealed that he buys some while he gets others donated by friends.
"I tell my friends not to throw away their shoes but give them to me because I have players back home who need them. I pack them and pay the excess on it or raise funds from friends.”