The inaugural edition of African Sports Business Association summit opened in Nairobi on Wednesday, with veteran Trinidadian coach Lincoln Phillips giving a tear-jerking account of how black athletes struggled through the race barrier in USA four decades ago.
Phillips, now an international sports entrepreneur, led the famous Howard University to the national collegiate football championships title in 1971, becoming the first black football coach to reach the national finals.
However, the all-black Howard University team was stripped of the title for allegedly fielding ineligible players, in a move seen to be discriminating against blacks in USA.
The forum is organised by US-based Mombi Thairu. Among the speakers at the two-day conference are Trinidadian Sheldon Phillips, Kenyan marketers Peter Gacheru and Paul Oyier along with veteran Nation Media Group journalist Waigwa Kiboi.
Lincoln Phillips represented Trinidad and Tobago in the 1976 Pan American Games’ football tournament with his nation winning a bronze medal.
He was then selected as one of the players to play professional football in Baltimore just as the USA launched its pro football league.
“It’s not how good you are but how hard you work,” Phillips told the audience on Thursday in his keynote address.
“We didn’t look at the white people badly at the time, but instead we sympathised with them because we knew they had a problem. That was the height of the civil rights movement."
He also noted the importance of sport in personal development, saying although he was not quite university material, sport made him grow.
“I wanted to stay in the army and simply coach, but at the Pan-Am Games, I got exposed at many ways of getting an education and realised that you can use sport to get to where you want, and that’s when I added university education to my pro football contract."