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Ujiri: African governments should put right people in sports

Thursday August 15 2019

Nation Media Group (NMG) Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gitagama (left) is presented with a basketball signed by President of Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri when Ujiri paid him a courtesy call at Nation Centre on August 14, 2019. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

Nation Media Group (NMG) Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gitagama (left) is presented with a basketball signed by President of Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri when Ujiri paid him a courtesy call at Nation Centre on August 14, 2019. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

BRIAN YONGA
By BRIAN YONGA
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African governments have been challenged to appoint the right people in sports management positions so as to ensure the sector flourishes.

NBA champions Toronto Raptors’ President Masai Ujiri has faulted African states for treating sport as “an after-thought” and placing the wrong people at its helm.

He called on experts and the youth to be given the opportunity to make decisions in sport so as to grow the sector.

Ujiri, who is on a talent development tour of Africa, spoke yesterday when he paid a courtesy call at Nation Centre.

“We need to treat the talents we have in sports like gold or diamonds. And that can only be possible if we have the right people in the sector so that they can bring the right systems,” Ujiri said after meeting Nation Media Group chief executive officer, Stephen Gitagama.

The 48-year-old son of a Nigerian father and Kenyan mother took issue with sporting facilities in the country, singling out the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, which he termed an “eyesore.”

The Confederation of African Football (Caf) stripped Kenya of the 2018 African Nations Championship (Chan) hosting rights in September 2017, citing the country’s lack of facilities.

While Kasarani, Kenya largest sporting facility, has been overbooked, Nyayo National Stadium is far away from completion since it was closed down for renovation in May 2017. Kasarani will host the 2020 IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championships.

“Lack of infrastructure is what is making the talents that we have in this continent disappear. We lack the ecosystems to keep them here and end up losing them,” he added.

Ujiri termed the newly-built Kigali Arena in Rwanda as the model for how sports facilities in the continent should be, challenging the Kenyan government to follow suit and come up with similar sports structures.

President of Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri (left) takes a selfie photo with Nation Media Group (NMG) employees at Nation Centre on August 14, 2019. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

President of Toronto Raptors Masai Ujiri (left) takes a selfie photo with Nation Media Group (NMG) employees at Nation Centre on August 14, 2019. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |NATION MEDIA GROUP

Ujirii’s Raptors made history by becoming the first non-USA team to win the NBA Championship after dethroning Golden State Warriors in the final.

The team also comprised of two African players, upstart Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) and veteran Serge Ibaka (Congo), both of whom played key roles in the triumph over the Warriors.

And Ujiri admits that the success should inspire young African players that their dreams are valid.

“Africans can do it (succeed) at the very highest level and our victory shows that everyone who puts their mind to what they want can achieve the impossible,” he said.

Ujiri, who was set to depart for Rwanda on Thursday morning, is, meanwhile, confident World marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge can achieve the feat of running the marathon under two hours in a special race organised in Vienna on October 12.

“Of course he can do it. Why not?” said the Raptors President.

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