New villain in town halts basketball

FROM a city that never sleeps to a city that never wakes. From having gridlock traffic to empty roads and streets. This is the new reality in Lagos! I have never seen Lagos like this, until the Coronavirus pandemic.

The government imposed a lockdown and has instructed people to stay at home and only go out to get essentials. For a people that are always on the move, it felt like a deprivation of our existence. We could not even converge at our various religious houses to pray against this virus that has altered the way we live. I guess we will do the “casting and binding” from our various homes.

Before the pandemic, I was in Port Harcourt where my basketball club, Rivers Hoopers is based. As winners of the domestic competition in Nigeria last season, we gained the right to represent the country at the inaugural season of the 2020 Basketball Africa League (BAL). We were having intense training sessions, with the mindset of showcasing our talent at a high level and on a new platform. Little did we know that the pandemic was going to halt the commencement of the league and stop major sporting activities across the world.

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Rivers Hoopers shooting guard Benjamin Ikechukwu believes it’s time for global citizenry. Picture: Supplied

I was disappointed because we had prepared our bodies and minds for the challenge. At first, I just wanted the league to start irrespective of what was going on, but in hindsight, that would have been selfish of me because a lot of people would be exposed to and endangered by the virus. This new villain in town watered down the thrill and excitement, even as our superheroes (COVID-19 first responders) combat, contain and find a panacea.

I miss playing basketball. I feel incomplete, being unable to do the very thing that brings joy to my soul. The absence of having fans around during practice, at games, being in the gym working out with teammates, the adrenaline pumping, while we go hard at each other, just so we can be ready to compete, has been a difficult adjustment. I miss the entire basketball fraternity.

It has been challenging to sustain the progress made in preparation for the league, before the lockdown. As a shooting guard, I need to practice my shots frequently, but without a hoop at home and not being able to utilise the local courts because of safety concerns, it hurts.

I have been putting in the work at home, and even with limited space, I have managed to stay in shape and eat right because you never know when the next opportunity to play will emerge, and like a boy scout, I have to be prepared.

However, I have used this period to spend quality time with my wife and our three-month-old baby. I have also been reflecting on how COVID-19 has elaborated the fact that we need each other, because there is more that unites us than separates us as humans. We need to treat the Earth better, as pollution drastically dropped due to the lockdown across the world. The need to be good global citizens cannot be over-accentuated at this time, as we collectively find ways to help each other get through this challenging time.

Life as we know it, may not be the same, but I look forward to the day when I can play basketball, shake hands, hug people freely and see the smiles on their faces without masks. Until then, let us all stay safe.

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