• Friday, June 21, 2024
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Meet Maribel Uzoebo; 15yr old female basketball player who represented Nigeria at 2023 Barcelona game

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Maribel Uzoebo is one of the under 15 year old players who recently represented Nigeria in Spain at the 2023 Barcelona basketball game. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, she speaks about her experience in Spain, her passion for basketball and her aspirations in life.

Can you tell us a brief about yourself ?

I was born on November 13th, 2007 in California. I currently live in Nigeria, Lagos State to be precise and i’ve lived here for the 15 years of my life. I have two siblings, an older brother and an older sister, who have been a big influence in my life. I am a female athlete who plays football, basketball, runs track, table tennis, and more. I have a lot of passion for sports and the discipline and focus they require. I’m currently in my 5th year of high school at Chrisland High School Lekki, where I’m also an active member of the relay team.

In addition to playing sports at school, I attend a basketball academy called the City Sports School. It’s a great place to improve my skills, learn from experienced coaches, and meet other athletes who share my passion for the game. Being part of this academy has helped me improve my game and become a better athlete.

Aside from sports, I’m also passionate about academics and love the concept of economics. I find it fascinating how it can be applied to so many different areas of life. In my spare time, I enjoy designing and coming up with ideas for a brand that I hope to start in the future. I find it fulfilling to create something that is uniquely mine. I also enjoy listening to music, which helps me relax and unwind after a long day.

How does it feel like to be one of the under 15 year old players to represent Nigeria in Spain at the 2023 Barcelona basketball game ?

It feels really good to be honest, I wouldn’t have seen myself going this far in this aspect of my life and i’m really grateful to be given the opportunity to represent my country.

How were you selected as part of the team to represent Nigeria ?

City sports had like a screening basically. It was like tryouts for the tournament and I made the team.

Tell me how you felt before the game. Were you afraid of not winning ? How were preparations like for you ?

I wasn’t afraid surprisingly. I was more of motivated to win especially because my team was the only team from Africa at the tournament. Preparations were extremely hectic as we had training three times a week for about two months before the tournament.

How did you feel like meeting other kids who came for the same game? Did you at any point feel intimidated ?

It felt good playing with people that i’m not used to and learning more from others outside my normal environment.

How will you describe the entire experience of leaving Nigeria for Spain to play basketball?

To be honest, it was an amazing
experience, leaving Nigeria for Spain to play basketball. I love basketball; so going outside my normal court in lekki or Victoria Island changed my mindset and boosted my confidence to do more as regards basketball game.

At what age did you pick interest of playing basket ball and why ?

I started playing when I was 10 years old in my primary school, (Corona school Victoria Island) because my brother was a known athlete in the school and i had interest and loved sports generally, Jr as my brother did. I played football as well but basketball is where my passion lies in.

Were your parents fully in support of your aspirations? How did their support help you horn your skills on basketball?

Yes, my parents were in support of my aspiration. My parents continued to support me by enrolling me in this wonderful academy and helping me keep up with my needs and essentials for this lifestyle.

Do you want to become a basketball player in future or are there other aspirations you have ? Please share with us.

I would like to actually become a basketball player in future although i wouldn’t mind pursuing my other interests, such as designing.

Since you started playing basketball, have you at any point had to deal with discouraging comments from people especially as a female playing a game largely dominated by male folks? If any, how have you been able to deal with such comments, such that they don’t weigh you down?

Discouraging comments from people has always been something I have to deal with. The reason is not far fetched. In Africa, and in Nigeria, gender issue remains a constant one in a working environment. The issue is also one I battle with as an athlete. I’ve had various experiences with males telling me they’re better than me at the sport just because they think I don’t appear ‘fit enough’ for the game. I don’t let any derogatory comment weigh me down. I have met many boys my age that i know for a fact that my skill level surpasses theirs.

How do you balance academic work and basket ball games at your school and home ?

I created a schedule for myself whereby i have time for academic work but even in school i make time out to participate in sporting activities. This is because i am really passionate about sports generally. When I study my books, I equally tell myself that my books are just another basketball game that I have to practice for. I want to appreciate my school Chrisland High School Lekki for all the support, care and encouragment.

What was your position at the competition and how do you feel about your performance ?

We emerged fourth out of about ten female teams and I honestly think we tried and did excellently well to the best of our abilities. However, there is still room for growth and improvement and I think this experience was just what I needed to push more and get better.