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Federer, Serena And Lessons For Nigerians

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By Emmanuel Onwubiko

As I put pen to paper, the Nigerian economy is biting severely and the costs of living have ballooned beyond the control of virtually one hundred million Nigerian families said to be absolutely poor.

And for the Nigerian youths, these are not the best of times.

The nation’s inflationary surge has become unprecedented due to what experts termed as poor earnings by Nigeria’s natural resources largely due to sabotage and official theft.

Other factors that have made living in Nigeria excruciatingly painful for Young person’s especially is the heightened insecurity and terrorism which significantly affect local production; foreign exchange concerns, huge expenditure and unprecedented debt burden alongside other existential challenges. Also over the years, Sports and talents development that serious minded Countries prioritize is neglected in Nigeria. City centres have no sports development centres. Local councils have no facilities for the youths in the grassroots to discover and horn their innate sporting talents unlike nation’s in Europe and America.

Amidst these economic, infrastructural and security challenges confronting mostly the youthful population of Nigeria, has arisen the urgency of the now to look at potential models and ideas that Nigerian youths today can emulate and carry out so they can attain self-actualization and become productive members of the Universe of humanity.

The aforementioned goals lead us inevitably to two international models and sports persons who took off to discover and develop their Sporting talents as very young persons and have just retired accomplished and rich whilst still young have emerged as highly recommended for millions of contemporary youths in Nigeria to embrace and harness their innate sporting, scientific, creative writing, and other talents to become employers of labour in their own right and contributors to the national economy.

The duo talked above are no other than Roger Federer and Serena Williams both of whom took off in their teens and have announced their retirements from lawn tennis at relatively young ages after decades of accumulation of wealth and good images for themselves.

Their national governments have deliberate policies of building and maintaining sporting infrastructural facilities to benefit their young persons. Nigerian government officials need to stop talking and start building these grassroots infrastructure to catch Nigerian youths in their teens just like how Serena Williams and Roger Federer were caught and their abundance talents in Tennis developed.

One of the best known British broadcasting stations known as skysports has recently reported the retirement of Roger Federer.

It says that Swiss tennis great Roger Federer has announced his retirement from the sport, saying next week’s Laver Cup will be his final ATP tournament; “Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognise when it is time to end my competitive career”

roger federer and serena williams
Federer and Serena

Roger Federer will retire from tennis after next week’s Laver Cup, aged 41.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has been struggling with a knee problem for the last three years and has decided now is the time to step away.

Federer will play in next week’s Laver Cup in London, the Ryder Cup-style competition that was his brainchild, but will then leave the professional game.

Federer made the announcement via a letter posted on social media, which began: “To my tennis family and beyond. Of all the gifts that tennis has given me over the years, the greatest, without a doubt, has been the people I’ve met along the way: my friends, my competitors, and most of all the fans who give the sport its life. Today, I want to share some news with all of you.

“As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries. I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form.

“But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear. I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1,500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognise when it is time to end my competitive career.

“The Laver Cup next week in London will be my final ATP event. I will play more tennis in the future, of course, but just not in Grand Slams or on the tour.”

Federer’s Grand Slam record has now been surpassed by both his great rival Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but many people, especially the legions of fans he brought to the sport, will still consider him the greatest of all time.

Federer continued: “This is a bittersweet decision, because I will miss everything the tour has given me. But, at the same time, there is so much to celebrate.

“I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it at a level that I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible.”

The Swiss has not played a competitive match since losing to Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last summer.

He subsequently announced he needed more surgery on his knee having previously undergone two operations in 2020 that kept him out for more than a year.

Federer had targeted a full return following the last operation but it became increasingly clear that his rehabilitation was not going as well as he had hoped.

Wimbledon tweeted: “Roger, Where do we begin? It’s been a privilege to witness your journey and see you become a champion in every sense of the word. We will so miss the sight of you gracing our courts, but all we can say for now is thank you, for the memories and joy you have given to so many.”

In the next paragraphs, we will revisit the retirement announcement of Serena Williams and we will ask the young people in Nigeria to read and imbibe lessons from this announcement.

As aforementioned, another youthful icon recommended to Nigerian youths is Serena Williams. She wrote: “I have never liked the word retirement,” says Williams, seen here with her daughter, Olympia. “It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me.” Balenciaga gown. Bulgari High Jewelry earring. Photographed by Luis Alberto Rodriguez, Vogue, September 2022.

This morning, my daughter, Olympia, who turns five this month, and I were on our way to get her a new passport before a trip to Europe. We’re in my car, and she’s holding my phone, using an interactive educational app she likes. This robot voice asks her a question: What do you want to be when you grow up? She doesn’t know I’m listening, but I can hear the answer she whispers into the phone. She says, “I want to be a big sister.”

Olympia says this a lot, even when she knows I’m listening. Sometimes before bed, she prays to Jehovah to bring her a baby sister. (She doesn’t want anything to do with a boy!) I’m the youngest of five sisters myself, and my sisters are my heroes, so this has felt like a moment I need to listen very carefully to.”

Serena Williams continued: “Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair. If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family. Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity. Don’t get me wrong: I love being a woman, and I loved every second of being pregnant with Olympia. I was one of those annoying women who adored being pregnant and was working until the day I had to report to the hospital—although things got super complicated on the other side. And I almost did do the impossible: A lot of people don’t realize that I was two months pregnant when I won the Australian Open in 2017. But I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give.”

I’ve been reluctant to admit that I have to move on from playing tennis. It’s like a taboo topic. It comes up, and I start to cry. I think the only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist, Williams affirmed.

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Serena Williams firyjer wrote that: “I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people.

“Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family.

“But I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis. Alexis, my husband, and I have hardly talked about it; it’s like a taboo topic.

“I can’t even have this conversation with my mom and dad. It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry. The only person I’ve really gone there with is my therapist! One thing I’m not going to do is sugarcoat this.

“I know that a lot of people are excited about and look forward to retiring, and I really wish I felt that way. Ashleigh Barty was number one in the world when she left the sport this March, and I believe she really felt ready to move on. Caroline Wozniacki, who is one of my best friends, felt a sense of relief when she retired in 2020.

“Praise to these people, but I’m going to be honest. There is no happiness in this topic for me. I know it’s not the usual thing to say, but I feel a great deal of pain. It’s the hardest thing that I could ever imagine. I hate it. I hate that I have to be at this crossroads.

“I keep saying to myself, I wish it could be easy for me, but it’s not. I’m torn: I don’t want it to be over, but at the same time I’m ready for what’s next. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to look at this magazine when it comes out, knowing that this is it, the end of a story that started in Compton, California, with a little Black girl who just wanted to play tennis. This sport has given me so much. I love to win. I love the battle. I love to entertain.

“I’m not sure every player sees it that way, but I love the performance aspect of it—to be able to entertain people week after week. Some of the happiest times in my life were spent waiting in that hallway in Melbourne, and walking out into Rod Laver Arena with my earphones in and trying to stay focused and drown out the noise but still feeling the energy of the crowd. Night matches in Arthur Ashe Stadium at Flushing Meadows. Hitting an ace on set point.

“My whole life, up to now, has been tennis. My dad says I first picked up a racket when I was three, but I think it was even earlier. There’s a picture of Venus pushing me in a stroller on a tennis court, and I couldn’t have been more than 18 months. Unlike Venus, who’s always been stoic and classy, I’ve never been one to contain my emotions.

“I remember learning to write my alphabet for kindergarten and not doing it perfectly and crying all night. I was so angry about it. I’d erase and rewrite that A over and over, and my mother let me stay up all night while my sisters were in bed. That’s always been me. I want to be great. I want to be perfect. I know perfect doesn’t exist, but whatever my perfect was, I never wanted to stop until I got it right.

“To me that’s kind of the essence of being Serena: expecting the best from myself and proving people wrong. There were so many matches I won because something made me angry or someone counted me out. That drove me. I’ve built a career on channeling anger and negativity and turning it into something good. My sister Venus once said that when someone out there says you can’t do something, it is because they can’t do it. But I did do it. And so can you.

“If you watched King Richard, then you know that when I was little, I was not very good at tennis. I was so sad when I didn’t get all the early opportunities that Venus got, but that helped me. It made me work harder, turning me into a savage fighter. I’d travel to tournaments with Venus as her hitting partner, and if there was an open slot, I’d play. I followed her around the world and watched her. When she lost, I understood why, and I made sure I wouldn’t lose the same way.

“That’s how I started to move so fast up the rankings, because I learned the lessons from Venus’s losses instead of the hard way, from my own. It was as if I were playing her matches, too. I’m a good mimic.

“Growing up, I tried to copy Pete Sampras. I loved Monica Seles, and then I studied Monica Seles. I watched, I listened, then I attacked. But if I hadn’t been in Venus’s shadow, I would never be who I am. When someone said I was just the little sister, that’s when I got really fired up.

“I started playing tennis with the goal of winning the U.S. Open. I didn’t think past that. And then I just kept winning. I remember when I passed Martina Hingis’s grand slam count. Then Seles’s.

“And then, I tied Billie Jean King, who is such an inspiration for me because of how she has pioneered gender equality in all sports. Then it was climbing over the Chris Evert–Martina Navratilova mountain. There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the “open era” that began in 1968. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record. Obviously I do. But day to day, I’m really not thinking about her. If I’m in a grand slam final, then yes, I am thinking about that record.

“Maybe I thought about it too much, and that didn’t help. The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have.

“But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary. But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”

Serena Williams wrote also that: “Earlier in my career, I never thought about having kids. There were times when I’ve wondered if I should ever bring kids into this world, with all its problems. I was never that confident or comfortable around babies or children, and I figured that if I ever did have a baby, I would have people taking care of it 24/7. I’m not going to lie—I definitely have a lot of support. But I’m also an incredibly hands-on mother. My husband will tell you I am too hands-on. In five years, Olympia has only spent one 24-hour period away from me. This past year, while I was recovering from a hamstring injury, I got to pick her up from school four or five days a week, and I always looked forward to seeing her face light up when she walked out of the building and saw me waiting there for her. The fact is that nothing is a sacrifice for me when it comes to Olympia. It all just makes sense. I want to teach her how to tie her shoes, how to read, where babies come from, and about God. Just like my mom taught me. As she grows, it’s something different every month. Lately she’s been into watching baking shows, which we do together. Now we bake with Play-Doh, which is so much fun. She loves this game called The Floor Is Lava, where you have to do whatever you can to avoid touching the ground. I love setting up my gym for the game, arranging my step-up boxes and weight machines like an obstacle course. Whatever she likes, I like.

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I think tennis, by comparison, has always felt like a sacrifice—though it’s one I enjoyed making. When you’re younger, you see kids having fun, and you want to do that stuff but you know you have to be on the court, hoping that one day it will all pay off. I got pushed hard by my parents. Nowadays so many parents say, “Let your kids do what they want!” Well, that’s not what got me where I am. I didn’t rebel as a kid. I worked hard, and I followed the rules. I do want to push Olympia—not in tennis, but in whatever captures her interest. But I don’t want to push too hard. I’m still trying to figure out that balance.”

“In my own life, the balance has been slowly shifting toward Serena Ventures. I always say that I’m a sponge: At night I go to bed and I squeeze myself out so that the next day I can take up as much new information as I can. Every morning, I’m so excited to walk downstairs to my office and jump onto Zooms and start reviewing decks of companies we’re considering investing in. We’re a small but growing firm of six people scattered between Florida, where I mainly live, Texas, and California. I started investing nine years ago, and I really fell in love with early stage, whether it’s pre-seed funding, where you’re investing in just an idea, or seed, where the idea has already been turned into a product. I wrote one of the very first checks for MasterClass. It’s one of 16 unicorns—companies valued at more than $1 billion—that Serena Ventures has funded, along with Tonal, Impossible Foods, Noom, and Esusu, to name a few. This year we raised $111 million of outside financing, from banks, private individuals, and family offices. Seventy-eight percent of our portfolio happens to be companies started by women and people of color, because that’s who we are. On the other hand, my husband is white, and it’s important to me to be inclusive of everyone. Serena Ventures has been an all-female business until recently, when we brought in our first guy—a diversity hire!” Serena Williams asserted.

Serena Williams also said: “few years ago, I was at a conference organized by JPMorgan Chase, where I watched a talk between Jamie Dimon and Caryn Seidman-Becker, the CEO of the security company Clear. Caryn explained that less than 2 percent of all VC money went to women. I figured that she misspoke. I thought, There’s no way that 98 percent of that capital is going to men. I approached her afterward, and she confirmed it. I kind of understood then and there that someone who looks like me needs to start writing the big checks. Sometimes like attracts like. Men are writing those big checks to one another, and in order for us to change that, more people who look like me need to be in that position, giving money back to themselves. I’m so grateful to women like Caryn, as well as Sheryl Sandberg and others who have mentored me. It’s important to have women like that who believe in you and push you to think bigger and do bigger.

I’d like to think that thanks to me, women athletes can be themselves. They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all

In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family. I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.

This spring, I had the itch to get back on the court for the first time in seven months. I was talking to Tiger Woods, who’s a friend, and I told him I needed his advice on my tennis career. I said, “I don’t know what to do: I think I’m over it, but maybe I’m not over it.” He’s Tiger, and he was adamant that I be a beast the same way he is! He said, “Serena, what if you just gave it two weeks? You don’t have to commit to anything. You just go out on the court every day for two weeks and give it your all and see what happens.” I said, “All right, I think I can do that.” And I didn’t do it. But a month later, I gave it a try. And it felt magical to pick up a racket again. And I was good. I was really good. I went back and forth about whether to play Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open after that. As I’ve said, this whole evolution thing has not been easy for me.

I don’t particularly like to think about my legacy. I get asked about it a lot, and I never know exactly what to say. But I’d like to think that thanks to opportunities afforded to me, women athletes feel that they can be themselves on the court. They can play with aggression and pump their fists. They can be strong yet beautiful. They can wear what they want and say what they want and kick butt and be proud of it all. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career. Mistakes are learning experiences, and I embrace those moments. I’m far from perfect, but I’ve also taken a lot of criticism, and I’d like to think that I went through some hard times as a professional tennis player so that the next generation could have it easier. Over the years, I hope that people come to think of me as symbolizing something bigger than tennis. I admire Billie Jean because she transcended her sport. I’d like it to be: Serena is this and she’s that and she was a great tennis player and she won those slams.

Unfortunately I wasn’t ready to win Wimbledon this year. And I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try. And the lead-up tournaments will be fun.

“I know there’s a fan fantasy that I might have tied Margaret that day in London, then maybe beat her record in New York, and then at the trophy ceremony say, “See ya!” I get that. It’s a good fantasy. But I’m not looking for some ceremonial, final on-court moment. I’m terrible at goodbyes, the world’s worst. But please know that I am more grateful for you than I can ever express in words.

“You have carried me to so many wins and so many trophies. I’m going to miss that version of me, that girl who played tennis. And I’m going to miss you,” Serena Williams concluded.

Federe’s networth is said to be as much as 550 million dollars USD (

Serena Williams who began playing at age 14 in 1995 is worth over 250 million dollars USD (

Aside being useful to themselves, families, communities and nation, an average Nigerian young person who follows religiously the discipline, consistency, honesty and determination to harness their God given talents as were done by the duo of Serena Williams and Roger Federer, will automatically become global Icons.

Achieving all the above is certainly better than engaging in crimes and drug abuses which are the twin evils holding back millions of Nigerian youths from attaining their potentials in life and most especially in Sports.

Painfully many Nigerian communities are currently facing the dangerous effect of Methamphetamine nicknamed by the youths as Nkpuru Mmiri which translates to seed of water.

Many youths are into it but God knows that seeds of water can be dangerous drugs, so writes a Journalist recently.

Mkpuru mmiri is a crystal narcotic hallucinogen that is capable of destroying a person mentally. It is estimated that 75 percent of the users in our society are adversely affected. And they have become a burden to their families and communities.

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According to drug literature, methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. The crystal form of the drug looks like glass fragments and is chemically similar to amphetamine, a drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.

Addicts can take methamphetamine by smoking, swallowing, snorting or injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water or alcohol. The “high” from the drug starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a “binge and crash” pattern. In some cases, people take methamphetamine as a “run,” giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days.

Methamphetamine affects the brain adversely. It increases the amount of a natural chemical called dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors.

The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behaviour, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in the same health effects as taking cocaine or amphetamines. These include increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, faster breathing, rapid and/or irregular heartbeat and increased blood pressure and body temperature.

Several questions concerning this scourge are in the public domain. One of the questions is whether Nkpuru Mmiri is sourced locally or imported into the country. Another question is, if it is imported, from which of the nation’s boundaries did they come in? If it is locally produced, where in Nigeria is it produced?.

The National Drug Law Enforcement headed by Buba Marwa answered the questions in their reaction which contained some details about the drug.

The agency, through their spokesman, Femi Babafemi, sent the following as their reaction to a media.

“Mkpulu Mmiri is the Igbo slang for Methamphetamine or Crystal Meth, a very dangerous illicit drug. It looks like Ice or white chalk crystal and sometimes can be blue. That is why the users sometimes refer to it as “ice.” It can be dissolved in water.

It was developed in Japan in 1919 and grossly abused during World War II when it was issued to pilots on a suicidal mission called “kamikaze.” After the world war, it was briefly used as a medication for depression and for controlling obesity, but it was quickly abandoned and banned thereafter, especially from the 1970s. Meth is categorised as Schedule II (i.e. “drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence”) by the International Drug Control Conventions.

Since the 1990s, the production of crystal meth has been hijacked by Mexican drug cartels and they came into Nigeria to set up laboratories in 2016.

It is a very addictive stimulant that renders the user hyperactive and prone to destructive tendencies which at the extreme do not exclude suicide or homicide at the slightest provocation and without a feeling of remorse.

As a stimulant, it has powerful euphoric effects, similar to those of cocaine. Meth typically keeps users awake, depriving them of sleep. Its use and abuse also carry acute health risks including high blood pressure and cardiovascular-related illness.

Aside from being unable to sleep and being violent, users exhibit anti-social behaviours arising from paranoia and hallucination. The drug takes a toll on the physical look of its users. It typically makes them look older and their faces prone to acne. Sometimes, excessive use leads to damaged gum and teeth, commonly called “meth mouth.”

What is most frightening is that meth addiction is one of the most difficult to treat, because no drug can cure it, except by behavioural therapy, which at the moment is not readily available in the country.

Since the launch of the Offensive Action campaign early this year, NDLEA has recorded significant seizures of kilograms of the drug. Likewise, the Agency has located and destroyed not less than 18 meth-producing laboratories in the country in the past few years.

The Agency has been monitoring the trend in Meth production, abuse and trafficking. And because of the rampant abuse and production of the drug, especially in the Southeast, the Chairman/CEO recently gave specific instructions to relevant directorates of the Agency on how the Agency should respond to the development. You can be rest assured that in a matter of time, the pipelines of such illicit drugs would be shut down and those behind it brought to book.”

Also recently, there has been a rapid emergence of a dangerous new psychoactive substance known as Akuskura/Kuskura, which is made of herbs laced with tobacco and cannabis and which is rapidly replacing controlled psychoactive substances, dominantly in the northern and south-west parts of Nigeria. When taken, the substance sometimes causes sudden, violent, irregular movement of the body and contraction of muscles.

The name Akuskura, sometimes known as kuskura or akurkura, is derived from the Hausa word “kuskura” noun, which can be used interchangeably to mean gargling and rinsing. The substance, which is of different varieties, is used in both liquid and powdered form by people who mostly seek to raise their levels of psychological or nervous activity in the body, or put it in simple terms, get high.

Akuskura came into the front-line on social and conventional media when the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, intercepted over seven thousand bottles of the illicit substance along the Abuja-Kaduna express road, slated for distribution across seven northern states of Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Zamfara, Gombe and Nasarawa. Although the seizure is the biggest made so far, there were several arrests and seizures made by the agency in different parts of the country.

Following the record-breaking seizure, the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, in a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Abuja on August 19th, made the announcement of the official ban of the psychoactive substance. She said the agency received a number of reports of the use of a herbal preparation known as “Kurkura,” particularly in the country’s South West and Northern axis.The agency swung into action and carried out intelligence and enforcement actions.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, New Psychoactive Substances are “substances of abuse, either in a pure form or a preparation, that are not controlled by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1971 Convention on Psychoactive Substances but which may pose a public health threat”. The term “new” does not necessarily refer to new inventions—several NPS were first synthesized decades ago—but to substances that have recently become available on the market.

As a new psychoactive substance, Akuskura represents a serious threat to public health and poses a challenge for drug policy. The negative health impacts and social harms of NPS are frequently largely unexplored, which makes prevention and counseling extremely difficult. It is difficult to analyze and identify the many different chemicals that are simultaneously present in the drug.

I call on the government to be accountable and transparent in governance and to invest massively in building durable Sporting facilities in the rural areas for the benefit of developing youthful sporting talents because when young persons in their numbers become fully professionalise as Sportsmen and Women, they will translate to contributors to the national economy of Nigeria and help bring down crimes. Schools should adjust their curriculum to teach young people about the achievements of genuine sporting greats and achievers in many other fields of human endeavours to serve as good examples for youngsters here to emulate and become better and pursue the goal of becoming great persons themselves.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and one time National commissioner of the NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION OF NIGERIA.

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