Winning Afrobasket changed my life big time – Nkechi Akashili

Winning Afrobasket changed my life big time – Nkechi Akashili

It’s been a good year for basketball in Nigeria with the D’Tigress winning the 2017FIBA Afrobasket Women title and their male counterparts coming close to defending the title they won two years ago, only to lose out to tournament hosts, Tunisia in the finals.

We at are committed to celebrating sports men and women that have done the nation proud. So, Oyeniyi Sola had an interesting chat with one of the home based FIBA African Champions, Nkechi Akachili.

How did your career as a basketball player start?

My basketball career started in Warri, Delta state where I was born and brought up. Although my elder sister played basketball, so whenever she’s back from training I’ll see the ball and be like mehn, I love this! Please teach me how to dribble with the ball and she’ll teach me at home, so one day I followed her to the court and I watched them. Basketball is like a magic sport, the rims are very small and throwing the basket from a far I’ll be like whoa, I like this and I would love to play. So that was how I started back in 2003.

Did your parents initially support your decision to play basketball?

Initially my Dad didn’t want it. He was like what!!! Basketball? Is there any sport like basketball? I don’t know o, I only know soccer. If you want to play, you play soccer stop playing basketball. My Dad didn’t want me to play basketball. Even the basketball I bought, my Dad cut it into two and he was like stop playing basketball. Anytime I go for training and I’m coming back I know it is fight with my Dad until I went to Milo secondary school games and I won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in the qualifiers in Asaba back in 2003. So I brought enough Milo and a trophy for my Dad and I was like look at what I won and he was like this game is interesting! So I went to the proper in Unilag still in 2003 and I won the MVP award also alongside a ticket to travel to Argentina. I came back with my trophy and told my Dad you need to come with me to the embassy in Abuja because we’re travelling o and he was like that means basketball is interesting. Don’t worry I’ll support you and that’s how he started supporting me. But my mum was like if that’s what you want just go.

Can you believe that now my Dad will advise those people stopping their daughters from participating in sports that, don’t stop them o. Look at this girl, she’s the one doing everything now, she’s the one putting food on my table. Don’t stop them just, support them.

How has it been knowing that you’re now an African Champion and how has it changed your life?

It changed my life big time because this is what we’ve been praying and fighting for. It is not easy to be an African Champion and I thank God that I’m part of the team that won this great cup. It is not easy.

What was your reaction when you discovered you were part of the team to Mali?

I’ve been playing nations cup but this one I was happy because God really answered my prayers to be part of the final 12.

Nkechi Akashili in the dance of victory

What was the minimum target when you set off for Mali?

When we were leaving there were a lot of press men and what we told them was that all our target was to win gold. We’ve tried now, at least the last time we came out third. So all our target was to win the gold. Thank God, their prayers worked also because some of them knew that we were going to win it so they were like you people should go we’re praying for you because that was all we needed and thank God, God answered our prayers.

What was your toughest match and when during the tournament did it hit you that you would go on to win the tournament?

The toughest match was against the hosts, Mali. Because we were playing against them, the crowd, the referees (laughing) and everybody. We were playing against everybody and immediately we won that game, we knew we would defeat the Senegalese because looking at both teams, the Malians were bigger than the Senegalese and you can’t compare the Malians with the Senegalese players.

Were you surprised at the reception when you got back?

No I wasn’t. Winning the cup, I knew we were going to have a huge reception going by the antecedents of those that had won it before.

We heard that not all of you were allowed in to see the President, why was this?

(Laughs) I was so happy. I was like wow… I’m going to see the President. So I was very happy meeting the President. It’s not easy to see the President but I thank God I’m among those that met the President.

We heard that not all of you were allowed in to see the President, why was this?

Yea, the problem is that you know there are a lot of officials and even the ministry people also wanted to go in but they said they can’t accommodate the crowd there, so they screened some people out but all the players went in.

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