Ex-D’Tigress player, 30-year-old Mobolaji Akiode, tells ’TANA AIYEJINA about her upbringing in the US and Nigeria, her challenges and why she left a lucrative ESPN job for charity work
Few years ago, Mobolaji Akiode was a junior accountant at ESPN, an American global cable television on sports-related programmes.
But while in her room at her parents’ home in New Jersey, USA, one fateful day, Akiode suddenly took note of her photograph on the wall. She had seen the photograph for several years but the inscription on it, “Follow the path of integrity and never look back. For there is never a wrong time to do the right thing,” swiftly changed her life.
And so, she had to leave her lucrative 9am-to 5pm desk job, an apartment in the suburbs, a Toyota Camry in the driveway and all the good life her job gave her to return to Nigeria.
She was home to fight the cause of young Nigerian girls through her foundation, Hope 4 Girls. Her target was to use sports, particularly basketball, to inspire and empower impoverished girls, first in Nigeria and then on the African continent.
She was born in New Jersey, USA, but her family returned to Nigeria. Later, they permanently relocated to the US when she was eight years old.
Though she left the US for Nigeria as an American citizen, she returned as an immigrant with an accent and her schoolmates near Newark called her “African booty scratcher.” But she saw it, even at that age, as one of life’s many challenges.
“I was bullied for some time and treated like an immigrant. But I am happy to say that I didn’t witness any form of racism. I think it was just kids being kids.
“Obviously there were some ups and downs along the way, but for the most part I stayed focused and things really fell into place.”
In America, she started playing basketball at age 13, though against her parents’ wish she, however, soon won them over.
“I started basketball mainly because I was a bit tall for my age. It was a blessing because I was still fairly new to my new life in America and needed something to help me fit in. Since then, fitting in has never been a priority.
“My parents didn’t really support me in the beginning. I was the only girl in a family of four and also the last born. It was weird that among the four children; the girl would be the one to become an athlete. Surely after my hard work was paying off, they became my big fans.”
As she progressed in the game, she nursed a dream of playing for Nigeria rather than the US women national team.
But what she saw when she visited home 11 years ago almost discouraged her.
“I was never good enough to play for the US national team, but even before then, I’d always wanted to come back home. I left Nigeria as a child with the fondest of memories and always wanted to find something that would connect me back home.
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Posted By: Life4fish |
6/11/13 10:16 AM
What a selfless act going back to Nigeria and helping with all those problems over there