The captain of Air Warriors basketball club, Blessing Emmanuel has said her ultimate desire is to play for Nigeria’s senior women’s basketball team, D’Tigress. In this exclusive chat with Trust Sports, the Shooting guard said even as she is a talented player, it is still hard for her to make it to the national team because she has no ‘connections’. The Kaduna State-born player also spoke on her team’s victory in the just concluded Savannah Conference of the Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League at the MKO Abiola national stadium in Abuja.
How excited are you with your team’s victory in the Savannah Conference of the ongoing Zenith Bank Women’s Basketball League?
I feel happy winning this series in our first season as Air Force Warriors. Though some of us are not new in this league, we are playing together for the first time. It may interest you to know out of seven matches, we didn’t lose a single match. It is a good feeling to emerge champions of the Savannah Conference. It was not an easy task, but we overcame every of our opponents in style. The mood in the team can’t be described. We are just so happy because we achieved this even as we have not been together for long.
When did you start playing basketball and how has the journey been?
I started playing basketball in 2000 and it has been very great. I have travelled a lot and garnered experience in the process. I am working hard to be a better player. I have made some progress, but I believe there is more work to be done. I want to improve more on my shots as I aspire to be a world-class basketball player. I know I am getting closer to becoming that player.
How supportive were your parents?
I’m from Southern Kaduna. It was easy for my parents to encourage me because they are equally into sports activities. They have supported my basketball career with everything they could offer as parents. They never denied me the resources and advice I needed. In fact, they pushed me hard to be better every day. I will say they are my number one supporter. I am happy that their sacrifices are beginning to yield positive fruits.
Have you played for any of the national teams?
I have never played for the national team, but I have trained with the senior national team in the past, precisely in 2017. It was good playing with them and that is a motivation for me to make a breakthrough into the national team. I really learnt a lot during the camping exercise as it was more of an eye-opener for me to train and play with more experienced players who are playing with top clubs in Europe.
What would you say home-based players need to do in order to compete favourably with foreign-based players?
Foreign-based players are preferred to us because we are not as exposed or better equipped as our foreign counterparts. And that is not our fault. We don’t have a say on the players that are playing for the national team. Yes, a bulk of the players are foreign-based and they are picked by the administrators. If they don’t call those of us who are playing at home, we have to accept their decisions. All we can do is to keep working hard to improve our skills. It is our desire, my desire as well to play for my country at the highest level of competition. I’m spurred to work hard to break into the national team.
You sound like one who is very close to achieving her dream…..
I feel strongly about this, but to play for Nigeria depends on God’s grace and of course ‘who knows who’. I’m just myself. I don’t know how to lobby for space in the national team. “Na only me waka come”. I don’t have anybody that can introduce or push up my name to the team managers. I’m totally depending on God to see me called up to play for Nigeria.
How prepared and motivated is Air Warriors going into the National Finals in Lagos?
The Air Warriors is a new team like I said, but the players are not new to the game of basketball. We have played against some of our opponents before when we were playing for different clubs so playing against them in a new club will not make any difference. Most of my team mates have played in the league before, so we are going to Lagos brimming with confidence to get the job done against well-established clubs like Dolphins, First Bank, Customs whom we defeated here in Abuja. We hope to be among the best three teams in Lagos so as to represent Nigeria in the continent. I believe we can do it. Nigerians should expect the best from us from now on.
When was Air Warriors formed and how supportive has the management been?
Air Warriors was formed this year. The Air Force has been very supportive. They have virtually given us everything we needed as a team. They are paying us good salaries and we lack almost nothing. We are motivated and determined to repay the management back with good results and we have started with the Savannah Conference victory.
Thank you for your time. All the best in Lagos.
Thank you also. Expect good news from us when we get to the National Finals.