Archive | April, 2013

Cafe Africa!!

24 Apr Cafe Africa sign

While it was completely surreal to be appearing on TV Jamaica’s morning show, Smile Jamaica, just 3 days after we arrived in Kingston, it would merely set the tone for what would turn out to be an amazing week of follow-up radio appearances, attending arguable the biggest high school track meet in the world, CHAMPS, and meeting the past, present and future stars of Jamaican Track and Field!

Shelly-Ann and others enjoying Champs

The TV appearance in itself opened up doors and created opportunities that I could not have imagined or planned for when we set foot in Jamaica. Later that day, we were hanging out at Usain Bolt’s “Tracks and Records” bar, when I got an anonymous text message, commending me for a nice interview on Smile Jamaica that morning, and introducing me to a restaurant called Café Africa in Kingston! I was like, wow! No one even had the number for my Jamaican SIM card, which I had only bought two days before – whoever had been able to obtain it in a few hours after seeing us on TV that morning must be a pretty resourceful person…

Tracks and Records

We exchanged a few text messages, and when she introduced herself as “Emprezz, TV host, etc…google me, lol”… I did exactly that. When I realised that she was not only a TV host, but an accomplished singer/song writer, executive producer and entrepreneur, I was very keen to meet her for lunch at Café Africa – a great opportunity to make a new contact, who just happened to be a beautiful TV personality in Jamaica, had fallen into my lap, so I definitely wasn’t going to pass that up! I knew that any further publicity I could generate about the documentary would be very worthwhile, so I met Emprezz Mullings-Golding for lunch the very next day at Café Africa…

Random guy at Cafe Africa selling Bolt "9.58" figurine...

Random guy at Cafe Africa selling Bolt “9.58” figurine…

When I walked in to Café Africa around noon the next day, I was greeted by Emprezz and her husband, Stephen Golding, who also just happens to be the son of the former Prime Minister of Jamaica. He also hosts a radio program on Hot102 FM, so he quickly invited me and Enefiok to join him on his show 2 days later to talk about Making of Champions. Within a minute of sending his producer my phone number, she had called me to schedule it! It turns out that Café Africa was in part set up by Stephen and is one of the only places in Jamaica were you can get authentic  Africa cuisine.  The ethnic interior décor, the pictures of the African leaders in the far corner (which could score you a free meal if you guessed all their names), the Fela music playing in the background – all this added to the unique African vibe they had succeeded in creating here, all the way in Kingston, Jamaica. I was very keen to sample the menu of authentic African cuisine to get their take on food from the continent, so Emprezz and I made our orders and sat down to wait for the food to arrive.

That Congolese okra stew (Dongo Dongo) was something else!

That Congolese okra stew (Dongo Dongo) was something else!

My Café Africa interview with Emprezz was one of my favourites from our time in Jamaica, especially because it was completely unplanned and unscripted. Within a couple of minutes of talking while we waited for our food, she had mentioned that her family was descended from the Igbo tribe in Nigeria and spoke vibrantly of being a lover of all things African. This was one woman, who knew her roots, her real roots! I quickly realised that I was on a set, without any cameras! The stage was set, the scenery was as Africa relevant as I was going to get in Jamaica, and Emprezz had just touched on a point that was very Making of Champions relevant…I quickly called my film crew, Ayobami and Chichi, who were shooting at the National Stadium at the time, to pack up and rush over to Café Africa while Emprezz and I were eating, so that we wouldn’t miss out on the opportunity of a great interview on the perfect set for us!

Bambo 1Emprezz for blog 2

The point she had touched on that was very relevant and top of mind for our documentary was reminding people, both African and Caribbean, that we’re one and the same people. In fact, it turns out that over a third of Jamaicans were descended from slaves taken from ports in Africa located in what is present day Nigeria, and another 30% came from Ghana (our small “bredas” have to follow after us in everything! J ). Physiologically, it’s unlikely that there is much different between West Africans particularly, and Caribbean people, between Nigerians and Jamaicans (I’ll try to address this more comprehensively in future postings) – if that was the case, then why are Jamaicans so much faster than us right now? I put the very question to Emprezz…enjoy!

Stephen, Emprezz, Ayobami and myself!

Stephen, Emprezz, Ayobami and myself!

Smile Jamaica!!!

6 Apr Smile Jamaica

After completing our Eko 2012 shoot of Making of Champions in Lagos Nigeria, we started the process of editing the pilot episode of the 4-part documentary. Eko 2012 ended on Dec 9th, and my proposed plan was to go to Jamaica in mid-March to cover their high school championships. In that time, I needed to complete the pilot and build enough momentum in the project to attract sponsors, supporters and participants to execute the rest of it. I worked with Eniola Liveboxx, who shot for us at Eko 2012, over the following 6 weeks (even over the Christmas holidays!) to have the pilot ready before the end of January!

Once the pilot episode was ready, I arranged a few viewings at home in Lagos, and in Johannesburg, to generate as much interest in the project as I could. Everyone who saw it was very impressed about what we had put together in such a short space of time, and I even remember hearing an audible gasp the moment that Mary Onyali, probably Nigeria’s most celebrated athlete, appeared on the screen! Well, I said everyone was really impressed, but there were a few exceptions – one in a particular with a very critical eye…

I had the honour of hosting Enefiok Udo-Obong, Nigeria’s only male double Olympic medallist in history, at the very first showing that we held in Lagos. After the showing, he commended me on a job well done so far, but he pointed out that for a show called Making of Champions, he had not seen anything in the 25 minutes running time that really spoke to the title. And he was right. While I had featured a good dose of Nigeria’s former Olympic medallists who were trackside at Eko 2012, nothing or no one else we saw at the National Sports Festival could really speak to how Champions are made in Track and Field, because Nigeria is simply not producing them right now – at least not on the world stage.

I knew we had to go to Jamaica to complete the story. But I also knew that I could not do it alone. If I was going to show up in Jamaica and get all their Track and Field stars to feature in my film, I knew I had to bring a star of my own. So a few weeks later, when I asked Enefiok if he would join Making of Champions as the Presenter of the Show, I was delighted that he graciously agreed to it!  Now we had an Olympic Champion, one of the very few that Nigeria has ever produced, on the Making of Champion’s team. If that did not raise the profile of our shoot in Jamaica, I didn’t know what else would!

It worked like a charm – the first day we arrived in Jamaica, we rolled up to TV Jamaica’s studios to tell them about our documentary. The thought never would have crossed our minds if not for Chichi Wodu, who made the trip with us (all the way from London!), as part of our film crew. In the recent past, she had worked with some of TVJ’s people while they were in London, so she simply asked for one of them when we arrived at their reception. 10 minutes later, we were in the office of TVJ’s General Manager, and 2 days later we were appearing on their morning show, Smile Jamaica, which is broadcast to a national audience!

TVJ interview

We were interviewed by none less than Neville Bell, a seasoned TVJ presenter and former coach of the Reggae Boyz, Jamaica’s national football team, and the absolutely stunning Yendi Phillipps, Miss Jamaica in 2007, and runner-up at the Miss Universe contest in 2010!  Words and pics cannot substitute the video, so here is the Smile Jamaica interview – enjoy!

Neville Bell Yendi Phillipps

Enee on TVJ Bambo on TVJ

I would like to give a big shout out to Kemi Ojerinola, an old high school friend, who now lives in Jamaica and took good care of us the whole week we were there. Minutes before the interview, she bb’d me all the intel I needed on our interviewers, to great effect at the end of the interview!

Smile Jamaica interview end

Celebrating Nigeria’s last Olympic Gold Medal!!!

2 Apr 4x400m mens team

In our history, Nigeria has won a total of 3 Gold medals at the Olympics. The first two came at Atlanta ’96 – The aptly named “Dream Team” won the football gold, beating the mighty Brazil and Argentina along the way, while Chioma Ajunwa surprised the whole world by winning the women’s Long Jump with her first jump!

Nigeria's 'Dream Team" at Atlanta '96

Nigeria’s ‘Dream Team” at Atlanta ’96

Chioma Ajunwa winning Long Jump Gold at Atlanta '96

Chioma Ajunwa winning Long Jump Gold at Atlanta ’96

Nigeria’s third and last gold medal came at Sydney 2000 in the men’s 4x400m, though it would be another 8 years before the Nigeria team was formally awarded the gold medal by the IOC, after Team USA’s eventual disqualification, due to Antonio Pettigrew’s (RIP) admission of taking performance enhancing drugs between 1997 and 2003. As much as that may have lessened the impact of the Gold, the team that won it was undoubtedly the best 4x400m men’s team Nigeria has ever assembled – Clement Chukwu, Jude Monye, Enefiok Udo-Obong, and the late Sunday Bada, who dominated the quarter mile in Nigeria for the best part of the 90’s…

Nigeria's victorious quartet - Bada, Chukwu and Monye mobbing Enefiok after this great anchor leg run!

Nigeria’s victorious quartet – Bada, Chukwu and Monye mobbing Enefiok after this great anchor leg run!

It is worth taking a look at the race which produced this Gold medal for Nigeria – here is a clip featuring the last 2 minutes of the race, starting with Bada on the 3rd leg who hands off to Enefiok on the anchor with Nigeria in fourth place behind the US, the Bahamas and Jamaica….

The order of our runners was very significant – over the 10 years previous to Sydney, Sunday Bada had more or less been Nigeria’s most consistent and more decorated 400m runner, winning many accolades on the global stage. Enefiok was the only runner in the starting quartet who was based and trained in Nigeria. It was considered a risk of monumental proportions that Nigeria’s 4x400m coach, Innocent Egbunike (himself Nigeria’s greatest 400m runner from the 80’s and still the national record holder at the distance), chose to put Enefiok, instead of Sunday Bada on the anchor leg – at the Nigerian trials that year, Enefiok had not even qualified for the individual 400m event!

Sunday Bada (RIP) - one of Nigeria's greatest 400m runners of all time

Sunday Bada (RIP) – one of Nigeria’s greatest 400m runners of all time

No one was ever going to catch Michael Johnson on that last leg, but the commentators do not even mention Nigeria in the whole race – not until the last 200m. No one gave Nigeria a chance to even medal, but Enefiok produce the run of his life to finish ahead of Danny McFarlane and Chris Brown, both of whom are household names and celebrities in Jamaica and the Bahamas respectively! Not so for Enefiok – admittedly, shooting this the pilot phase of this documentary during Eko 2012 afforded me the opportunity to meet this great Olympian and get to know who he was – I never did before. He followed up his great run at Sydney, with a bronze medal at Athens in the 4x400m as well, but with a completely new set of teammates, making him the only man in Nigeria’s history to ever win 2 Olympic medals. Sadly, he is largely unheralded and unknown in his own country, and I think it is a travesty that one of the greatest Olympic medallists ever to come out of Nigeria is barely known, and certainly not by anyone who was not watching the Olympics back in 2000 and 2004!

Hope you enjoy the clip! Enefiok tells me that he only received his Gold medal from the IOC a few weeks ago – http://news2.onlinenigeria.com/sports/188548-nigeria-awarded-4x400m-relay-gold-medal-after-us-disqualified.html – let’s celebrate Nigeria’s last Gold medal at the Olympics, like what it is – our last Gold medal at the Olympics!

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Sports with Enee

A personal commentary of sports issues in Nigeria and the world

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A personal commentary of sports issues in Nigeria and the world

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