This appears in philstar.com
Ola Adeogun: I’m a human being too
By Matthew Olivares
Racism will always be tied to a twisted sense of pride, and it becomes blatant when competition is added to the equation. Take basketball for an example; it is a full-contact sport. Getting pushed and receiving stiff elbow strikes to the face or on the ribs cannot be avoided, but to what extent can somebody say that a foul—called or uncalled—is an act of muscle memory and not malice?
Whatever the reasons behind the fouls, San Beda’s Ola Adeogun chooses to take it all in for the team, but there are times when he has to assert himself and put his foot down when he feels like things are getting a little out of hand.
During a recent match with Lyceum of the Philippines University, Adeogun endured a lot of cheap shots that were not called by the referees such as receiving a shoulder to the nose and getting harshly pushed by his opponents. Despite all that, he remained cool and composed; and scored most of the foul throws awarded to him during the first two quarters.
Aside from making eight of sixteen foul throws, he was able to score eight more points, one of them being a picture perfect dunk during the third quarter.
He would just let the physical play and the trash talking go for the first three quarters, but as the minutes passed, he slowly lost his cool; the frustration on his face became increasingly apparent to his coach and teammates.
Towards the end of the game against LPU, Adeogun snapped after getting elbowed while on his way out. That was the last straw, and his coach and teammates knew that so before he could confront the referee for not making the call, his team acted quickly and rushed to keep him at bay.
“I’m a human being!” Ola exclaimed. “I just want them to know that!”
“Kahit mas matangkad siya sa karamihan ng Pilipino ay nasasaktan pa rin siya,” defended SBC head coach Boyet Fernandez. “He is just like every other person, if you cut him, he bleeds. You say something hurtful, he gets hurt. Racism has no place in our society more so in sports. Let’s stick to the game. Let it be about basketball.”
Ola was born and raised in Nigeria. He grew up with his parents telling him to always be kind and forgiving despite what others might do to him; to not let adversity get in the way of achieving his life goals.
“I can only take so much,” he said with frustration. “I’ve been playing clean basketball the entire time! Clean offense, clean defense. I get called for committing a foul and that’s okay. I didn’t mean to do it. Getting punched on the mouth is a different story, and I wanted the referee to call that, but he brushed it off. I find that unfair!”
Whenever he reaches his boiling point, his coach and teammates are there to help him cool down, letting him know that despite the discrimination, there are people there for him; and he would think of his parents and their words of wisdom to control himself. To endure discrimination is something that he considers to be a worthwhile sacrifice, not just for his team, but also for himself and his family.
His parents emphasized on the importance of education when he was young and he took that to heart.
Ola was given offers to play basketball for the United States but chose to study in the Philippines instead because he felt that the country would take care good care of his education.
“Education is important because it will get you to places,” he said smiling. “I know I get angry from time to time, but I’m used to all this. I just look at incidents of racial discrimination as obstructions to my goal, which is to finish school.”
Ola’s goal is to finish school because he wants to live a good life and provide for his family. “It will give me opportunities,” he said. “I take basketball seriously. Not only is it fun but it is also a way for me to become more disciplined and to get a shot at education as well, and I want education. I want to live a good and honest life.”
His hobbies and interests reflect his determined attitude. He enjoys reading inspirational books, especially those by Phil Jackson. As a form of prayer and meditation, he would turn to his favorite chapters and read them to keep him motivated and focused.
His parents, his coach and his teammates know what to say to calm him down; and so does listening to reggae and jazz music.
“Life’s too short to be angry all the time,” said Ola. “It’s alright to get angry, but I let it go. I won’t stoop to their level. I will not fight or insult anyone. I forgive.”
To fight fire with fire is an expression that he disagrees with. “Sometimes fighting will not solve your problems,” said Ola. “Most of the time, fighting makes things worse. The most that I will do is yell and assert that I, too, am a human being just like them.”
At the end of the day, what he has is forgiveness and the determination to become successful in life.
Note: Ola is currently on his last year in San Beda studying Marketing and Corporate Communication. He wants to play professional basketball for a few years after graduating. Once he is satisfied with scratching that basketball itch, he hopes to get a corporate job or invest in a business.