I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court.”
Former President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama
“Combined with our other programs on the continent, we are committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa.”
NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver
Scheduled to begin play in January 2020, the BAL would mark the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America. The NBA also announced its plan to introduce a re-imagined direct to consumer offering of NBA games for fans in Africa by the start of the 2019-20 NBA season.
In today’s Edition of “Let it Out, ChaCha”, let us welcome American-based Cameroonian, ALFRED ABOYA, an International Basketball Player having played across borders including South America’s, Venezuela & Asia’s, Japan, & now coach of the IOWA WOLVES; who among many other African Basketball players, influenced and propagated a conversation on an All African NBA named the BAL ( Basketball African League). Passion Fruit was honored to have a one on one with our very own Cameroonian Basketball Star and hear all his plans for our future, his thoughts on Camaraderie and team work, long lasting brother-ships with mates including Luc Mbah a Moute, Family, Values, living abroad, His Work, Nation Building & just so much more; everything we need to know as a nation & then, as a Continent. Let’s read into what could be the best to our next moves into an emerging country and continent. Alfred Aboya on Passion Fruit, tonight!
Passion Fruit: breathes… so Alfred this is no more Patience Kisob. This is Passion Fruit.
Alfred Aboya: But where is the fruit, i see no Fruits… laughs
Passion Fruit: Hello Alfred! We glad to have you home!
Alfred Aboya: It is my home. This is where i need to be. I feel like, anytime i am here is the beginning of something new, all the time.
Passion Fruit: You know, when we heard you say you coming home, we were like… wait, wait… did we make him come home for Passion Fruit? Like how? Such an exciting thought.
Alfred Aboya: But still i have different reasons. Passion Fruit was one of them.
Passion Fruit: So let’s go straight into it. You were uprooted in your teen years, strode away to a foreign land which has become more of home to you today. How was that experience? By the way, who did that?
Alfred aboya: I think God chose me. Cause the way things started to where i am today, i would never have imagined that this will be my path. And i never ever played basketball before 1998, never. So i started playing in 1998. I was coming back from school one time, & people where playing, & i just stood there watching them and they decided to play 5/5 but were missing one player. So one person looked over at me and said: Look at that guy. He is tall, he can play, so come on, hop in, come play with us. I was like: i don’t know how to play, they said: you don’t need to know how to. So when i got my first pass, i ran all over the field and they started laughing saying you can’t run with the ball, there are rules. That was my first contact with basketball. 2 years later, 15years old, i was called into the National Team. So it was a fast growth. Two years prior not playing, two years later, Basketball Team, going to Gabon for the Zone 4 and winning that… that just opened the door, after 2001. Two years later i travelled, went to the U.S., landed in Boston to be precise, knowing no words in English, knew nothing, that’s how things started.
Passion Fruit: And ehmmm… i got to read about you to know more about your transition & we realized you made friends there. You met some Cameroonians in the U.S, the likes of Luc Mbah a Moute. How was your relationship with Luc… How was it then? and how is it now?
Alfred Aboya: You got a lot to write on me. My story is a story to tell. A lot of people ask me to write books about my story and all; which i consider and hope to do it one day.
I know Luc. Luc and i are neighbors. So when I started playing the local league, he was playing with the Junior and i was playing with the senior. So when his team wanted to move from Junior to Senior, his coach called me, & told me, i want my kids around you, actually projecting on me, a big brother role. I played in the National team and all that, So i trained with them. Luc was going to be my team mate the year i traveled, 2003. We practiced like every day, then he gets his visa and leaves, i get my visa and leave. He goes to Florida, i go to New Hampshire as i mentioned. And we got recruited by the same schools. And we ended up in UCLA together. It’s an old friendship and today It’s still the same. I talked to him two days ago. I know his family & i spent last night with his dad. It’s more like a brotherhood.
Passion Fruit: Basketball not being a prime national sports, how did you manage to excel being a Cameroonian?
Alfred Aboya: Remember i said God chose me. I played here, so it’s a fundamental part of my growth as a basketball player. Once i got to the national team, people started seeing potential in me, like he can actually play. One of my former coaches had a connection with someone in the U.S, Patrick Washington. So he connected me with Patrick, and Patrick found a school for me. I mean, i was supposed to go to a public school in Texas, in Dallas. But i was 18 at the time and that school was a public school. At 18, you graduate from High School, you can’t go to college. So he found a prep school for me. And for an athlete, it could be the best place to go because there is a great competition at prep school. Now most coaches watch prep school basketball. That’s where they go to recruit. Well, Uhmmm this person found a school for me in New Hampshire. This is how crazy things are, this is how crazy things could be – the coach whom he presented me to, retired. So my file was just an open file there. And then this new coach comes in, he saw a picture of me they had asked of me, & in this picture i was jumping and smiling at the ring. He saw that picture, he said this is the kid i want and in a matter of weeks, i went to the embassy, got my visa and the good thing too is, my host family who picked me up, the husband taught french in middle school. So the transition was smooth.
Passion Fruit: And we realise your vision got even bigger… you pursued your degree and eventually a master’s degree in International Relations. What was and is your initial goal working at this? And again at what point in your life or career did you decide education is important?
Alfred Aboya: I will connect all of that. You said Basketball is not the prime sports. I grew playing soccer & i wanted to play soccer so badly that my dad, my late dad told us that you can’t play if you don’t go to school. So i stopped playing. He asked me to divorce sports. You gotta go to school. So at that point, school was important. Cause as a little kid, your dad knows everything. You learn from him. I was like: okay! soccer is not a good thing so i am just gonna do school. But then when i left Yaoundé for my aunt’s, my uncle was a soccer coach, his kids played soccer. So we were playing, fooling around. I got back to Yaoundé and started playing basketball – told y’all earlier how it happened. At that point, uhh i couldn’t come to my late dad and say: hey dad, i want to go to the U.S. and play Basketball. I could have never traveled, never traveled but because i was been recruited by schools, offering me scholarships to come play basketball, i was able to get admission to go to these schools, it was easier for him to accept that: hey, my kid is actually going to school but the most important thing was the basketball, you know what i mean. Cause student athlete is a big thing in the U.S. You are a student first, before you are an athlete. You can actually snap your leg and then, there goes your career. But a man who is well educated is already prepared for the future. Though being a big thing in the U.S , it was more important for me to excel. That’s how i kept education as my priority whilst basketball was the passion paying for my education.
Passion Fruit: Basketball was like the primary reason why you were there but then there was education which was the secondary reason like fundamentally, the foundation?
Alfred Aboya: Correct!
Passion Fruit: International relations… President of Cameroon…. Politics? Is that a full flesh goal? And how do you plan to rise to the top?
Alfred Aboya: International Relations is my College Degree, my bachelor. My Masters Program was Public Policy & Administration. I envision myself running a big organization in the country, who knows; well exactly how i perceived myself while taking those classes, those degrees. Because for me, i feel like it is my walk to purpose. Alfred Aboya, President of Cameroon… Doesn’t it sound great though? His excellency… Alfred Aboya!
Passion Fruit: smiles widely… it sounds good. Your name sounds important, you know. Some day we would be like we were the first Cameroonian publishers to interview the President of Cameroon!
Alfred Aboya: Oh no! I’m sorry!
Passion Fruit: First Anglophones?
Alfred Aboya: No, don’t say that. I don’t see the difference. We are all one. We are Cameroonians, and then we are Africans, and then we are humans. It doesn’t matter how people decide to cut out, to curb, to curve lands. For me i think we belong to the earth. We were placed here by God.
Passion Fruit: Again, we are all for the adage: charity begins at home. Liaising your skill and your education, what are your plans for sustainable development in Cameroon and youth engagement?
Alfred Aboya: Did i mention to you that i have an organization and i have an academy, it is called “TRIPLE A” – THE ALFRED ABOYA ACADEMY. I created it in 2007. The initial goal was… let me put it this way – i was one of the lucky ones to travel. Others did too, yeah, but not all encountered my level of success, as well as, there are others who had more success than i did. I just want to have a platform where kids could build dreams, cause you know everything starts with a dream. If you are in close proximity with somebody that you know made it, then you can envision yourself making it through too. I aim at being that person people look up to, that person whose footsteps many want to follow; almost like a big brother, big sister kind of relationship i get to instill in my academy. I don’t have my infrastructures up, yet. I am trying to build a community where after school my kids will come, they have coaches living with them, they would have tutors and tutorials for different study fields. Then have someone take them to school in the morning & pick them up… i want them to grow in that kind of environment. I mean, that is my big vision.
Passion Fruit: Talking about having that here?
Alfred Aboya: I created it here, it has been legalized, already running minus infrastructure. You know i want to do charitable work too… like the weekends, we go visit prisons, uhh sick people in hospitals, or les enfants de la rue…activities of that nature. I will get there eventually, i will get there.
Passion Fruit: With the help of the ongoing conversation to bring the NBA to Africa in the form of the Basketball African League (BAL), how do you plan to contribute, Cameroon being your case study or does your organization count as one of your major contributions?
Alfred Aboya: No it’s not. That’s just a side thing to me. The greatest satisfaction you can have in life is to help somebody else. My association strives at helping at a basic level, somebody else. As far as African Basketball league is concerned, i spoke with some people who are the main organizers for that. My plan this summer is to go to Senegal, meet with them in person cause they know who i am and they know what i do for basketball in the continent. I am an assistant coach to the NBA Junior League. Not many Africans hold that role. Just being in the game and being around the game as a player, college professional, and also being around the league as an assistant, having a dual position in my team – i supervise, i do training and i do programming; so i must say personal development on and off the court to ease their transition from the court to other skills and fields that inspire them after the game. I think with my involvement with the NBA at that level, it’s something we would benefit from as a country and then as a continent.
Passion Fruit: Our communities are having serious conversations. We feel like there is a reawakening. The entertainment industry is trying to change dynamics and are devoted to put the country on the map. In our Sport community, Football has been our most consistent national treasure. Don’t you think we deserve more and are capable? How would you advice both the state actors and non-state actors in influencing a movement for more?
Alfred Aboya: I am trying to look for a way of answering that question without being political. For a country to take off will depend on what the policies of that country allow if citizens are to build. In countries like the U.S, they adopted capitalism. You know you have to fight for yourself to survive. It forces you to be more innovative, forces you to be more creative, it forces you to think, to think outside the box. Here, we are kinda handicapped because of the system, not only in Cameroon, there are other countries with citizens who are dependent. When it comes to education, one thing i like about my time spent in the U.S is, there is no particular curriculum a school follows. Your school can be creative and teach what most importantly is relatable with the environment because you go in outwards not the contrary. You can’t be influenced by what comes out first. You where born somewhere, you have culture that’s already there. Why allow foreign influence to kill that first? So, i think that is the handicap that we have.
And the second part of the question, how can everyone contribute to help us emerge? I think it’s simple. Limiting it to sports only, we are so talented. In the NBA only, we have Pascal Siakam, Joel Embiid, who are the leading players in their teams and from Cameroon. In soccer, we just won the African Nations Cup. Basketball has been shining in the continent for two years now. The issue is, we don’t capitalize on that. You know, it’s one thing to expose our country and say hey we are here, we are talented and it’s another thing to war together. It should be soccer & basketball alongside, shouldn’t be treated as isolated games: hey… we support you, we want to work with you, something like an amalgamation… I played in the national team for 12 years and i don’t have a friend in the soccer team. In other countries, they know each other. In japan where i lived three years, they have a center where all national teams go, they respect the sports. That’s the living together i am talking about.
Passion Fruit: There is a lot of division, per se…
Alfred Aboya: A lot a lot… we can actually include everyone without preferences as to tribe, or culture but due to competence, even in what we do. If i have vacancy somewhere and i meet my west region friend or family member, they will want me to choose them… not someone that is more competent, not somebody who would bring more to the table to the organization. So we are still caught up with that. That aside, how can we, the diaspora, contribute to that? I think it is important we collaborate among ourselves. The continent of Africa has received according to the Western Union data, the most foreign funds, especially Southern African citizens, and this sums up to millions and trillions in all currencies. What do we spend it on? They build houses, apartment buildings…whatever and snack bars. How can we organize in a way that money that is sent, a small portion of each sum be put aside in an account which will actively involve everyone, and think about how to develop an industry, how to develop a sector and finance that sector so that it can grow and be sustainable and also finance itself against living individualistic lives. That, i think should be the contribution of people who live abroad.
Passion Fruit: Interesting… and how can this be operated?
Alfred Aboya: Sometimes you have an idea, you don’t want to really put it out there because of limitations, you know what i mean. We pay taxes overseas but we don’t pay taxes here. We can create an account, an expat account. I know not alot of people will contribute to that course, people are selfish. But we can start by signing a convention with other countries so that whenever someone gets to send money, whatever amount, a part of this money goes to this account, a tiny percent. As it amasses, a team of smart people could be rallied to detect what that money can be invested in, be it a business exclusively in Central Africa region that could benefit Cameroon as we embark in building Cameroon and making Cameroon what we dream of. That’s the system i will like to see in place here.
Passion Fruit: Hummm… sounds like Tony Elumelu’s Afri-capitalism?!
Alftred Aboya: I get so passionate talking about it.
Passion Fruit: And let’s talk about Alfred. It’s time we get to know a little more on our future president. Who are you? How do you describe your personality?
Alfred Aboya: I am a paradoxal being, very paradoxal…in the sense that, although i want to run things, i don’t want to be in the front run of things. i rather stay in the background and make changes that way. I don’t want to be known like hey… I want to do the work from the background. I guess some people call it humility but i just don’t like being in the front run of things, physically. That is the kind of person that i am. I think we have so much resources on this earth for every single citizen on this earth to be happy. Some people don’t need a lot. If i could redistribute the wealth and give the little these people want to make them happy, i would…that’s just me when i get lost in my thoughts. i always think about helping other people, always, as i mentioned also earlier.
Passion Fruit: So you thinking right now about helping me?
Alfred Aboya: laughs… i am thinking right now about helping myself and my cold… *coughs*… because i need to help myself and be good before i can invest in people. The youths are the people who need the most help. From what i am observing right now, the youths are heavily getting influenced from outside; kids today don’t live the way i grew up. The world is evolving so fast and it is affecting our youths mostly negatively.
Passion Fruit: They want to do everything Nicki Minaj does, or Cardi B does…
Alfred Aboya: i don’t even know these people. i don’t know those people. When my friends get to my car and listen to African music, they are baffled. I love African music, old school…
Passion Fruit: haha… Moving on..Your vision is long-term and we are an advocate for visionaries and pursuit of purpose. Which of your values or principles do you think will keep you grounded for the great task ahead?
Alfred Aboya: I am honest, very punctual. You caught me talking to my mum. She’s the only parent i got left. As a kid, i left the country and all i ever wanted to do was to make them proud. They came and watched me play for the first time when i graduated for college. I wanted to do more but my dad is not here today but my mum is here. I just feel like i haven’t done enough. I want to do things for her… make her travel, take her to places she only dreams of. I want her to see her grandkids grow. We get consumed and caught up with friends, and life – if i get a job, then i will get kids… i have a schedule, my life revolves around a schedule. 7:00am, practise, 8:00am, class… you know, it’s a round schedule, and i function well in a centered environment. So i think my upbringing and my parents, my mum being the only surviving parent now, keep me grounded.
Passion Fruit: And because we are an inquisitive lot, we would love to know if we’ve gotten our First lady yet & our first kids?
Alfred Aboya: I have two kids… 6 years old, first one was born on February 12th, 2nd one was born on February 11th, 2 months old. And there is the first lady, not official yet but we getting there.
Passion Fruit: What advice would you like to give to our youths today, any last words?
Alfred Aboya: I have tons and tons and if i have to, i will go on and on for hours… i am just observing. Today, you get to the airport and people are all over you… so many people are lazy, they just want to ask. They just want to get. I usually help people sometimes that i don’t know. There’s a kid who messaged me on messenger and seeked help. I have a local contact i asked to find the kid and help them. I will rather help people who want to help themselves. People want you to give and give and give, and they want to waste it on drinks, drinks, drinks… it just pains me because as a kid i had dreams. I wanted to be in the army, i had all those things that i wanted to do. I couldn’t think of not going to school to spend days in bars . So if i should, i would prefer to back up any messages i got with actions; actions that relate with what i have done, and where i have been. Most importantly values that put family and school first, just as my parents instilled in me, as they are same values that took me through my journey to where i am today. Kids today don’t listen to their parents or their elders. We need to go back to the basics. How do they go back to the basics? I think we have to have better accountability. Parents of today have to instill better values in their kids, they have to do lots of extra efforts, educate their kids on the right ways and make sure that what these young people watch on their phones, TV, & social media have some sensibility to it. You can not put things that 6, 7 years old shouldn’t watch, it would just destroy them, but all of that has to be regulated by the parents. It hurts me to see what’s going on. I see people with so much potential but going to waste because of what is allowed.
Passion Fruit: Thank You Alfred, we are so glad to have had you!
Alfred aboya: Pleasure is mine and i cannot wait to read through.
Passion Fruit: One last… You seem a christian? Like it was interesting to hear you dedicate your whole journey to God.
Alfred Aboya: Yes, why ask? ohhh… So it’s interesting cause when i went to the states, i went to a few churches around… for me the church dun matter but your relationship with God is most important. You know, God is a God of Good, a God of forgiveness , God is tolerant. And the good thing is, we are children of a father who is forgiving and patient. If we cultivate these as values, we will thrive.
Passion Fruit: It was awesome hearing that from you… So i run my platform based on my relationship with God. It’s very important for me to maintain that. It’s also been important for me to bring everyone together on non-judgmental basis because that is practically what God’s law preaches, unconditional and Global love cause God loves us all… (digressed to small chitchat) – A Cameroonian lesbian based in the UK was my first interviewee and i faced scrutiny on the foundation of my faith.
Alfred Aboya: Yeah but who are you to judge? It doesn’t make her less of a person. She isn’t lacking…all the body parts you got, she got them too, soooo…
Passion Fruit: So we close this session… as we stay connected.
You can find Alfred Aboya on: