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Giannis Antetokounmpo’s quest to connect to his Nigerian roots drives new Igbo center in Lagos

Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking to give opportunities to kids to learn their dialect, something he did not have as a kid.

NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has revealed how his desire to get in touch with his Nigerian heritage motivated the decision to open a new Igbo literacy centre in Lagos.

Pulse Sports Nigeria can report that the Milwaukee Bucks forward has funded the hub to promote literacy and knowledge of Igbo language and culture amongst youths in the city where his family once lived.

The 29-year-old was in Nigeria to showcase a documentary of his homecoming in partnership with WhatsApp.

The impressive short film is titled “UGO: A Homecoming Story’, with Antetokounmpo in the country alongside his mother.

Antetokounmpo has collaborated with WhatsApp as a brand ever since he made an appearance in the messaging app’s first global advertisement in 2022.

WhatsApp was licensed to document his first-ever visit to Nigeria last year as he saw, touched, and interacted with a people, a country, and a family that he had only ever known from a distance.

It was during this visit that the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player also unveiled an Igbo literacy facility to teach children, according to a Business Day report.

Speaking on the idea of establishing the facility to promote Igbo via books, Giannis, who was born of a Yoruba Father and an Igbo mother, noted that he was inspired by his mother following his childhood struggle to speak both Yoruba and Igbo.

According to him, his parents disagreed on who should teach the kids their dialect and he wants to give others a chance he never had.

“My whole life, like whenever you go meet people in the streets and they ask you where you from and you tell them Nigeria, it’s like, ‘okay, what part?” he said.

“Growing up, like we always said ‘Yoruba’ because my dad was proud. But my mom is Igbo. My mom used to secretly teach us how to count the A, B, C in Igbo.

On the idea behind the Igbo literacy facility, the power forward added;

“It was unbelievable. I have a book that my mum can read in Igbo and translate below in English.

If I had that, I would probably be speaking my mother’s or father’s languages. I know that I need it, I wish that my kids and grandkids could have it, it’s amazing.”

Having never lived in Nigeria, the establishment of the Lagos centre represents an attempt by Giannis to foster a connection to his roots and give back to the country that shaped his parents’ early lives.

She tried to teach us a lot of things about where she was from and her culture.”

 

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