“How tall are you?” “What is your shoe size” “You’re a big man. Are you afraid of the dark?” “What did you want to be growing up?”
These were some of the questions the Turkish and Syrian 5th grade students asked Cedi Osman, the famous Turkish NBA basketball player and UNICEF Youth Supporter, during his visit to Mehmet Akif İnan Secondary School in Gaziantep. In the final week of classes, children and Cedi discussed the importance of sports and making friends to grow up mentally strong and enjoy a healthy childhood.
“My love for sports taught me to better manage my life. I am able to take care of myself, physically and mentally. I had a very healthy childhood and now adulthood thanks to practicing a sport. I made many great friends through basketball. This is the message I want to give to all children. They should practice a sport. Any sport! It helps them overcome hardships in life and become stronger, better individuals. It also helps with learning to become more successful at school.” Cedi Osman said.
The girls’ basketball team had a suprise for Cedi in the outdoors basketball court of the school. After the girls took turns to shoot the ball, Cedi showed children a few moves. As he spoke to the group of children in the basketball court he added: “Sports is great. But learning at school is very important. I always ensured that I also worked hard at school. Don’t ever stop moving and learning!”
In the afternoon, Cedi joined the Turkish language courses for Syrian young children and adolescents as part of the Non-Formal Education Programme, implemented in close collaboration with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and funded by EU, at the Gazikent Youth Center. The courses aim to support refugee children to enhance their ability to integrate in their local communities and Turkish Public Schools.
When asked about the famous visitor, 16-year old Eye said: “I was very excited to speak Turkish with Cedi. I am a big fan. We talked about our hobbies. I said I liked football the most. I want to be a professional football player when I grow up.”
After class, children and Cedi moved to the indoor basketball court. They enjoyed a quick basketball practice followed by a question-answer session where the children sat in a circle around Cedi. They asked many questions from “How does it feel to play against LeBron James?” to “What advice do you give to become a professional basketball player?”. All of the questions lead to one common answer: Set goals, work hard, and make education a priority no matter what.
After a fun and inspiring dialogue, Cedi wrapped up the session by saying: “Practising sports results in many educational gains as well as social ones. Practice one sport, make friends and participate in life through sports.” At the end, the children, Cedi and the Youth center staff paused for a family photo.