Where are they Now?

WALID ZABADNE: THE MASTER DUNKER

WALID ZABADNE: THE MASTER DUNKER 

BY AKINLOLU AJE

At 57, Walid Zabadne is a household name in Nigeria’s world of bas­ketball, a handsome, athletic six-footer,  the kind of man a basketball team manager would lose his sleep over ‘if Walid had been younger’.

In the mid-fifties, I met Walid at his 93, Broad Street, Lagos office when he brought the pop corn machine to Lagos and was demonstrating it to crowds as they milled around to see a machine doing what “guguru” (pop corn) sellers do in hot iron or earthen pots.

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Anyone seeing him even in those mid-1950s would know Walid had an appointment with history. Now, he is the Managing Director, Messrs Zabad­ne & Company at Abibu Oki Street, La­gos.

Born in Damascus, Syria, on May 15 1935, Walid had always liked the business of “buying and selling”. He attended the College of Edu­cation in Amman, Jordan,  and special­ised in distributorship and business management.

The presence of Walid in Nigeria did not take long for our sporting world to know. At 21, he was al­ready famous among his Syrian col­leagues as a footballer.

Walid Zabadne, an outspoken natural leader of men, became a force to be reckoned with in the sporting circles of the Syrians who had their own boxing, cycling, foot­ball and cricket teams. These were traits which were of­ten looked for among young Syrian scholars.

Each evening when Walid left his 93 Broad Street, Lagos office, he went to take part in one of his fa­vourite games. He excelled in each of them and transformed from the slim young man to a little thick-set athlete.

Walid specialized in swimming, volleyball, basketball and judo. Be­sides, he was no stranger to car rac­ing, flying and water skiing.

Even then, basketball was not very popular in Nigeria. There must be other teams to compete with. Soon new teams were formed, their activities given deserved publicity and contacts made with competing sides.

Up to 1964, there were not many clubs interested in basketball. Nigeri­ans competed between themselves in those early days.

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Walid remembered that the Northern Nigeria Basketball Associa­tion was inaugurated at the Northern Nigeria Secondary College, Zaria. That was the second of such body to be set up.

When the First All-Africa Games was to be held in 1964, Walid, who had successfully led the Syrian Bas­ketball Club for many years, served as the Team Manager to the Nigerian team,   with Mr A.I.D. Ambrogio as coach. The Nigerian team was camped at the Abalti Barracks, Yaba from December, 1964 to January 1965. Participating teams came from Upper Volta, Togo, Dahomey, Niger and Nigeria. There were also women teams.

There was, in 1965, a West African University Games which kicked off at the University of Ibadan at a time when Walid was Vice Chairman of the Nation­al Committee. A “naturalized” Nigerian, Walid in­sists: “Nigeria first is my motto”

There has been a successful expan­sion of Messrs Zabadne and Company which now has its head office along Abi­bu Oki Street, Lagos.

His associates in the Basketball Club’ include Lt J.R.T. Akahan, Ayo Ogun, Alabi Adelanwa, General Joseph Garba who eventually took over the chairman­ship of the Association from him. Walid was never personal. Most of his talks centred around basketball, vol­leyball and other sporting interests.

Not knowing much of his sporting records, the National Sports Council at Tafawa Balewa Square obliged some in­formation about him and sent me ques­tioning, to him. Walid was reticent at first until I re­called his “guguru” days when pop corn sold like hot cake.

He was a winner of the NSC Merit Award, and has variously performed the role of a player, coach, referee, cap­tain, chairman and Chief de Mission to international competitions.

He was the first Nigerian Interna­tional Referee (Basketball); a member of the Clubs set up to finance a strong Nigerian presence in the Olympic Games.

Walid Zabadne has even sponsored the All Nigerian Universities Basket­ball Championships when he donated a cup in 1983. He is a member of the Nigerian Olympic Committee.

He was warmly congratulated by Gen Yakubu Gowon (when he was Head of State) when he donated a cup to Nigerian basketball clubsides. Cups competed for in those days include NUGA, GOWON, IMANA, Zabadne Cups, and Badejo Cups.

First published Saturday, December 19, 1992.