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UK family to set up foundation in Nigeria

UNITED: (Left-right) Efe Sodje, Sam Sodje, Akpo Sodje, Luther Blissett, Mike Kellett, Clive Gray and Stephen Sodje

A NIGERIAN family, which has produced six sporting stars, is setting up a sports foundation in Nigeria next year.

Siblings, Bright, Stephen, Efe, Sam and Akpo Sodje and their nephew Onome Sodje already run a mentoring scheme in Greenwich, south London, where they grew up but told The Voice they hope to extend this scheme to Warri, in Nigeria’s conflict-affected Niger Delta region in January 2012.

The family said it would be working with education authorities in Nigeria to “build a structured sports centre starting with football across 24 schools in a two-mile radius around Warri that would involve over 500 school children,” said Stephen Sodje as he made the announcement at a recently held event at the House of Lords in central London.

He said his family wants to help with nation building in Nigeria. “Nigeria has eight million children outside the formal education system. If Nigeria is to fulfil its potential as a leading African country, it will need these eight million children to be educated and go on to be Nigeria’s future leaders.”

Five of the 10 Sodje children have distinguished themselves in sports, four in football, following in the footsteps of their father, Chief Samuel, – and one in rugby. The nephew is also a professional footballer.

The Sodje brothers’ wide range of sporting accolades includes Bright playing for top English rugby league team Hull Kingston Rovers; Efe and Sam both representing the Nigerian national team and Akpo playing for Scottish club Hibernian.

Stephen, the second eldest Sodje son in a family made of up seven boys and three girls, said the family is already beginning to help get sports equipment to youngsters who need it.

“We often take vacation back in Delta, Warri, which is where we are from originally and with the help of Virgin Airways, the Football Association and the Professional Footballers Association, we have been able to take back sports kits, equipment from professional teams in the UK to Nigeria and distribute it to schools and children in the Niger Delta area,’ Stephen told The Voice.

“Despite the lack of evidence of development in Warri or the wider Delta region since 1981, these trips fill the city and its children with an energy that is often lacking. This energy is needed not just once a year but all year round and this is what the foundation is going to do.”

His younger brother Efe, who was also present at the launch, announced that he would play a big part in the running of the programme.

“I will go back to Nigeria to teach the children myself, we are not just taking the equipment to some unknowns; we have reliable people on ground,” Efe said.

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