NBB Nederland

Not everyone who plays basketball has to end up in the NBA. Sometimes it is a big deal if athletes, by practicing sports, stay away from alcohol and drugs and do not end up in sex tourism. Edward Spier ensures this with his 'Hoops for Gambia', a foundation that builds a better future for youth in the African country.

Edward 'Eddie' Spier went to Gambia for the first time with his wife in 2017. He was already looking up what there was to do in basketball in the country. He found the BBA, the 'Bakau Basketball Academy', and as a fanatic coach and trainer he decided to give training there. “And then I saw: this is simply not possible. A very bad square, bad balls and people played in bare feet or slippers. On the plane back I said to my wife Desirée: We have to do something about this.”


That feeling kept nagging. He emailed the CEO of the airline that arranged his trip and presented him with his complete game plan. Edward wanted to start a youth academy in Gambia and set up a national youth team. And all with the aim of using basketball to keep youth on the right path.

The director was convinced: he offered that his company would sponsor flights and hotel stays. In the years that followed, Spier traveled to Gambia two or three times a year to further shape the project. In 2018, the BBA became a 'foundation', on which, in addition to Spier, Enoch Derby and Jurriën Berghuis are on the board. They put the goals in black and white: Teaching through basketball. Using athletes to get the message out to kids: stay in school, get your education, get a job.

What started with about 79 students quickly grew to almost 300 young people attending the BBA. The BBA became a social safety net in which older young people led small groups of younger members. Edward: “They check: have you finished your homework? What are you running into? What can we do? We only play basketball after school work.”


The Bakau Basketball Academy turned out to meet a huge need. Then corona struck and the pandemic showed how vulnerable even the best initiatives can be. The BBA lost the vast majority of its members. The national youth team shrunk from a selection of 18 players to 3. Edward: “Those three are the only ones we know where they are. One is still in the country, the other two are in Ethiopia and Senegal and are trying to get to Europe. The rest? They have moved, simply stopped or perhaps died. We do not know." The lesson: without basketball, social control disappears. And that changed the plan of action somewhat. When it rains in Gambia, which is a large part of the year, games cannot be played. There are no sports halls. Spier and his team therefore shifted their focus. “There had to be a field with a roof, with solar panels and lamps, so that people can play every day, including in the evening.”

'Hoops for Gambia' made contact with an architect - the plan for the covered field is ready. A local chief and the mayor of Bakau promised that the foundation (because that is what it is now) can receive a huge piece of land to realize the plan. “We actually have everything we need to get started,” says Edward. “Except money.”


Edward's plans for the foundation cost – for now – around 25,000 euros. He has received just over 1,000 sponsorships and a school in Groningen will soon be organizing a sponsored run to supplement that amount. Via, Spier now hopes that someone sees the project, appreciates it and wants to contribute. “Anything can help. Money to build the field, but also old clothing, materials: we can use it all.”

If it were up to him, Hoops for Gambia could quickly continue with the BBA, where it once left off. Through the basketball academy and the national team, Hoops for Gambia aims to create local heroes who inspire the youth locally. “If we really want to help Gambia, we have to plant seeds among the youth so that they can help the country further. I really believe that basketball is a very good tool for that.”

Would you like to support Edward's Foundation? Any help is welcome. Donate via this link and also check out that site for other ways to contribute.

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