By Desmond Anuku
Following noise complaints from neighbours, the basketball net at St. Luke’s Park in Centretown was shortened, rendering it unusable by the neighbourhood’s youth.
The roots of the Ottawa Centre Cup stemmed from this division in the community, but 15 years later, the event continues to have the opposite effect, bringing participants together to celebrate the sport and their community.
Yasir Naqvi, now the area’s Member of Parliament, remembers hearing about the shortening of the nets and decided he had to do something about it.
“That’s not fair,” Naqvi recalls. “This is just guys from the community who are playing basketball. And that’s what we want young people to do is play sports.”
The length of the net was later restored, and the Naqvi Cup (since renamed the Ottawa Centre Cup) basketball event was formed with the goal of building bridges and connections throughout the community.
The Cup – which included a BBQ, ice cream and tabling by community organizations, the fire department, and many others this year – has helped provide a positive view on the use of the basketball court in the community.
“No one complains anymore,” signals Naqvi.
The Aug. 19 event was attended by many members of the community, including city councillors, Ottawa Community Housing CEO Stéphane Giguère, and Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, who delivered the honorary tip-off for the game between the St. Luke’s youth and Christie Lake Kids teams.
Sutcliffe says he has an appreciation for the event as a means of empowerment and opportunity for young individuals, particularly those hailing from low-income backgrounds. He notes that basketball is a sport that requires minimal equipment, making it accessible to everyone regardless of their circumstances.
“All you need is one ball and 10 kids and you can play,” he underlines.
Sutcliffe is also enthusiastic for the announced upcoming refurbishment of the basketball court in St. Luke’s Park, which is currently uneven due to the presence of tree roots. The mayor’s excitement stems from the belief that a well-maintained court will provide a safer and more conducive environment for youth to enjoy the sport, he highlights.
As the popularity of basketball increases in Ottawa, more programs and courts continue to be in demand in the city.
With a desire to repair established courts and build new ones, Naqvi notes that he plans to continue collaborating with the City of Ottawa to upgrade the St. Luke’s court and others for safe use.
The St. Luke’s and Christie Lake Kids teams stole the show at this year’s Cup with an exciting game full of pure passion and love for the sport emanating from them, while the OC Express and St. Luke’s Bulls teams faced off afterwards in the main event.
This article is part of the Ottawa Sports Pages’ Inclusion in Sport series. Read more about local sport inclusion initiatives at: OttawaSportsPages.ca/Ottawa-Sports-Pages-Inclusion-In-Sport-Series/.
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