Mo Solaude says space to play sport ‘very important’ for inner-city youngsters

Mo Solaude says space to play sport ‘very important’ for inner-city youngsters

Having the space to enjoy playing sport remains fundamental to help guide inner-city youngsters away from anti-social behaviour, according to Great Britain and London Lions guard Mo Solaude.

National research conducted by the Lions showed 73 per cent of people in the UK agreed cities are forgetting about children, becoming congested and running out of space for kids to play.

Part of the study, which was conducted across a nationally representative cohort of 2,090 respondents, also revealed 46 per cent of people felt playing sports with friends in their local area when they were growing up helped develop some of their most important life skills.

The analysis additionally showed 16 per cent of those surveyed said if they did not have free space to play sports as youngsters, they would have engaged in anti-social behaviour or crime.

Solaude, 27, grew up in Milton Keynes before going on to come through the Great Britain national team ranks and build a professional career, spending more than a decade in Spain ahead of a switch to London during the summer.

In a project for the club’s community foundation, the Lions are renovating an inner-city court located in Bethnal Green, east London, which will offer youngsters the space to enjoy basketball in a welcoming environment.

“It is a lot better now, but you can never say the job is done. There are always improvements you can make,” Solaude told the PA news agency.

“Compared to when I was younger playing basketball in Milton Keynes, it was very hard to book a facility or find an outside space to play.

A basketball player trains himself on an empty multi-sport court
There continues to be a need for investment in grassroots basketball facilities (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“The only ones you could really find were school spaces, and they were closed out of hours, so unless you were willing to jump a barrier, then you are not finding an outside court where you can go to play with your friends.

“Now there are a lot more courts popping up, there is a lot more investment into basketball and outdoor spaces for kids.

“Kids need that outdoor space to be active and just be with each other, because if they are not, then they are inside on their PlayStation, watching TV or on their phones. The social factor of having these outside spaces is important as well as the health factor.

“Sport is a great channel, kids love it, but if they don’t have a space to go and play it, to really get into it, then they are going to look to do something else.

“Having the facilities available, whether it is a park or leisure centre, that they can go and play basketball, football or whatever it might be, is very important and it keeps them away from those other negative activities.”

The Lions return to EuroCup action against Italian side Aquila Basket Trento at the Copper Box Arena on Tuesday night looking to recover from an opening defeat away to Hapoel Tel Aviv.

“The season is still early, we are still working things out and going through rotations,” said Solaude, who brings with him EuroCup experience from his time with Malaga.

“We lost the first game, but we are confident in the players we have, the coaches and our organisation that we can really go and make some noise in Europe.”