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Switzerland is Home: An open letter by Swiss national player, Michel-Ofik "Ziggy" Nzege

This piece was written by Jamal Clay, a frequent contributor of Globally Ballin and the founder of "The Athletes Forum"

I never realized how big of a deal playing for my country was until my  closest friends kept telling me how special it is. “You’re representing our country on an international level, it’s insane!” That’s what one of my friends said after watching me play for the national team on TV, initially I just brushed it off, but I was slowly soaking in the fact that she was right. To me it was just the natural evolution of my career, but seeing that amazement and excitement from my close friends made me even more proud to wear that Swiss Jersey.

It was weird though, growing up all I wanted to do was play football (soccer) just like every single one of my cousins (I come from a Congolese family, Africans love football and that’s it) but my mom kept telling me no. When I was 7, they started a basketball team in my school for the kids in my class. Since all the boys in my class were going, I was like, well I want to be with my friends so I’m joining too. My hopes got crushed when I found out that we had to ask our parents’ permission hahaha, I was already expecting another rejection from my mom. But to my surprise when I asked her, she simply said, “Yeah of course, go ahead”, God never makes mistakes. This “Yeah of course, go ahead” took this little 7 years old boy from being one of the best in Geneva, to a D1 scholarship, to one of the best in his home country.

Chocolate, watches, cheese and banks...When you hear Switzerland those are probably the first things that comes to your mind, can’t blame you for that. But in the city where I was born and raised, hooping has a special place. Geneva, home of the UN and the Red Cross, but also known as the biggest basketball city across Switzerland. A lot of people don’t even know it, but the FIBA’s headquarter is in Geneva, look it up. Because it’s such a small country that doesn’t have a reputation for high level sports, we’re rarely being taken seriously. But it’s all bound to change. We’ve shown with the National team that we can compete AND beat some big nations, and with Clint Capela becoming a huge star in the NBA (my boy is also from Geneva by the way) we’re slowly changing the narrative.

Basketball is literally my everything... I eat, drink, sleep, dream about basketball. I a work RELENTLESSLY every day to become one of the very best players in this game, I haven’t had my big break YET, but trust and believe it IS on the way. I’m hell bent on proving myself that I can and will become the player I aspire to be and keep showing the world that Switzerland got some really good hoopers.

The Covid-19 pandemic really put a big halt on everything initially, it was tough having to stay home for two weeks straight and not do anything. But luckily here in Switzerland the government allowed us to resume certain activities, as long as we respect social distancing measures. It’s unfortunate that the competition had to be stopped, however it’s giving me the longest summer of my career and therefore, the chance to put even more work to get ahead in this marathon.

This upcoming season will be my breakout year. Nothing is going to stop me from achieving that. It’s that simple.

If I didn’t play basketball, I’d probably used the same relentless work ethic I have to be a big-time entertainer in Hollywood. I’ve always loved acting and the intricacies of that profession.

The last couple of months were full of highs and lows, and uncertainties. But one thing that I’m most certain of is, my love for the game of basketball.

Peace out. Stay Relentless.

Michel-Ofik “Ziggy” Nzege

PS: “Relentless is a state of mind that can give you the strength to achieve, to survive, to overcome, to be strong when others are not. It means craving the end results so intensely that the work becomes irrelevant....The ability to be relentless is in all of us.”

-Tim Grover

This piece was written by Jamal Clay, a frequent contributor of Globally Ballin and the founder of "The Athletes Forum"


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