• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

Osaka manifesting her in frustration during one of her her matches against the Czech, Marketa Vondrousova at Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo. | REUTERS

As more women keep on sharing their difficulties as women athletes, it seems the hour has come to examine what it means to be a woman and an athlete. This text is not about sexism in sports. We all agree that sexism is a crime and should be considered as one. But here, I want to look at how being a woman (with all its hormonal experiences) is viewed in sports. I know that some people might turn this around to question women’s suitability in specific functions and sports. But I think that will be unfair as the question should be, how does one perform particular roles while coping with both one’s hormonal realities and the intersectionality that cross her gender, race and class? We can observe this more among black women athletes. The experiences of some of them have alerted us to reconsider our knowledge of what it means to be a woman and an athlete.

When Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, Roland Garros, many people never took the time to consider her both as a human being, a person of colour, and a woman before being an athlete. They only saw a tennis player who has neither emotion nor hormones. No one thought she could be struggling with her identity as both black and Japanese. The problem started when they fined her for refusing to appear at the press conferences. Many reminded her that “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” But we also know that the payer should never call for a tune neither the pipe nor the piper can produce. No one should ask an athlete to be a superhuman or to stop being a woman and from a minority group.

These recent developments call to ask what we see when we see women athletes.

  • Do they, like every other woman, undergo their menstrual cycles, for example?

  • How does a woman in her cycle navigate through the menstrual cycle and the heavy training involved?

  • What are the psychological effects of battling with the desire to win and the difficulties involved in such cycles?

  • What does it mean to be the model for every young lady from their race or country?

In a research conducted at the School of Health and Life Sciences, the University of West of Scotland, Lanarkshire, the UK , we observe some scary outcomes. The research objective was to explore the past and present experiences and perceptions of the menstrual cycle of athletes with its impact on sporting performance.

They interviewed 15 international female rugby players. And according to their findings, almost all athletes (93%) reported menstrual cycle-related symptoms. 33% of them perceived heavy menstrual bleeding and 67% considered that these symptoms impaired their performances. In addition, 2/3 of the athletes self-medicated to alleviate symptoms, etc.

Once they gathered all their data, they grouped their findings under:

1. Symptoms

They observed that the athletes had physiological and psychological menstrual cycle-related symptoms such as dysmenorrhea, flooding, reduced energy levels, worry, distraction, fluctuating emotions, decreased motivation, etc.

2. Impacts

Their menstrual cycles impacted different aspects of their daily lives and performance, including negative and neutral responses, mood swings, etc.

According to the researchers, it is imperative to:

  1. Highlights individual athlete’s responses to menstrual “issues.”

  2. Emphasize the need for clinicians and support staff to undertake menstrual cycle profiling, monitoring, and

  3. Continue to develop awareness, openness, knowledge and understanding of the menstrual cycle.”

And more to these hormone-related problems, it’s essential to understand that in addition to being an athlete and a woman, being a woman from minority diversity makes intersectionality more complicated. The reason is that they also face racial and cultural challenges. No wonder both Simon Biles and Naomi Osaka expressed the hardship in terms of pressure. Miss Osaka said, “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this.” And in the words of Miss Biles: “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn, sometimes it’s hard, hahaha!”


• Findlay RJ, Macrae EHR, Whyte IY, et al. How the menstrual cycle and menstruation affect sporting performance: experiences and perceptions of elite female rugby players British Journal of Sports Medicine 2020; 54:1108–1113.


Photo Credit: The Reuter

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  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

Aujourd’hui, on pouvait voir visiblement que, malgré ses 86 ans, le père oblat Laurent Desaulniers reste toujours un homme du cœur. C’était ce qu’il a manifesté quand l’autobus portant plus de cinquante aînés de la communauté innue de Matimekush-Lac John a débarqué à la réception du Sanctuaire Notre-Dame-du-Cap à Trois-Rivières.

Rappelons que chaque année des centaines d’autochtones se mobilisent pour assister à la neuvaine de Sainte-Anne, la grand-mère de Jésus à Ste Anne de Beaupré. La neuvaine est une forme de prière qui se déroule en neuf jours consécutifs. C’est souvent un temps où on récite une série de prières particulières implorant l’aide de Dieu ou en demandant l’intercession de la Vierge Marie ou d’un autre Saint. Il existe aussi d’autres neuvaines directement adressées à Dieu.

C’est grâce à cet évènement qui, chaque année, rassemble des communautés autochtones, surtout des aînés, à Sainte-Anne de Beaupré que la communauté de Matimekush-Lac John en a profité pour rendre visite à ce missionnaire qui leur est cher. Ils se sont mobilisés pour rendre la neuvaine de cette année digne de ce qu’elle est, et surtout pour rendre grâce au Seigneur pour la protection qu’il a accordée à la communauté pendant tout ce temps de pandémie. Un voyage organisé a donc été planifié pour tous les aînés qui souhaitaient y prendre part.

En train, en auto et en avion, ils ont fait plus de mille kilomètres pour s’y rendre. Arrivés hier, le 23 juillet, ils se sont reposés pour mieux entrer dans cet événement de foi. Et dès le lendemain, cet exercice spirituel a repris avec une visite de courtoisie au sanctuaire Notre Dame du Cap où réside depuis quelques années cet ancien missionnaire du peuple innu, le P. Laurent Desaulniers. Ce fut donc une journée d’une forte émotion pour cet octogénaire oblat, mais aussi pour ces aînés qui l’ont accueilli dans leur communauté pour plusieurs années.

Rappelons que le P. Laurent a d’abord été missionnaire en Bolivie où il a lutté à côté des miniers et d’autres ouvriers. Un homme pour qui la justice sociale est un enjeu évangélique, il a passé plusieurs années comme prêtre ouvrier afin de comprendre et aider les ouvriers exploités par les grandes entreprises.

À son retour au Canada, après quelques années où il a travaillé pour la formation de futurs oblats, il a été envoyé dans les communautés innues. Lors de son homélie, d’aujourd’hui, il a remercié les peuples innus d’avoir fait de lui un prêtre heureux. Selon son témoignage, parmi des miniers, en Bolivie, il était un missionnaire et ouvrier (minier) à la fois. Mais à son arrivée chez les Innus, la communauté lui a montré la joie d’être missionnaire, en l’accueillant comme l’un de leurs. On le voyait manifestement ému et reconnecté avec ce peuple qui l’aime aussi.

Au départ, il a pris le temps de saluer chaque aîné. Et avec sa manière d’être, chaque aîné a été reçu avec une attention particulière. Et chaque aîné a aussi été évidemment heureux de le revoir. Ensuite, après ce rituel d’accueil, il a présidé l’Eucharistie en Innu-aimun. Des aînés des communautés de Matimekush-Lac John, d’Ekuanitshit, et d’Uashat-Mak-Mani-Utenam ont fait partie de cette belle délégation qui a rempli le petit sanctuaire de ce lieu historique de la Mauricie. L’événement s’est clôturé avec un repas festif au Buffet des Continents.


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  • Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I - Black and Missionary

Once an ideology becomes dogmatic without proving its cause, it stands to fail. The Biafran cause under the leadership of Maazi Nnamdi Kanu is gradually turning into an ideology without proving its worth. The temptation will be to wave away this statement without giving it careful thought. But that will only confirm the statement. Hence, let us examine if Nnamdi Kanu is the one to come?

At the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist witnessed the public pronunciation of Jesus’ divine filiation. Yet, when John was sent to the prisoned, and Jesus did not come to rescue him, he felt the need to have some explanations; and sent his disciples to inquire if Jesus is indeed the awaited Messiah.

In the same way, the recent arrest of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, begs for some clarifications. It begs us to ask if he is the liberator Biafra is waiting for or we should keep looking for another one. Let us see why we think the question is essential.

The fraudulent apprehension of Maazi Kanu by the Nigerian government surprised many of us. There were different opinions. Some were wondering if he was sold out by those close to him. And others were questioning the role both the Kenyan and the British governments played in his arrest. Consequently, understanding what exactly took place is vital to comprehend his suitability for the role he appears to have been playing well.

To begin, if Kanu orchestrated his arrest, then he might be the one we are expecting. I’m not saying this because I’m an Igbo. But it is precisely how charismatic leaders play their cards.

Already, Kanu has created a cult around his person. And, in few years of his fight against the Nigerian government, he succeeded in creating a critical narrative around the Nigerian nation. But, unfortunately, every empire has a limit to its expansion. Kanu’s movement, it seems, has arrived at the apogee of its growth. It does not mean the movement can no longer progress; on the contrary, the fire is intense and grounded. But the problem is whether Kanu is still the right person to push it forward.

First, Kanu succeeded in exposing the present Nigerian government for what it is. Secondly, he has made many young people rise against the government. And finally, he also made the government lose its confidence and thus acting without thinking it through.

Unfortunately, he also made the U.K. government not interested in his cause by his repeated attack on their institution and international relationship. And with the defeat of the Israeli Nationalist Party, he also lost a (fictive but important) ally. As a result, the Biafran movement can no longer use the name of the Israeli government for its interest.

Therefore, Kanu needed to take a radical step. In the game of chess, there is a move called the Queen Sac. Queen sac is when a player sacrifices a queen to check the opponent or simply for position compensation and long-term advantages. In this move, something important ought to be offered to give a deadly blow to the opponent. The question is then whether Kanu’s arrest is the Queen Sac of the IPOB? If so, the Nigerian government should be careful not to fall for the bait.

Historically, similar baits abound in revolutionary movements. When they condemned Socrates to death, he had the possibility of running away, but he chose to die instead of abandoning his cause. And when his friend, Crito, wanted to arrange for his escape from the prison, Socrates refused, saying that if he runs, they will say he betrayed his teaching. But if he dies, he will convince more people that his plan was worth dying for. So, they unjustly executed Socrates, and his ideology expanded like wildfire.

When Jesus was preaching in the streets of Israel, he knew the danger he was facing. And when it was evident that he could die, he never ran away; instead, he took to the cross. And because of his passion for God and human liberation, we keep on following his way even after two thousand years. Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and many other great revolutionaries could all be inscribed in this line of charismatic and passionate leaders.

It is in line with them that Kanu could be classed if he saw what happened to him coming. And if he did this purposely, the Nigerian government would make a monumental mistake in allowing him to die because they will make him not just a hero but a god.

And on the other hand, if Kanu inadvertently had himself arrested, then all we thought of him being wise could be questioned. I also am not saying this because I am not a fan of his method of self-realization. Instead, we know that he has waged war against this nation more than any other youth. We also know that he has afflicted more injuries to the image of this country than anyone else. It is then surprising that he could be unaware that this regime could go the extra mile to silence him.

Furthermore, if they accidentally arrested him, it either means he has no good adviser, or he does not listen to them. We might not want to believe this, but Kanu has succeeded in infuriating the Nigerian government more than everybody in this nation. And unlike great Ojukwu, who staged war against entire Nigeria, Kanu has created many factions against the ruling government. We might also not want to hear this, but Kanu is why the unknown gunmen exist. And his crusade against this government made it possible for Sunday Igboho and many other agitators to garner more supporters.

Besides, even though this government has never been serious, Nnamdi Kanu showed the world how impotent it is. And despite that their failure in security strategies has always been apparent, with the constant distractions created by Kanu, the world knows that they are clueless. For these reasons, he should have known that he is a persona non grata in this nation.

We need to understand if Kanu is the saviour we have been waiting for, or should we keep looking for another? Has he played his last card, or is he simply applying a distraction method?