Monday , July 4 2022

Former Opals captain alleges that claims Liz Cambage told Nigerian basketball players ‘go back to your third-world country’ are true | Basketball

Former Opals captain Jenna O’Hea has spoken about the incident which prompted Liz Cambage’s messy exit from the national program, alleging unconfirmed claims the star told her Nigerian rivals to “go back to your third-world country” are true.

Cambage was independently investigated and issued a formal reprimand – but not suspended or fined – after last year’s practice-game altercation derailed the Opals’ Tokyo Olympics campaign.

In the days after the Nigeria clash she withdrew from the Games citing mental health concerns and then, despite remaining available for selection for this year’s World Cup in Sydney, said she would never again play for the Opals.

However, the specifics of Cambage’s on-court actions have remained a mystery since.

On Sunday, while O’Hea was a guest on the ABC’s Offsiders program, she was asked about the incident by the show’s host, Kelli Underwood.

“This all started in that training game, or the pre-Olympics game, when you played Nigeria,” Underwood said.

“And it’s never really emerged what happened, but I’ve had it confirmed from a few sources, is it correct that you were playing Nigeria and Liz Cambidge had her feathers ruffled and she turned to them and said, ‘go back to your third world country’?

“And, of course, Ezi Magbegor is originally Nigerian, a Nigerian who is now living in Australia and playing for your team, and as a result there was a brawl that erupted, and since then you haven’t spoken to her?”

O’Hea responded with the claim: “That is all 100% correct.”

Fellow guest Caroline Wilson then asked O’Hea whether Cambage would ever represent Australia again. “No,” O’Hea said.

Last July, when Cambage unexpectedly withdrew from the Australian team on the eve of the Olympics, she called it “literally one of the hardest decisions of my life”.

In a social media post, she also hit out at “lies” and “fake news” surrounding her decision and directly responded to speculation about the on-court incident during that scrimmage against Nigeria.

“Yeah, things got heated in the Nigeria game, there was a physical altercation and there were words exchanged,” Cambage said. “But I’m hearing things that aren’t true at all. Everything that happened and everything I’ve said is on film.”

Offsiders also aired footage of an ABC interview with Cambage from her base in Los Angeles, where she has started playing with WNBA side the LA Sparks.

The 30-year-old, who has a Nigerian father, said: “I’m living my best life. I’m supported. I’m protected on a level that the Opals or the Australian team never gave to me.

“My heart lies with those who want to protect me and those who want me to be the best I can be, and I never felt that at the Opals at all.”

O’Hea, a longtime captain of Cambage, responded: “I can hold my head up high and say I always loved her, always cared for her, supported her, had her back. That is her reality and the listeners and watchers out there can believe who they want to believe.

“Everyone’s done more than enough. We’ve sacrificed a lot to try and keep her in the program. She doesn’t want to be here any more. That’s her choice and we need to move on without her.”

O’Hea did say the Sparks appeared a good fit for Cambage. “She’s always wanted to be in LA,” she said. “I think she’s happy that she’s there, and when she’s happy she plays really good basketball.”

The Opals struggled without Cambage in Tokyo but O’Hea said with proper preparation Sandy Brondello’s outfit would play to its ranking – which has long fluctuated between No 2 and No 3 in the world – at Sydney’s World Cup.

Their September campaign could also mark the return of Lauren Jackson, who has dominated at NBL1 level for Albury-Wodonga since coming out of retirement.

“There’s so many wonderfully talented basketballers in Australia, so many playing in the WNBA,” O’Hea said. “With the right preparation we can do really well.

“There’s so many great role models … I want the media to focus on those who want to play for the Opals and represent Australia.”

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