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Let’s Celebrate My Mentor @ 80 !

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BY GBOYEGA OKEGBENRO

Today, one of the greatest influences on my sportswriting career, Uncle Fabio (real name, Adesola) Lanipekun turns 80.

It all seems like yesterday when his childhood friend and confidant, my late Oga and first Editor, late Elijah Ayo Ositelu (aka The Arena), set me off to the National Stadium on my pre-hire, test- assignment as a young Sports Reporter for Punch Newspapers in August 1983.

It was a boxing assignment and Arena, after the preliminary rookie reporter review protocols in his office, tucked his call card into my hand, with a short note on the back, to give to “Mr. Fabio Lanipekun” at NTA Sports portacabin office.

Time was 4pm. thereabout and I was to watch two key bouts of a rigorous pre-1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games national boxing selection trials; and race back to Onipetesi with a report for the next day’s publication.

I got to his office in a jiffy but Uncle Fabio was very busy. After about 20 minutes wait, I was restless and sweating in the well- ventilated reception.

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I soon walked up to late Uncle Yinka Craig as he was about to drive out in his Honda Civic car.

I introduced myself and my mission in their office. YC took me straight to Uncle Fabio’s office and instantly, he asked one of the junior staff to take me to the sports hall and hand me over to late Walter Oyatogun who was Announcer and Media Coordinator at the trials.

I got my job done, raced back to Punch; my report made the next day’s second edition and pronto……the journey started.

In his typical humane and youth-friendly style, I soon became one of Uncle Fabio’s favorite “aburos” in the then sportscity.

Over time, I got so close to Uncle Fabio and learnt invaluable skills and insights from his deep knowledge of ALL SPORTS.

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Though a tv supremo, he was such an avid reader that would note and point out every wrong point, logic or perspective in your newspaper reports. The boys loved that aspect of him to bits !

Uncla Fabio’s passion was teaching, encouraging and “spoiling” us his younger colleagues, especially on foreign trips where, every evening after work, he relished telling us stories of past historic sports events he covered in different parts of the world; challenges encountered; triumphs; frightening flight experiences; and of course, his tireless and generous indulgences of our culinary and gulping appetite .

My prayer today as our very resourceful, likeable amd generous Oga, the great Uncle Fabio Lanipekun, the Iroko of Sports TV Broadcasting in Nigeria, turns 80, is that God Almighty continues to uphold and bless him with good health and abundant happiness.

Happy birthday Sire and thanks for EVERYTHING !!!

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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