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IOC Young Leader Najib Chajiddine: empowering girls and boys through first 3×3 basketball academy in Africa

International Olympic Committee

10 April 2024 – “United Maroc” is the first 3×3 basketball academy in Africa. It has been developed by IOC Young Leader and basketball referee Najib Chajiddine and supported by Paris 2024 and the French Development Agency (AFD) through the “Impact 2024 International” programme. In the context of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), Najib’s project exemplifies how the Olympic Movement contributes to building more peaceful and inclusive societies through sport.

Having witnessed first-hand the power that sport can have in developing fundamental social skills, Najib wanted to help other young people have the same experiences, and so he came up with the idea for his project – United Maroc.

Using 3×3 basketball and its street origins to make sport more accessible, diverse and inclusive for young people and in particular women and girls, United Maroc was designed to offer supervised coaching and tournaments to underprivileged youth, while also providing training in refereeing, enabling them to develop important interpersonal skills. Male and female participants learn about communications, experience teamwork and build self-confidence, all within a safe space to socialise.

This is where Impact 2024 International stepped in.

The long-lasting legacy of Paris 2024

A joint endeavour between the Paris 2024 Organising Committee and the AFD, Impact 2024 International offers funding and support to projects that use sport as a tool for sustainable development in Africa. The programme builds upon the innovative legacy plan “Impact 2024”, which was deployed across France and has already brought about tangible social legacies to all layers of French society, benefiting millions of people, businesses and communities.

“They helped me a lot because, in the beginning, it was just an idea on paper – we didn’t know how to work,” Najib said. “For me, Impact 2024 International was one of the keys of United Maroc as it helped guide us and brought in experts to explain everything from legal matters to marketing”.

“In the end, we received a lot of tools to help with our projects. We also made important connections with other participants, and we still talk now.”

With this support, Najib founded United Maroc in Zenatta, Morocco, which became the first 3×3 basketball academy in Africa. Having noticed a severe lack of opportunities and structured sports activities for the youth of Morocco, Najib made United Maroc open to all, offering supervised coaching and even tournaments. He also created a refereeing academy within his project, allowing participants to develop key leadership and interpersonal skills.

“For me, the main achievement of United Maroc is the officiating school,” he said. “The main objective for this is personal development, to help the children to improve as people.”

Continuing to grow with the IOC Young Leaders Programme

With United Maroc up and running, in 2022 Najib received further assistance through the IOC Young Leaders Programme, which has provided seed funding and capacity-building support to over 100 young talents and their initiatives since 2016.

“The IOC Young Leaders Programme came at the perfect time just at the end of my Impact 24 International programme,” Najib said. “For me and for the United Maroc project, the IOC Young Leaders Programme represents the best opportunity coming at the best time. The combination of 3×3, the IOC Young Leaders Programme and United Maroc is making sparks fly and, since onboarding, we’ve had a lot of advice from experts who have helped us get to where we are today.”

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Expanding in Senegal and Congo

With the support from both Impact 2024 International and the IOC Young Leaders Programme, United Maroc has been expanding and, as such, Najib is looking to the future with confidence. The project has already scaled beyond its original scope, with a martial arts school offering lessons in boxing, among other disciplines, due to open in September 2024, and this is just the beginning.

“We plan to open a project in Dakar, Senegal, this summer, and another in Gabon before 2025. Dakar will be a big laboratory for us, especially with the Youth Olympic Games coming to Dakar in 2026. We’re going to try a lot of new things and maybe even new sports. We want to evolve from basketball academies to multi-sport academies. In June, United Maroc will become United Africa to reflect this.”

Najib Chajiddine – IOC Young Leader

Refereeing at Paris 2024

Najib’s passion for sport – and in particular basketball – went beyond just playing. By the age of 13, the French-Moroccan had already passed his refereeing exams and, two years later, he became an official referee.

Najib has been selected as a referee for the upcoming Olympic Games Paris 2024 and shares his excitement and expectations: “The Olympic Games are the most beautiful competition in the world for me, and I want to be a good example for the children in Morocco and Africa,” he said, commenting on his selection. “I need to lead by example. I was with my family when I found out and they didn’t believe me – I barely believed it myself. It was crazy.”

IOC Young Leaders Programme is contributing to Olympism 365 days a year

Launched in 2016, the IOC Young Leaders Programme empowers young people to leverage the power of sport to make a positive difference in their communities, and therefore contributes to the Olympism365 strategy, aimed at strengthening the role of sport as an important enabler for the UN Sustainable Development Goals – which it achieves by collaborating with a range of partners from both inside and outside the Olympic Movement.

So far, with the support of the IOC, these inspiring young people have delivered over 140 sport-led projects in communities across the globe, promoting education and livelihoods, equality and inclusion, health, peace building and sustainability, directly benefitting more than 30,000 people. Learn more about the IOC Young Leaders Programme and the Olympism365 strategy.

Worldwide Olympic Partner Panasonic’s continued support

The IOC Young Leaders Programme has been supported by Worldwide Olympic and Paralympic Partner Panasonic since 2017, and this will continue through to 2024. Panasonic, as the programme’s founding partner, is committed to supporting the IOC Young Leaders through different initiatives, for example providing its creative and technological expertise, along with its network of influencers and ambassadors, to inspire the Young Leaders and equip them with the skills and tools they need to enhance their projects.


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