Sept. 1, 2023

Burly Ibelo brothers’ mom is their biggest fan, on and off UCalgary Dinos football field

Defensive linemen Sylvester and Franklin Ibelo offer each other support as their mother Ebele cheers from sidelines
 UCalgary Dinos Sylvester, left, and Franklin Ibelo
UCalgary Dinos Sylvester, left, and Franklin Ibelo Dinos Athletics

Sibling rivalry doesn’t even cross their minds — and with mom watching from the stands, that’s probably a good thing for UCalgary’s Ibelo brothers.

Standing 6'5" and 6'7", Sylvester and Franklin Ibelo are a towering presence on the defensive line of the UCalgary Dinos football team, but it’s how they stand up for each other that reflects on the values mom Ebele coached into her boys.

“We are supportive of each other, and never really looked at it as a rivalry — we want each other to do our best, and sure we’ll compete, but we still support each other,” says Sylvester, a student in the Faculty of Arts.

“We’re out there together and we want each other to dominate and do the best in our positions.”

Free home opener and kickoff party this Friday at McMahon

That’s certainly the hope for Dinos fans this Friday, as the team takes the field at McMahon Stadium for a 5:30 p.m. season opener against provincial rivals, the Alberta Golden Bears.

Tickets are free for students with a UCalgary UCID, and the Student Union Fun Zone KICKOFF XVI starts at 3 p.m. in the southeast parking lot, featuring barbecue, games and prizes.

This season marks the 59th year of Dinos football, which launched in 1964 and boasts five Vanier Cup national championship wins, the most recent in 2019.

Ebele Ibelo greets her sons on the field at McMahon Stadium.

Ebele Ibelo greets her sons on the field at McMahon Stadium, as Franklin, right, cuddles his baby cousin, who was attending his first football game.

Courtesy Ibelo family

Trio of brothers backed by supportive mom

Sylvester joined the UCalgary Dinos last year, following in the footsteps of Franklin and a third brother, Francis, who also served on the team’s defensive line and is currently practising with the Calgary Colts.

The three brothers have high hopes of making it in professional football, though it’s a latecomer's dream for a trio who didn’t even attempt team sports until around five years ago, when they successfully tried out for the Hilltoppers in Calgary’s minor league.

Raised in Canada and Nigeria by their single mom, the Ibelo family found football together — and that includes Ebele.

“She gives us so much support, and she loves this sport,” says Franklin, who like Francis, chose to study in the Faculty of Science.

Sibling bond carries onto the field

The Ibelos are far from the only sibling duo on the team. Ben and Dom Britton serve as Dinos’ receiver and quarterback, respectively. And then there are the Schmuland, Saintus, Gutek, and Reid brothers.

Franklin says playing on the same team as a sibling bonds you in a whole new way.

“He’s more than a brother to me when we are playing, and out on the field he’s my teammate, too,” says Franklin.

“I get on a line with him and I correct him if he needs it, and he corrects me, and we play to our assignment and get our check marks at the end of the day.

“It’s like a support system — I’m happy if he gets better, and he’s happy if I get better.”

Winning one for the team, and for mom

On Friday, it’s hoped the Ibelo matriarch will be watching from the sidelines, and if Ebele Ibelo is there, she can bet her two sons will be playing all the harder.

Sylvester says mom’s support has meant everything to her children, and they’d love to impress their biggest fan.

“I hope she is proud of us. We try to do our best for her,” he says.


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