When US basketball player Alex Owumi signed a contract to play for a team in Benghazi, Libya, he had no idea that his employer was the the most feared man in the country. Nor did he guess the country was about to descend into war.

A lot of the players had scratches and banged-up bruises on their arms. One had a black eye he was trying to conceal. Gaddafi’s security goons would push them up against lockers, things like that – and some of these guys were not big athletes like me and Moustapha. During practice you could see some of them were just scared to make mistakes. But in any sport you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to make bad plays. I can’t go into a game and trust people who are scared.

The next day, we travelled to a game in Tripoli on a private jet like we were a team playing in the NBA [the National Basketball Association in the US]. That’s how it was with Al-Nasr and the Gaddafi family – they got extra funding, extra millions of dollars. But the deal was we were supposed to win – and when we lost, it was a problem.