JUNIOR TOURNEY TO HELP IMPROVE TENNIS
By Jide Alaka
March 23, 2010 12:34AM
Lolade Ogungbesan, a member of the Nigerian team
With just six days to the start of the 33rd Africa Junior Tennis Championships (ACJ), the Nigeria Tennis Federation (NTF) will today, in Abuja, hold a press conference to herald the logistics of the tourney. This tournament may turn out to be the beginning of a new dawn for the sport in Nigeria with its hosting of the championship. This is the belief of Sadiq Abdullahi, a former national player now based in the United States of America.
Hosting the ACJ for development
Abdullahi, who teaches tennis in the USA, is pleased with the hosting opportunity and wants the federation to use it as an avenue to rejuvenate the sport in the country: 'First, it is a good thing that we are hosting the championships. It is good for the game in terms of raising awareness of the sport in Nigeria. Tennis is not dead; it is struggling to rebound itself. Tennis has a lot to offer young Nigerians. 'Second, the tournament will reveal where Nigeria is positioned in Africa in all the age brackets. Then a concrete determination can be made to devise a plan to move forward.' Abdullahi is also pleased with the new zeal to perform coming from the NTF secretariat: 'I am extremely pleased to know that Patrick Ekeji, Director General of National Sports Commission (NSC) has deployed a new Secretary-General, Ikana Mbora to the tennis federation. Mbora has been in contact with me and this is the first time a genuine interest is coming from the tennis federation about our role (the US based Nigerian tennis players) in forging a partnership for tennis development. We will continue our discussion after the junior tourney'
Teams arrival in Abuja
The South African contingent is expected in Abuja today and the last country should come in by Sunday evening. The Nigerian team is camped at the Serob Legacy Hotel, Abuja and all the players are in high spirits as confirmed by head Coach, Mohammed Ubale. 'The players are doing just fine, we have no injury worries and the overseas-based players should all be in by tomorrow. Onyeka Mbonu is with us now and we are expecting Umoru Balami today and Lolade Ogungbesan should join the team tomorrow.'
Sixteen new courts have been newly constructed to host the over 200 junior tennis players that will be coming from all over Africa.