Monday, December 7, 2015 4:12 pm
Dr. Ekwueme who alongside former Minister of External Affairs. Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi were among dignitaries that graced the final ceremony of the inaugural edition of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) sponsored Tennis League, said that 20 years ago, Nigeria’s name was among the top flight countries in world tennis when the likes of Nduka Odizor played in the top 16 of the Wimbledon Open.
“I felt so bad that 20 years after, instead of Nigeria consolidating on the past achievements, the reverse has been the case. As a tennis pundit, who used to play tennis as a leisure game, I cannot but feel so sad seeing the game going down in terms of development,” said Ekwueme.
He, however, raised the hope that with the organization of the NCC Tennis League, the game will soon pick up with the set of young players that played in the finals of the League at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan at the weekend.
“I want to commend the management of the NCC for giving me the privileged to watch these young boys and girls in action. It makes me remember those days I used to play tennis. With this kind of league and other competitions, I believe hope is not lost after all, but we must all join hands to see that the game reclaims the lost glory,” the former Nigerian Vice President in the administration of Shehu Shagari said.
“There must be regular championships like the NCC League to keep these young boys and girls busy throughout the year. The tennis federation should, as a matter of urgency, come out with functional programme to develop the game at the grassroots. We are all lovers of the game and we must not let allow it to die,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the inaugural edition of the league was a just the beginning, adding that the Commission has a long plan that will see the league becoming a household name in Nigerian sports with motivational packages that we attract more players.
“When this tournament was officially flagged off on Sunday, 24 May, 2015, we did not expect the level of interest among stakeholders, managers and the players. The tempo has continued to increase up to this grand finale, and we have now seen that the be best female and male players within the past decade, including players as young as 14 years, participated in Nigeria’s first team tennis competition.
“With the success recorded in this tournament, the management of the NCC has decided to push up the prize money as a way of encouraging more clubs to join in the next edition. We hope that this will also encourage more individuals, corporate bodies and institutions to raise teams to compete. We also plan to provide other rewards schemes for outstanding players in the tournament so as to encourage them to strive harder in the singles and doubles performance,” the NCC boss said