‘Nigerian Players Live In Penury’

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The debutant at the recently concluded 17th National Sports Festival, tagged Garden City Games, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Mercy Okoh, has called on the authorities to give a good welfare package to the players.

Okoh who stated this while speaking with Tennis Special at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, said there is need for improvement in the welfare of the players because many of the players live in penury.

‘‘The system does not encourage us to put in our best while playing the game. Many of the players who are on national ranking cannot afford the basic neccesities of life. They live in penury, it is a sad situation,’’ she said.

On his debut at the Sports Festival, Okoh described it as a nice experience and a good development to her tennis career, saying that the Garden City Games gave her the opportunity to compete with some experienced players and also exposed her to good techniques as well as modern facilities.

Okoh, however, complained about the long journey from the hostels to the match venue during the festival, describing it as boring and stressful.

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“We always travelled from our hostel to the court for almost two hours if not more than that,and this journey was so stressful and boring. Sometimes we would have been tired before the match,” she said.

When asked whether the host, Rivers State, did this deliberately to destabilise the players from other states, she said the motive for this arrangement was not clear, ading that she gathered that players who represented Rivers State were not camped far away unlike the visiting players.

Speaking on her aspirations, the Benue State-born player, who represented Ogun State at the sports festival, said her dream was to become an international player, adding that with commitment, dedication, and hard work, the sky would be her starting point.

Okoh, however, tasked Lagos State government on the provision of adequate facilities for next year’s Sports Festival. She said it is time again for the state to prove its worth as the Centre of Excellence.

“Lagos State is a well organised state in terms of administration and facilities. I think it is the right time for the state to show the nation that it can host a more glamorous and crisis-free festival,” she said.

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