Task Before New NTF Board

•Agugbom at the 2011 CBN Open

•Agugbom at the 2011 CBN Open

In May, a new set of executives were elected into the board of the Nigerian Tennis Federation, NTF. Ordinarily, it is believed that their coming on board would seek to correct the shortcomings or right the wrongs of the previous set of executives. But the question has been “will these expectations be met”

This question has been on the lips of tennis enthusiasts since the election was conducted.

With four old members of the board still part of the new, stakeholders are of the opinion that members of the board should see the county’s tennis in its present state of malady and seek a forward movement for the seemingly static game.

“With the new Board members, I’m sure we’ll move tennis forward in the country. All the members on board are people who have track records of successes with tennis at various levels so, I believe that it gives us a leverage over what we used to have” explained Engr. Sani Ndanusa, President of the NTF.

“If you’re very observant, you’ll discover that we’ve started Zonal Championships from the Ogun Zone. This is what we intend to do in other Zones as well to promote tennis at the zonal level. From there, we’ll go central, continental and global; I’m sure that tennis will develop if all these are put in place,” opined Ndanusa.

In terms of facilities, players have played under unfavourable conditions and they are of the opinion that better training conditions and facilities will enhance performance during any tournament. This was the conclusion of former Davis Cup player, Destiny Ford Da-Silva.

Germany-based, Da-Silva believes the Ndanusa-led board did not really pay much attention on the state of facilities in the country and also points out that it’s one of the ways to ensure that tennis moves to the next level in the country.

“They don’t even care about the playing condition of players. Look at all the facilities we train with here, they are outdated. How do you expect the best from players training under such conditions?”

“Believe me, if these facilities are upgraded and added to, our players will start outshining their foreign counterparts during major international championships, especially the Governor’s Cup. Or do you think the Djokovics, Nadals, Federers of this world train under such conditions?” he queried.

Winner of the Women’s Singles at the recently concluded Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Open, Ronke Akingbade, who was also unaware of the existence of a new board, believes that the new members should surpass their predecessors in terms of achievement and this should be in terms of tournaments’ organisation and total concern for players’ welfare.

•Agugbom at the 2011 CBN Open
•Agugbom at the 2011 CBN Open

“Although I don’t really know the people on the board, I believe that this is a new era and it must be heralded with new things.”

“If it’s a new board, we need more tournaments to keep the players on their toes all the time. The prize money at our major tournaments at all levels should also be reviewed, this will help the players immensely” she offered.

Adding his voice to the clamor for change in the fortunes of tennis in Nigeria is Samuel Omoile.

The bulky tennis star believes that the Vice-President, Tonye Harry, would have fared better as the President had he been elected as the President.

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He said: “as the second Vice-President, Harry ensured that we had two tournaments in Port-Harcourt and since then, we’ve not had such. I’d prefer him as the President so that tennis in Nigeria can move forward.”

“On the long run, we expect all the members of the board to work tirelessly to ensure that our tennis doesn’t remain the same. They have to co-operate with one another, that’s the only way we can move forward in the sport” he concluded.

For players who have been involved in the game for long, the expectation can’t be any different and in the case of number two player, Shehu Lawal, there seems to be hope for the players with his direct involvement with the board.

Lawal was elected as the players’ representative on the board and he believes that the players will perform better in coming years as he’ll seek to ensure more tournaments are organised for them throughout the year.

The 2013 CBN Open Men’s Doubles winner said: “I’m the players’ representative and I believe it’s quite good for them because I know all our yearning over the years. I’ll try my best to ensure that more tournaments are organised and better welfare packages for the players are put in place. They should be rest assured on this.”

One of the coaches, who tutours younger generation of tennis players in the country, Ubale Mohammed, maintains that much is to be expected from the board members as they held a meeting where they promised to implement all the new programmes on their agenda.

He therefore encouraged tennis lovers in the country to work hand-in-hand with the board and see the end result.

“They all agreed in their meeting that tennis must move forward in the country. They also have new programmes that they want to implement; we should be patient enough to see where they’ll lead us.”

In terms of raw talents, the outgoing board boasts the discovery of an array of stars like losing finalist at last year’s CBN Open, Sarah Adegoke; Clifford Enosoregbe; emerging national force, Henry Atseye, among others but Assistant National Coach for the Wheelchair Tennis players, Kayode Savage believes that the presence of Harry on the board will surely help stimulate more tournaments to unearth more players for the future.

He also noted that despite the fact that it would be too early to judge any board member’s action; every tennis lover in the country is definitely expecting so much from them.

The players believe that not much will be different from what used to be while the administrators are of the opinion that so much will be done within the shortest period.

It is yet to be seen how the sport will be run in the next couple of years that these administrators will be in charge of the racket game.

—Damilare Okunola

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