*I have wasted N90m tennis equipment on Nigeria – Odizor
*Partners Mrs Akeredolu in first of six centres
*I want to produce children to beat my records
By Olajide Fashikun
Nduka Odizor, Nigeria’s leading tennis icon, will donate tennis equipment worth N10million to a new initiative driven by the First Lady of Ondo State, Arabirin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, to be named after her. This is the first of six centres he promised to give the nation in a bid to produce a new generation of the players.
Nduka Odizor disclosed this in Akure when he paid a courtesy visit on the First Lady. Each senatorial district shall enjoy two tennis courts which we expect the state government to name and build while I and my partners will bring the equipment and the coaches.
He disclosed that 50 Nigerian tennis coaches will enjoy a new string of employment opportunities in the programme. We shall ensure they are certificated and properly retrained.
Arabirin Akeredolu in her response while speaking with newsmen after the closed door meeting with Odizor said, “the project was aimed at discovering future tennis champions in the State and make Ondo State the tennis hub in Nigeria.
“I am so excited, when the idea of promoting tennis in Ondo State occurred to me I didn’t know that the big masquerade (Odizor) will be interested. You can’t take away the love Odizor has for his country and I am going to
work on this opportunity” Mrs Akeredolu stated.
“The children of Ondo should consider it done already, they will be champions sooner than later. It is my utmost wish that Ondo State will become a tennis hub. The project is not going to be just a flash in the pan we will sustain it, trust me,” she added.
Mrs Akeredolu revealed the programme will be heralded with a tennis summer clinic in the state. Odizor promised to bring three coaches from America for the clinic.
In his chat with journalists, Nduka Odizor expressed his readiness to always give back to Nigeria by promoting tennis in the country and revealed the enthusiasm of the First Lady gave him no doubt in choosing to work in Ondo State this time around.
The Olympian stated: “When my partners here, Olajide Fashikun, the Director General of Nigeria Sports Development Fund Inc (NSDFI) and Chief Mary Oyali expressed what the First Lady wanted from me, I have no iota of doubt in it we shall deliver it. The tennis project she embarked on at the recreational club Ibadan helped get two people to the US on scholarship and one of them have a daughter who is today the best 13 and Under tennis player in Houston at the moment.”
“I also choose Ondo State to pay back the help I got from some people in the state, particularly the Olateru-Olagbegis.
“In the past I invested about N90 million wrongly into Nigerian tennis. Now, I want to order my contribution starting from Ondo state. The template for the project is to focus and groom young talents and help them sharpen their skills to take on any tennis challenge in the future.” Odizor stressed.
Chief Mary Onyali, the Technical Director of NSDFI said, five other sports: Swimming, Handball, Wrestling, Weightlifting and Athletics will benefit from this project.
While reacting, a major facilitator of the partnership, Hon. Gbenga Elegbeleye who is the chairman of the Interim Management Committee of the Ondo State Football Agency, posited that getting Mr Odizor on board will no doubt help promote the project.
Elegbeleye who is the Otunba of Ikare land expressed his readiness to always promote sports in Ondo State and in Nigeria as a top and vastly experienced sports administrator.
The former Director General of the defunct National Sports Commission noted: “I am always ready to promote sports here in Ondo State and in Nigeria at large. I am still willing to contribute to development of sports through recommendations and advices as someone that has operated at the top level of sports management in the country.”
Elegbeleye also maintained that sports can be used to bring about development and serve as a means of income for sustainable development if taken seriously and well managed.