The Ondo State First Lady, Mrs Betty Akeredolu, says she will ensure the development of Tennis at the grassroots to enable youths in the state to make careers of the sport.
Akeredolu made the assertion while speaking with newsmen on Tuesday in Akure after hosting Nigeria tennis great, Nduka Odizor, former sports administrator, Gbenga Elegbeye and former Africa’s queen of the tracks, Mary Onyali.
She revealed that the project was aimed at discovering future tennis champions in the state and to make Ondo State a tennis hub in Nigeria.
“I was excited when the idea of promoting tennis in Ondo State occurred to me, I didn’t know that 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.
“The children 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.
Akeredolu said that the programme was scheduled for the summer vacation.
On his part, Nduka Odizor expressed his readiness to always give back to Nigeria by promoting tennis.
The Nigerian Pilot reports that Odizor is a former tennis player that represented the country in the tennis event at Seoul Olympics in 1988.
He won one career title in singles (Taipei, 1983) and seven doubles titles. He reached his highest ATP singles ranking of World No. 52 in June 1984.
Odizor said the enthusiasm of the First Lady left him in no doubt about choosing to work in Ondo State this time around.
“When my colleagues here, Jide Fasiku and Mary Oyali, expressed what the First Lady wanted, I had no iota of doubt about it.
“The tennis project she embarked on at the Recreation Club, Ibadan, helped to get two people to the U.S. on scholarship and one of them is the best tennis player in Houston at the moment.
“I also chose Ondo State to pay back the help I got from some people in the state, particularly the `Olagbegis’. In the past, I invested about N90 million wrongly into Nigeria tennis.
“The template for the project is to focus and groom young talents from Ondo State alone and help them to sharpen their skills to take on any tennis challenge in the future,’’ he said
Gbenga Elegbeleye, a former Director-General, National Sports Commission, noted that getting Odizor on the board would no doubt help to promote the project.
Elegbeleye expressed his readiness to always promote sports in Ondo State and in Nigeria as a top and vastly experienced sports administrator.
“I am always ready to promote sports here in Ondo State and in Nigeria at large.
“I am still willing to contribute to the development of sports through recommendations and advice as someone that has operated at the top level of sports management,’’ he said.
Elegbeleye also maintained that sports could be used to bring about development and serve as a means of income for self-sustainability, if taken seriously and well managed.