By John Egbokhan
Former Davis CupÂ Â great, Sadiq Abdullahi, has blamed his generation of accomplished tennis players for the decadence that has become the lot of Nigerian tennis in the last decade.
Speaking yesterday at the National Stadium in Lagos, where he is running a four-day tennis clinic for youngsters and seniors, Abdullahi, who is now an Adjunct Professor of Sports Education at the Florida International University, USA, said himself, Nduka Odizor, Tony Mmoh and David Imonite, should share a huge chunk of the blame for the collapse of tennis because they failed to give back to the society, which gave them boundless opportunities to become top stars.
â€œTennis has done a lot of good for a lot of us, in fact, tennis gave us the springboard to achieve whatever we achieved in life and we got this far because of the benevolence of great men like Alhaji Otiti, the revered Raheem Adejumo and so many other great men, who gave us all what we needed to become stars that the continent and the world knew about. Ben Ezeibe was among them.
â€œWe had quality representation during our time, to the extent that we dominated the game on the continent for a good number of years. 1984-1989 were the years which we really impacted tennis on the continent. The country was there for us but we failed to transfer this knowledge and experience to the next generation.
â€œThere was a disconnect from my generation and we should be blamed for the slump that is now prevalent in Nigerian tennis because our disconnection from the scene to a great extent, created the gap, which the next generation and the present ones, cannot really appreciate because we were not there to guide them through, like other tennis greats in USA and Europe are constantly doing through the endowment of a training programme that youngsters can tap intoâ€, added the 49 year-old Abdullahi.
But the fact remains that the system of sports administration did not accommodate them and naturally, the disconnect that he talked about was inevitable.
On the way forward, Dr. Abdullahi, whose grasp of issues is deep and understandable, said the time has come for them to rebuild tennis for all of those people, like Otiti and Adejumo, who contributed to the game.
â€œI am fully back in trying to develop the game in the country and I was invited by the Minister of Sports and President of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, Sani Ndanusa, whose ideas on how to put the game back on track are quite good, especially, on his plans to revive the zonal sports centres and establishment of sports centres in all local governments, backed with credible and capable technical persons.
â€œI appreciate the Ministerâ€™s grassroots developmental programme and I feel it is a good basis to start the rebuilding process because I understand that he wants to extend it to all sports, so that we can rediscover our glorious years.
â€œThose of us in my generation have a lot to offer the society. I am equal to the task because as a Doctor of Education, I went to learn how to develop and sustain programmes and after 30 years of living in USA, I have something to contribute and appeal to our players to work with us because if we fail to get it right now, I do not know when we can get it right againâ€, Dr. Abdullahi submitted, with an air of finality.