By JOHN EGBOKHAN
T op ranking female tennis player in the country, Christy Agugbon has admitted that she feels like an endangered specie given the dwindling state of the game. Excerpts:
It has not been easy at all because we do not have enough tournaments in the country. Most of us are idle, doing nothing, which is not good for a our careers. A times, I wonder if tennis is a sport in this country because the players are not seeing the gains of playing it.
There are plans to start the NCC Tennis Cup, which will run for more than 20 weeks. Don’t you think this will change the face of the game, in some way?
It is a good development because tournaments are what we need to survive. Without tournaments, we are dead. It is like fish living without water. We didn’t have enough tournament last year, which made most of us to suffer a lot but I believe that the introduction of the NCC Cup will help us stay alive.
As a senor player, how worried are you with the state of inactivity?
Tennis is not a known sport like foot\ball and athletics in Nigeria. Footballers are highly regarded in this country. I heard that in the past tennis players were the pride of the nation but when you look at the situation now, you will realize that things have certainly gone bad. As the number one female player in the country, nobody notices me when I walk on the streets of Lagos.
If Perpetual Nkwocha walks on the streets of Lagos people will be shouting her name, while others will run to shake her hands. You can just imagine the kind of reception that Austin Okocha will get if we are to walk on the streets of Lagos.
The other day when I went to the market, some hawkers pushed me out of the way without saying sorry. That is my fate in Nigeria and I have accepted the reality of being a tennis player in Nigeria. We are facing extinction.
But it was not like that in the ’70s and ’80s, so how did we get to this point?
I am talking about my own era, which is nothing to write home about. It is not encouraging. It calls for serious action from all stakeholders and the companies in the private sector. They should come to our aid because we need their help. Government should look into other sports and stop the over-concentration on football because other sports like tennis are suffering and becoming irrelevant.
This is not fair because we are are one. Government should not put all their eggs in one basket because what happens if football fails and they now turn to other sports which they neglected?
How are you preparing for African Games in September?
I am looking forward to the games but we have not started preparations. Government only remembers us during the All Africa Games. My objective is to do my best and I have started training in my own little way
The wind of change is blowing in the country,, so don’t you think tennis is overdue for its own change in leadership?
It is difficult to answer that question because what the officials are saying is that there is no money to finance us. I think what they need to change is their drive for sponsorship for tennis because they have not done enough to raise sponsorship for the game. If they put in more efforts, we will have more tournaments than we have now . I played about four tournaments last year,, so how can somebody say we are serious about tennis development?
So I guess that you may not have any international ranking point?
Two years ago, I was out of the country and missed the Governor’s Cup in Lagos. Last year, the Governors Cup that was organised was a closed one without any point attached to it. That is why I am without a ranking point.