It is a widely held belief that sport promotes a healthy lifestyle, prevents diseases, but much more importantly, it unites the society.
For these cardinal reasons, sports development has assumed a pride of place in national policy formulation in many countries, including Nigeria.
However, paucity of funds has over the years impeded sports development.
The ravaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic also compounded the government’s financial resources, limiting its ability to fund sporting events.
But thanks to private sector operatives, some sports enjoyed considerable activities in 2021.
If there is any sporting association or federation in the country that had quality support from the private sector in 2021, it is squash, where stakeholders demonstrated in practical terms that government is not solely responsible for the development of the game in the country.
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In spite of the several challenges and limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, squash managed to stay afloat through partnerships and collaborations by key stakeholders.
Connecting yellow dots
One of such partnerships is the rehabilitation of the squash court at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, by a group of private club owners known as Yellow Dots Club at the cost of N12 million.
Mr Sola Adekunle, Chairman of the club, explained that the initiative was borne out of the desire to give back to the society and engage youths positively.
“About 10 years ago, a group of four friends started playing for recreational purposes, then we thought we should commit ourselves.
“Members contributed, when we saw the state of the court; with the support from the sports commission, we were able to put this together.
“Sports are a powerful tool that we all, as a nation, are yet to utilise. Squash has kept a lot of children away from crime. A lot of their parents call me and we support these children’s education,” he said.
The effort of the club has not gone unnoticed. Sola Aiyepeku, Chairman, Lagos State Sports Commission, commended the initiative and advocated more private sector support in order to develop sports at all levels.
“It’s a wonderful thing. Yellow Dots has shown passion for this beautiful game, it is commendable and we applaud them.
“We appeal to other private and corporate individuals to give back to the society. We are happy with this synergy and we hope to see more,” he said.
Boye Oyerinde, the re-elected president of the Nigeria Squash Federation (NSF) said with more partnerships, the development of squash at all levels would be guaranteed.
“Teslim is one of the courts that are always in use, and renovating this court is commendable, and I hope we get to see more partnerships that propel development.
“This renovation couldn’t have happened at a better time, I believe it will be managed judiciously,” the NSF’s president said.
Tomi Falase, the Chairman, Lagos State Squash Association (LSSA), noted that the renovation of the courts would encourage more young and upcoming players.
“More tournaments are expected, the renovation was tastefully done, so it will drive more tournaments to Lagos State. Yellow Dots has done well.
“Partnerships like this are what develop sports; all the government has to do is to give an enabling environment like the sports commission has done. So, it’s a win-win for everybody,” Falase said.
Sodiq Taiwo, a player, told NAN that he was optimistic that the new court would bring more tournaments for the players.
Apart from the renovation of the Teslim Balogun Stadium’s squash court, private individuals organised tournaments for players in 2021.
For instance the 1st IGP National Squash Challenge organised by CSP Yakubu Mailafiya of the Nigeria Police Force for professionals held from August 24 to August 28, 2021 in Abuja.
Also the Adekunle Adebiyi Foundation held its fifth U16 and U 19 squash tournament for boys and girls from November 10 to 13, 2021 at the Squash Court of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta.
Similarly, Headwaters Squash Invitational was organised in 2021 by Seun Peters, the Founder of Headwaters Squash Academy.
The year 2021 also witnessed trainings for referees and coaches.
The NSF and World Squash Coaching brought in Matthew Mcfahn, an English Squash Level 4 coach with over 30 years of experience, to train coaches at a training clinic at Eko Tennis Club, Lagos, that was well attended.
Indeed, with more collaborations between the NSF and the private sector, the sky will be the limit for squash in 2022. (NAN)