I Sometimes Sponsor Myself To Play Tournaments – 12-Yr-Old Kwange
Elisha Kwange comes across as an unassuming and feeble player at first sight, but there’s more to the youngster beyond his looks.
Originally from Kebbi State, the junior tennis player’s parents are based in Niger State, and that’s where he has lived all his life.
The youngster was among the shining stars at the recently concluded National Youth Games in Ilorin, the Kwara State Capital and he gave a commanding performance to the admiration of players, officials and coaches.
“Who’s this small boy? Na fire o,” a tennis Umpire randomly said when the youngster was on the court during one of his matches.
A fiery forehand, an unbelievable range with his shots and an outstanding focus before each serve, these qualities were on display by the young Kwange in the matches he played.
The JSS 3 student who’s presently being trained by Coach Bitrus is, however, not without his own rough patches. Like many great players (hopefully he becomes one), Kwange also has a story, a really deep one. He shared his story with Nigeria Tennis Live.
“Dad was the state coach in Niger State, so, he introduced me to playing tennis. I can’t remember when, but I started playing tournaments in 2018 (Play your age event).
“Yahaya Sani defeated me in the first round, but I wasn’t disappointed because I won the Under-12 AZIMUTH afterwards,” he explained.
Unlike some of his mates who attended tournaments with two or more rackets, Kwange had to share a borrowed racket with his brother when they went to play in Lagos.
According to him: “I borrowed racket to play in Lagos. I was sharing racket with my brother, Elijah, throughout. It was not even funny.
“At a tournament in Kaduna, I lost in quarterfinals to Ezekiel Azi from FCT. I used a broken racket at that place.”
His face lit up, however, when he spoke about how he got his first racket from his father as a reward for winning his first national competition.
“After winning the AZIMUTH tournament in Lagos, my father gifted a new racket. I was very happy. He said I was supposed to get a racket and not a bag, because I won’t play with bags.
“At the other tournament that I won, I got shoe bag, laptop bag, cup, jugs and plates, so, my father gave me another racket.
“If I had won the National Youth Games, my father would have given me another racket,” the petit player explained.
The reason for his lack of confidence in winning the tournament was clearly made known by the youngster.
“The level of competition was very high because many of the Main Draw players were overaged. But if I had played against people within my age bracket, I’ll do very well,” he said with a bit of pride.
“If it’s Seun (Ogunshakin), if I start leading him, he’ll be angry and start hitting the balls anyhow and be frustrated. If it’s Mubarak (Ganiyu), he’ll continue what he’s doing and be thinking of how to make points.
“I prefer to play Mubarak but I’d rather avoid Seun and all lefthanded players because they have deep cross courts,” Kwange added as he quickly analyzed the top junior players’ game.
For someone who won’t be 13 until 22 May, 2022, his knowledge of tennis seems very deep and this is not unconnected to how much he stays around tennis players, coaches and the tennis courts.
He explained: “I train almost every day but I don’t have equipments to train that’s why I get to training late most times.
“Many of our players don’t even have equipment to train with, so who will I play with, with the ones that I have?”
“We also don’t have sponsors.”
For a player who has not had to participate in a major tournament (locally) since 2012, Kwange is sure doing well for himself.
In spite of his challenges, the junior player dares to dream.
“I want to become a world champion like Federer, Nadal, Zverev, Gael Monfils, Stanilas Wawrinka, Andy Murray,” he declared.
He has never been to any senior national tournament, so, he has never met any senior player whose style of play he likes but he has heard about a few of the seniors.
“I always hear names like Otu, Christian, Major, Babalola. People say they’re really good players, but I’ve not watched them play before.
“The person whose game I admire in the juniors is David Edwards. I defeated him at the Quarterfinals of the Azimuth event in Lagos. He’s a one handed player,” he noted, while buzzing with excitement.
The challenges of playing tournaments outside his region are mostly associated with how to get money to travel.
Even though he is only 12 years old, Kwange is not eyeing any Junior ITF event because he struggles to play within Nigeria.
He narrated how he had save up to travel to Abuja and Kaduna to participate in tournaments.
“I sponsored myself to Abuja for the (second) PLAY YOUR AGE tournament. We contributed 25k to go to Abuja.
“We also did same for Kaduna Clay Court Championship. About 25k was what we contributed and told our coach that we wanted to go play the tournament.
“I do jawo too, sometimes, and that’s where I save up for competitions.
“Anytime I have money, I’ll go for ITF events because it also involves money, but for now, I’m playing tournaments in Nigeria.
“One Major from Kaduna that was transfered to Niger used to give me money because he liked how I played, but he’s no longer in Niger now. Oga Ishaka Adaba also gives me money to play tournaments.
“Ibrahim Sokomba, a member of COE tennis club, also gives me money sometimes, but I need a real sponsorship to be able to play even more,” an emotional Kwange said.
If firms, corporate organizations are seeking players who will give mileage for their sponsorship, Kwange sure looks like a hungry player who will deliver the goods.
With minimal support and personal efforts, he is already being tipped to become a national player. He’ll surely do even better with adequate support and funding.
Nigeria Tennis Live will, in the meantime, keep monitoring the youngster and update our audience about his progress.