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National Youth Games: The Good, The Bad, The Terrible In Ilorin

Players who won, by now, have dropped their medals from the National Youth Games and possibly hopped on to other activities.

Whatever the intensity of the heat took away from them must have been restored unless, of course, they need a ‘dibia’ to confirm their status. Ilorin was exceptionally hot at the time.

National Junior Tennis Coach, Ubale Mohammed, was on ground to see the players first hand and identify new talents for the national team. Photo Credit: Nigeria Tennis Live.

Many of the officials may have also left for Kano, to carry out official duties at the Dala Hard Court tournament, so, memories of the events that happened during the Games in Ilorin may have started eroding them. But they haven’t left us, we took record. So, we’ll start with the terrible.

From the screening of the players, they had to stand for almost an hour before being asked to sit, to the time the competition started proper, it was one issue or the other.

THE TERRIBLE

For a national competition of this magnitude and which involved a lot of kids, it reeked extreme shame and disgust that there was no first aid box or any medical personnel during matches.

Coaches had to cater to their injured players themselves… Photo Credit: Nigeria Tennis Live

About four or five players who got hurt during matches had to be fended for by their coaches or fellow players.

In fact, one coach was seen running across courts to get ice for an injured player when he was seen cramping on the court and could no longer play.

Only Team Delta had medical personnel on ground who attended to their players when they needed medical attention.

Only Team Delta had their medics on stand by for their players… Photo Credit: Nigeria Tennis Live.

Another terrible incident that may not have gone unnoticed was the nets on the courts.

The Kwara-based players (maybe coaches/officials) insisted that they are added to the officials, else, nobody would be allowed on the courts.

They stayed true to their words, removed the nets on the courts that were already in use (two out of four) and refused to bring the other ones.

Yeah, the issue was resolved, but it could have lingered and caused a lot more delay than what was witnessed. There should be a standing rule about how these things work.

THE UGLY

This may have been the fault of the local organizing committee, but reducing the Chief Referee of a tournament such as the National Youth Games, to a court cleaner (maybe dryer) must be one of the unbelievable sights of the year 2021.

Mr. Duke, the Chief Referee at the National Youth Games in Ilorin, was made to clean the courts with foams as the rollers for cleaning the courts were unavailable. Photo Credit: Nigeria Tennis Live.

Mr. Duke, humble as you love it, rallied his Umpires, after the rainfall, to ensure the courts were dried up for the matches to either kick off or resume.

With some old foams, brooms and buckets, Umpires and some players joined hands to dry up the courts and what a sight that was!

An Umpire and an official of the Nigeria Tennis Federation cleaning the courts after incessant rainfall ensured the courts were waterlogged. Photo Credit: Nigeria Tennis Live

It seemed normal because of the circumstance, but it was far from being normal.

But whether this was the fault of the tennis federation or the organizers of the event, one could barely tell. But bottom line was that, the adequate facilities for a tournament of that magnitude were unavailable.

Apart from the cleaning, the courts were also not balanced. Of the four courts available for use, only two were of standard to host a National Games event of this calibre, others were bouncing and were depriving players of valuable points.

THE GOOD

While many of the coaches felt very very aggrieved over the recurring issue of age cheat at the age grade competition, some others were beaming with smile at the exposure their young talents got.

There was a certain Joel Ekpenyong from Akwa Ibom whose style of play, stature and physique clearly reminds one of Henry Atseye.

Of all the players present at the Games, this fair-skinned youngster was the only onehand backhand player and he used it with so much confidence..

Joel Ekpenyong from Akwa Ibom State is surely one of the newly discovered talents from this year’s National Youth Games in Ilorin. Photo Credit: Nigeria Tennis Live.

It was, therefore, no surprise that he likes Roger Federer and Stanilas Waerinka, both of whom are specialists with the onehand backhand.

Apart from Joel, several other talents were unearthed, an indication that the tournament was not totally a waste of time as many thought it would end up being.

Whether these terrible incidents will be fixed is yet to be seen, neither is it certain that the ugly ones will be looked into, nor is it certain that the good ones will continue.

The constant, however, is for tennis development to continue in Nigeria, and for everyone involved to be happy to make tennis in Nigeria great again.

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