The Director General, Lagos State Sports Commission, Oluwatoyin Gafar, has said that sports can be used to rekindle the hope of, youths especially with the political situation in the country.
Gafar said this at the one-day 2021 Table Tennis Renewed Hope Top-16 Invitational Challenge competition which ended on Saturday at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Sports Hall, Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos State.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 16 players performed in the men and women categories respectively.
NAN reports that for the men’s category; Taiwo Mati came first, Samuel Boboye, second, and Ahmed Bello came third. They were awarded cash prizes of N200,000, N100,000 and N50,000 respectively.
In the women’s category, Bose Odusanya placed first, followed by Bisola Asaju and Fatimo Bello. They won cash prizes of N200,000, N100,000 and N50,000 respectively.
The director said that it was important to tell the youths that their hope could still be renewed which was what gave birth to the competition.
“Thirty-two top players in Nigeria and by extension, four of them ranked in Africa, participated in the competition.
“We need to continue encouraging them and giving them hope by rekindling their interest in sports instead of being on the streets constituting a nuisance to the society.
“The rigour of the game meets International standards which they are supposed to be exposed to,” he said.
Gafar said that the one-day competition was the first of its kind in Nigeria in accordance with International standards and that more of such competitions will be organised in future.
Wahid Oshodi, a former president of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), said that he was impressed with the performance of the athletes and would like them playing for the national team.
“I think not more than five people outside Nigeria can match these boys,” Oshodi said.
He said that he was confident that most of the players that excelled at this competition would perform well at the African Championship in September.
“I can bet you that we are going to see one or two of these young kids wearing the jersey along Haruna Quadri and this will give us great pride,” Oshodi said.
Mati, the winner of the boys category and also African Junior Champion, said that he saw the prospectus of the tournament and knew that it was going to be a difficult and rigorous one.
“So, I have been training in cardiovascular exercises to improve my stamina which helped me in completing the matches and focusing more on my rythm,” Martin said.
Fifteen-year-old Boboye and NTTF Championship cadet, said that he was proud of himself for getting to the finals for which he thanked God.
“I was so proud of myself because the tournament was tough. I played my best and got to the finals which is a big achievement for me,” he said.
Odusanya, winner of the women’s category, said that she did not believe she could win the competition because she was recently discharged from hospital.
“I give glory to God for winning this tournament because I was recently discharged from the hospital.
“I didn’t believe that I could get to the finals but glory be to God for this great win”. she said.
Ama-Ebi Ebikpolade, Chairman, Bayelsa State Table Tennis Association, applauded the performance of the athletes which he described as exhilarating.
“However, for me, Boboye is the star of this tournament because he is the most improved player and I am sure that he will go places,” the chairman said.