Nigeria’s greatest ever tennis player, Nduka Odizor, was in tears wednesday at the Sports Reform Committee Retreat in Abuja while recalling how administrators denied the country the opportunity of reaching the World Group stage of the Davis Cup because of greed and selfishness.
Odizor who achieved a world ranking of 52 in 1983 and reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon the previous year insisted that tennis officials at the time were “not straight forward” in dealing with players.
The former tennis professional whose paper was titled: “Recognition of Athletes” said for any country to excel in sports, athletes and coaches have to be accorded maximum recognition and respect.
“Recognition and appreciation will ensure that athletes are assured that they will get their allowances and entitlements as at when due.
“This will lead to younger ones emulating and striving to achieve like those ahead of them and bring up sports men and women who can create wealth for the nation,” he said.
Odizor stressed that the matter of graft in the running of sports has been there all along.
“My biggest disappointment was when I was approached by some government officials to give them some money so they can recommend me for a national award.
“That was unthinkable and absurd. My achievements (in tennis) speak for themselves and I do not have to have a national award to be recognised around the world,” the tennis star reasoned.
Before Odizor’s presentation at the retreat, one of Nigeria’s most achieved football coaches, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde, in his paper said that there was an urgent need to reform the process that throws up incompetent and self-seeking persons as sports federation presidents and board members.
The gaffer who led the Green Eagles to a second place finish at the 1984 Africa Cup of Nations said that football clubs currently run as government parastatals can be financially viable if they instituted a membership plan and worked out partnerships with companies.