By; MUSA KUTAMA, Calabar.
A former tennis icon, Etubom Charles Duke, has enjoined sports clubs to evolve measures that would foster the discovery of future generation of players to encourage growth in the sport and continuity of the game in Nigeria.
The tennis veteran gave the advice in the Calabar sports club at the closing ceremony of the Etubom Charles Ekpo Duke tennis championship for primary and secondary schools organised in his honour by the Cross River State Sports Commission.
Duke, a one-time Personnel Manager with the Nigerian Ports Authority [NPA] said that sports clubs should liase with the government through the sports commissions or local governments and interested stakeholders by initiating clinics and practical sessions to encourage the youths to develop interest in the racket sport.
According to him such sessions should be organised during vacations and long holidays which the youths require to dissuade them from vices and crime, reluctance and idleness.
He said: “You should encourage them to come around and some of them through ball boys can become masters of the court as some of the celebrated stars of today started from the scratch.
The Octogenarian, who was a former Port Authority Sports Association (PASA), had in his youthful days represented Nigeria during international tournaments in Ghana, Uganda and Senegal before his retirement.
In his retirement, he featured for the then South Eastern State, a geographical location now Akwa Ibom and Cross River states which after the civil war, acknowledged the wisdom in recognising his feat in the sports.
He said that the game which presently is a means of enjoyment and income earner for those who excel in it and should be encouraged.
In his remark on behalf of the club, the club’s Acting Secretary, Mr. Michael Egbudu, recalled that the club, established since 1898, relocated to its present location with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the sports commission to boost the game as one of the vital articles of association which they will sustain.
He called in the State Government to complete the proposed master court that was embarked upon to host the expected 19th National Sports Festival so that the club can allocate some space within the complex for the grooming of the younger talents.
The Chairman of the Sports Commission Rt.Hon. Orok Otu Duke, said that the aim of the championship was to acknowledge the feat of the honoree in the game in his lifetime.
He stated that the competition which is at its maiden edition for schools in the Calabar metropolis would be expanded to become state wide subsequently.
Duke said that those discovered in the male and female categories of the championship would be groomed to form the state team and exposed further.
The chairman pledged that the commission would encourage the survival of all the 43 sports in in its mandate adding that it has a full calendar of events spread over the year to justify it essence of establishment under the Cross River State House of Assembly Law No.1. Of 2001 by the state government.
Highlights of the closing ceremony featured the male final between John Patrick Odok and George Odok, both of St. Patrick’s College, Ikot Ansa.
The duo thrilled the spectators to “rookie exchanges’” with the later emerging victorious with a 5-4 set victory margin.
Buddings talents were also spotted in both sexes of the competition from the various primary and secondary schools which participated in the championship.
Prizes and certificates were awarded to the participants by the organisers of the 4-day tournament.