Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has been described as one of the pillars behind the growth of the game of squash in the country. President of the Nigeria Squash Federation, Boye Oyerinde, said during the week that apart from Obasanjo playing the game regularly, he remains the driving force behind squash.
“First of all, His Excellency, former President Obasanjo is our Grand Patron (NSF) and everyone knows his love for the game. He has indeed been very, very supportive of our efforts to revive the game in the country,” Oyerinde said on FUBS WhatsApp, a platform for leading past and present sports administrators and retired athletes.
The NSF Boss stressed that Obasanjo has also converted the squash open named after him into a national open that players look forward to every year.
“He has indeed been very supportive of our efforts including converting the Olusegun Obasanjo Squash Open to an annual event.”
It is because of Obasanjo’s romance with the sport that the federation is even planning exhibition matches across the South West to whip up the interests of youths in the region for the sport.
“As a matter of fact, he (Obasanjo) was ready to play exhibition matches across South West to revive the game in the zone before the current lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With Nigeria currently ranked 3rd in Africa and 21st globally from the last men’s World Team Championship, the NSF president hinted that Obasanjo is currently helping the federation to source for an expert trainer to help the country trainer her coaches.
“He is currently sourcing a Coach for us (Nigeria) to handle our Train the Trainer coaching session for our coaches, so yes, he is one of our sponsors,” concludes Oyerinde.
Obasanjo’s love for squash didn’t come as a surprise to the NSF President because military men brought the game to Nigeria.
“ The game of squash was and still very popular with the military. The game was brought into Nigeria by the military and due to their profession, they need a sport that can be played in a small space and still get full workout.
“During the military regime, it squash was very popular and courts were built in all military barracks years back.
“Unfortunately, for several reasons, the interest has reduced but a lot of the courts are still available. Those officers that played then, a lot are still playing today even in retirement because of their love of the game,” Oyerinde recalled.
He listed states actively involved in squash to include; Lagos, Kwara, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna and Bayelsa.
“The biggest challenge that the squash federation is facing is the availability of playing courts. Most courts are run down now. We are working with the states through their chairmen to seek support in renovating existing courts.
“Last year, we gave 17 states free training and squash kits to kick start their grassroots development programmes. With Edo State that has built new courts to host the National Sports Festival, that is additional boost for our sports,” concludes Oyerinde.
Squash has been kept active by clubs such as the O’Trafford, Ikoyi Club, Lagos Country Club in Ikeja, LLTC, and private individuals who built courts in their homes and the military, (Army barracks’ and Police officer’s mess inclusive).