By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
In its quest at developing budding talents that would make Nigeria proud in the nearest future, the Kaduna State Ministry of Sports Development has concluded plans to stage an U-16 Clay Court tennis tournament, tagged Nocaco Clay Court Tennis Championship.
Briefing newsmen at the ministry located at Murtala Square Kaduna on Thursday, Commissioner of Sports, Professor Kabir Mato said that already, over 40 have filled forms for the tournament, billed to serve off at the Kaduna Club on January 20.
Represented by his SA Media, Ismaila Lere, he said that Governor Nasir el-Rufai has given the ministry which was newly created, a marching order to revive and develop sports in the state.
“This is the first media briefing of the ministry since July last year. The new ministry created by the governor is to drive and revive sports in the state. Since created, we have been planning and doing some programmes.
“Competition is to commence at the Kaduna Club, we are helping the club to refurbish. This is first time we are hosting since the National Sports Festival (NSF) about 10 years ago.
“The title of the tournament is U-16 Clay court tennis tournament. Tennis has different variation hard court, grass, clay court.
“Kaduna used to be the centre of clay court tournament. In the 70s Kaduna used to host clay court it is sad it has gone moribund over the two decades.
“In reviving it, the government has decided to target the grassroots. We have recorded forms for about 40 entries of those under 16.
” It is a developmental programme and we intend to keep the rules, we have invited officials from the Tennis federation to help us officiate to keep it up up to standards,” he stressed.
He explained that the competition with be played based on round robin fixture.
On other activities, he said that they hope to do clinic for U-14 and U-8 to groom and nurture them to be future tennis stars.
“We may have a programme for those above 16. We are giving room for budding talents to participate. Coach Ubale Mohammed is a national coach and he is with us, alongside other coaches to nurture and groom those that will be future stars,” he added.
On what will happen to the talents discovered, he said that the ministry will keep a tab on them.
” We will have competitions organised here in Kaduna to groom them locally and expose them participate in national completions.
“Some of the best tennis players in the world today started playing at the age of three by the time they are 13 they are knocking on ATP.
“The programme is developmental. We used to have four clay courts and four hard courts at Murtala Square before its renovation started. We decided to use Kaduna Club that has six clay courts,” he said.
On why they chose to organise a clay court tournament, knowing that the National Youth Games and NSF mainly feature hard courts, he said they are looking at a bigger picture.
” A lot of our courts here in Kaduna are hard courts because they are easy to maintain. We want to put them on the clay surface to get used to it. Most courts used across Africa are clay.
“We intend to get them used to the clay surface which will be good for them when playing against opponents in Africa. It is easy to learn playing on hard surface. It is just for them to get used to clay court,” he emphasized.