Having enjoyed the good old days when government paid quality attention to sports, Nigeria’s table tennis legend –Atanda Musa has lamented the nonchalant attitude of government to sports, describing it as a major bane to sports development in the country.
The New York-based former African champion told Sportinglife.ng exclusively from his base in United States that since Aruna Quadri put Nigeria on the world map by getting to the quarterfinal of the Olympic Games, there has not been conscious efforts by those in charge of sports to inspire Quadri to aim high in Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“It is disheartening that the present government in Nigeria shows lip service to sports compared to the kind of support the sector got during our days. It is obvious that the present government is not interested in sports and that is why I used to tell the present athletes that they should strive for themselves and not to wait on any government for support. I also believe that if the present athletes are getting the same kind of support we got during our days, most of them will be world champions in their various sports,” he said.
“Apart from the support to the athletes, most of the facilities across the country are all in bad shape. When I visited Nigeria two years ago, I was surprised with the poor state of the once-celebrated National Stadium in Lagos. The table tennis hall has not changed since we left the stage and it is disheartening that all these edifices were left to rot,” he added.
For table tennis, Atanda Musa was indeed proud of the honours and glories that the likes of Aruna Quadri have brought to the country, saying, “I think Aruna Quadri and other table tennis players need support because they have made Nigeria proud with their performance and they just need some push to remain up there,” the erstwhile Commonwealth Champion said.
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The former Saudi Arabia and Qatar national coach was willing to handle the Nigeria team but he said: “I love my country and I want to help the younger players but there must be consistency in our sports sector. If I am contacted and I am given the appointment with the right remuneration, I will be ready to come and coach. Our system must be ready to work in line with what obtains globally,” he added.
Atanda Musa represented Nigeria at the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games in Russia and Spain in both the singles and doubles events.
He is arguably one of the best table tennis players to contest out of Africa, as his backhand play, and the loop associated with it remains his trademark. The 10-time African Men’s Singles Champion currently lives and coaches in US.