BY CHINWE EDOGA
After the honours at the Cote d’Ivoire International, the Nigerian badminton train has moved to Benin Republic hunting for more honours, the president-elect of the Badminton Federation of Nigeria (BFN), Francis Orbih has informed the Sports Village Square.
According to him, the same 26-man team that featured in Abidjan will again represent Nigeria at the Benin Republic tournament which begins on Thursday.
Francis Orbih, whose board along with the 31 other sports federations in Nigeria is yet to be inaugurated told Channels Television sports that he and his board members decided to hit the ground running as there was the urgent need to get Nigerian players prepared ahead of the more challenging and prestigious Lagos International which will hold later this month.
The Lagos International, with $15,000 Prize money at stake is the highest badminton tournament in Africa.
It was initiated by the Lagos State Badminton Association under the chairmanship of Francis Orbih.
He told Channels sports that Nigerian players did not do too well in the earlier two editions which were dominated by foreigners.
He said that the members of the yet to be inaugurated board decided to start working on the improvement of the Nigerian players by camping them for a month and also giving them international exposure that will also aid their global ranking.
He informed that the man of the moment, Anuoluwapo Opeyori who won the Men’s singles even on Sunday in Abidjan was unranked because the only international event he ever attended was at home.
“We planned to give them exposure by making them feature in at least three international tournaments that constitute the West African circuit.
“These were those of Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Benin Republic. Unfortunately, that of Ghana was cancelled leaving the players to just two tournaments ahead of the prestigious Lagos International”.
According to him, he started the camping with the Lagos State players who were directly under his control as the chairman of badminton association in Lagos.
“But players from the South West pleaded to be included and later we made it a national selection.
He was particularly very grateful to the Lagos State governor who was magnanimous enough to allow the team have a national outlook.
He said ‘otherwise, funding would have been a great set back’. He therefore appealed to corporate organisations to come to the aid of the Badminton Federation of Nigeria when the new board is inaugurated.
“Together, we shall all make Nigeria proud as there is abundance of talents all over Nigeria waiting to be tapped”, said Orbih.
He said that the main focus of the BFN will be to develop the sport from the grass root level and put in place proper technical development.
Orbih pointed at Anuoluwapo Opeyori as a product of grass root development in Lagos State. According to him, his board plans a loaded annual calendar that will see players at both senior and intermediate levels constantly getting exposure.