Players of Nigerian wheelchair tennis have begged the Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, to reconsider his decision to leave out the sport from the forthcoming National Sports Festival holding in Delta State later this month.
The players have also tendered unreserved public apology to the Minister for being part of those who protested the exclusion of their sports from the festival few weeks ago.
According to Head, Wheelchair Tennis of the Nigeria Tennis Federation, Lateef Sodipo, “On October 17, some of us were on the street to peacefully protest the exclusion of para and deaf sports from the upcoming National Sports Festival billed for Asaba later in the month.
“The Sports Ministry was not pleased with our action and upon reflection we also thought we could have done things differently.
“After the protest, the deaf and all the para sports except Wheelchair Tennis were included in the National Sports Festival.
“We held a meeting and resolved to do a letter of apology to the Sports Minister. That letter was done on October 26th and dispatched to the Sports Ministry immediately.
“In the letter of apology, we accepted our mistake and thanked the Minister for including the para and deaf sports in the National Sports Festival. We also pleaded passionately to be forgiven by the Sports Minister.
“We also appealed to the Minister to use his good offices to have the only para sport left out of the festival, Wheelchair Tennis included in the National Sports Festival.
“Two weeks after the letter, the Minister has not granted our request which means that he has not seen our letter of apology.
“We know him to be a compassionate father who will have a rethink after seeing our letter of apology. We are very sure that he has not seen it.
“It is on the basis of this that we decided to call this press conference to deliver this public apology to the Hon. Minister.
“We would like to seize this occasion to reiterate that we are very sorry for the protest of October 17 at the National Stadium in Surulere.
“From the bottom of our hearts, we are indeed very, very sorry.
“While we sincerely thank the Minister for accommodating other para and deaf sports in the Festival, we are appealing for Wheelchair Tennis to be accommodated alongside other Para in the festival.
“Wheelchair Tennis is the only Para Sport that is not included in upcoming National Sports Festival.
“We can’t imagine the effect of not having Wheelchair Tennis in the Festival on the players who have been toiling day and night, under the rain and the sun preparing for the festival.
“We beg you Sir in the name of God to have Wheelchair Tennis included in the National Sports Festival because most of the players have no other jobs except Wheelchair Tennis.
“Let me reiterate what we said in the apology letter that Wheelchair Tennis has brought international recognition to Nigeria.
“Apart from several international outings, we were at the London Olympics in 2012.
“In recognition of our status in the world of Wheelchair Tennis, Nigeria has been given the right to host the 2024 Paris Olympics qualifiers next February.
“We really have come a long way in Wheelchair Tennis to be shut out of the National Sports Festival. Hon Minister Sir, please tamper justice with mercy and forgive us,” Shodipo said.
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