By Saheed Afolabi
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu can be described as someone who touches anything, it turns to gold. Asiwaju a master strategist has touched the sports industry in a gigantic way that will benefit athletes in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not only a philanthropist or specialist in political permutation. Asiwaju singlehandedly also brought international reputation and attention to the sports industry in Nigeria through the governor’s cup which is now known as Lagos open.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu antecedents in sport can be traced back to when he was governor of Lagos State. Asiwaju made history as the first governor to stage a World-class sport tournament in Nigeria which is the Governor’s cup.
The governor’s cup is a tennis competition which is played at the Lagos lawn tennis club yearly since the year 2000.
The governor’s cup now named Lagos Open has attracted international tennis stars to Lagos since it became an International Tennis Federation (ITF) standard tournament.
There was a time during Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu tenure as governor of Lagos state that he had fears about the future of the governor’s cup tennis championship but as a tactical genius, he reiterated commitment to sponsor the International Tennis Federation (ITF) endorsed championship even after leaving office which he has continued to do so for over two decades.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu also noted that he was impressed with the level of success and interest the competition had generated and accumulated in the state and country in general.
Tennis stars outside Africa didn’t participate in the 2014 edition due to the outbreak of Ebola which made the competition less competitive for African players, the ITF also made the competition a non-point winning tournament.
The Governor’s Open resumed back in 2015 and regained its international recognition from ITF.
It was renamed Lagos Open to gain more prestige and accolades from ITF. The competition was renamed Lagos Open from the former name Governor’s Cup Lagos Tennis so that the prestige of the competition can increase from a futures tournament to a Challenger series.
The Lagos Open was accredited by ITF and it runs once a year at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club. The tournament is played on a hard court surface.
There have been nineteen past winners of the Lagos Open and this was made possible by the foresight of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who through tennis placed Nigeria on the World map of the ITF and brought World-class tennis players to the country and also generate income to hoteliers whose hotels the athletes Lodge in whenever the championship start.
The Lagos Open couldn’t hold last year due to the Covid19 pandemic which ravaged the World.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu strategic influence can not also be written off in boxing as he is part and parcel of England based Nigerian Larry Ekundayo exploit in the boxing world.
Larry Ekundayo nicknamed Larry the natural is the present European IBF Welterweight champion.
Larry Ekundayo who handsomely benefitted from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu philanthropist gesture in sport, in an interview with The Punch in 2019 described how Asiwaju sponsored his career in boxing and how the sponsorship was influential in how he became a champion in the European Welterweight division. Ekundayo added that the sponsorship of Asiwaju in his career made him prepare well which made a lot of things easier for him and contributed to his success in boxing and also shaped his career.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has carved a niche for himself as a gigantic sports pillar in Africa.
Asiwaju influence and sponsorship of sport cut across tennis, boxing and football basically the grassroots which is the king of all sport.
The grassroots is the stage where intending athletes are nurtured to be the very best in their respective area of specialization.
The Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu unity cup was put together by the brilliant minds of Abiodun Macaulay, Balogun Babatunde and Fawole Fatai. After many unfruitful attempts to get Asiwaju to sponsor the tournament, the organizers finally got the nod of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (ABAT) cup started during the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.
The ABAT cup is mainly divided into three groups, which is the U13, U15 and the free age category. The competition home ground is the iconic Teslim Balogun stadium in Surulere.
The competition provides talented young lads to display the talents at their disposal to the teeming crowd at the Teslim Balogun stadium in Surulere and the competition gives spectators the chance to watch great, entertaining and fascinating matches at the grassroots from the best clubs in Lagos State.
The Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (ABAT) cup also provide an atmosphere for football scouts and agents in picking the best legs in the competition and provide them greener pastures by signing a professional contract with foreign-based clubs or the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) clubs.
The first edition of the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (ABAT) cup was won by a football giant in Lagos which is a 36 lions football club. They emerged winners in both the U13 and U15 category in 2016.
The second edition of the ABAT cup was a free age one which was competed among the Local Government Area (LGA) and Local Council Development Area (LCDA). Alimosho LGA won the free age category beating Shomolu LGA in the final, while the U13 category was won by Lagos Mainland who beat Ifako ijaiye LCDA in the final.
The Local Government and the Lagos state government parastatals or agency participated in te also a free age and U13 category, the free age category was won by Ojokoro LCDA by defeating Lagos Inland Revenue Services (LIRS) in the final, while the defending champion of U13 category Lagos Mainland LCDA retained their trophy by knocking off Ifelodun LCDA.
ABAT cup 4th edition was won by the highly technical and brilliant side Ghetto Light FC who recently changed their name to Ghetto Tigers, they defeated God’s Word FC in the final of the U13 category while Future Star FC upstaged FC Brave in the final of the free age bracket.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu influence and achievements in sport can also be traced to his former chief of staff and now the minister of youth and sports Mr Sunday Dare who has developed sport throughout the country and has been the best minister of youth and sport in return of civil rule in the country.