Kehinde Lawal could not believe it when it was announced that he would be going to the United States of America (USA) for further training after he won the boys singles of the maiden edition of Nigerian Champions Given- Back Foundation (NCGB) Tennis Championship held at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, Onikan, Lagos on Sunday.
Lawal beat Hussien Ayoola 10-6, 15-15, 10-4 in the final of the U-14 category of the tournament sponsored by former Nigerian tennis international, Jonathan Igbinovia, who is based in the U.S. Girls singles was won by Ndidi Osaji who defeated her sister Tochi 10-3, 10-3.
Apart from gift of racket and other items, the sponsor of the competition, Jonathan Igbinovia announced a scholarship for the winner to the United States for him to undergo more robust training and exposure in tennis
While announcing the victorious Lawal to the guests at the final ceremony which had in attendance members of the prestigious Lagos Lawn Tennis Club led by its President, Demola Akin-Taylor, Chairman, Lagos State Tennis Association, Tokunbo Agoro and others, the Master of Ceremony had mentioned that 14 years old Lawal is from a poor home, living with her mother, who are both sleeping on the streets of Lagos.
Some of the guests were so moved with the living condition of the boy and her mother. It was at this point that donations continued to pour in with Barrister Kolade Olutekunde promised a room and parlour for the boy so that he would be immediately taking of the street, while the sum of N250, 000 was donated to the boy on the spot.
Lawal, a JSS 2, who has been a ball boy at the club, was so happy and excited with the turn of event in his life with what happened after winning the competition. He gave God the glory and thanked the sponsor of the tournament and all those who made donations to better his life, adding that he would always make her mother happy till rest of his life because she suffered a lot to raise him to where he is today.
His mother, Esther Abidemi, a divorcee said that she and her son has been sleeping on the streets for a very long time after her husband drove her out his home and denied pregnancy that gave birth to Kehinde and hi twin brother
According to her the father divorced her with the excuse that he was not the one responsible for the pregnancy.
“Since then I have been in this struggling, living on the streets with the children after I gave birth to them. The twin brother died because I could not fend for the two of them. I worked as a sweeper with Lagos State Waste Management (LAWMA),” she said.
She expressed her happiness with the humanitarian gestures of the members of Lagos Lawn Tennis Club who upon hearing about the living condition of his son, rallied round to help.
Shina Atitola, who picked Lawal on the streets and introduced him to tennis, was also happy that at last God has answered the prayers of the boy. Atitola, a banker and a farmer who deals with cassava farming and processing, recalled the day he met Lawal a year ago.
“My spirit was just telling me to pick him up, and thank goodness that I did then. I put him in a private school and bought few things for him for his education in the little way I could do. I also hand him over to a coach to help put him through the rudiments of tennis. I am so happy that the assistance paid off today. Kehinde will be the fourth boy under me that would be lucky in their career like this. I am so happy that it is paid to do good and I am fulfilled that I am part of the story of this young boy,” he said.
Sponsor of the competition, Jonathan Igbinovia applauded the performance of Kehinde Lawal for doing his mother proud. He said: “You can see that what we are doing is not fake. You can see a little boy being emotional because of what he is passing through in life and with his performance today, he won for himself a scholarship and many other things to change the living condition of his family.
“There are lot of talents in this country, but the structure to groom these kids to the stardom is what we are lacking. That is what this competition will be doing to give these kids a future. We are given them a platform to showcase their talents and grow to be great someday. I am so sorry for the people taking away from the kids. They are taking something from their future.
“The tournament is phase one of our programme, while phase two is to lay down the structure here in Nigeria where we will continue to groom the kids like Kehinde Lawal and for this champion today, the phase three is when he will travel to the United States for him to face advanced training in the game of tennis,” said Jonathan, Igbinovia a retired Nigerian tennis player who had since ventured into music with a special kind of music called
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