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Poor corporate presence killing our game, says Akakasiaka, Lasisi

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Akakasiaka

Peter Akakasiaka and Lateef Lasisi were the big names in Nigerian golf at different eras. They were the country’s shining lights, whose dominance of the sport spread to the West Africa sub-region.

They were among the icons inducted into the PGAN Hall of Fame last week in a ceremony that attracted the stakeholders in the sport.

Even though they were celebrated at the event, Akakasiaka and Lasisi were not completely happy because ‘our game was not where it should be.’

Akakasiaka blames the poor state of the country’s economy and the resultant reluctance by corporate bodies to invest in the sport.

He said, “We lack sponsorship to take the game further than it is now. We sometimes have sponsors, who withdraw after a few months.

“In America and other parts of the world, there are sponsors who invest in tournaments 52 weeks of the year.

“During my time, we were going round the world to play because I was lucky to have sponsors that ensured I went to competitions abroad. But today our boys don’t have sponsors and at home there are a few competitions. You play in one today and won’t play again for a long time.

“It is difficult for many golfers to command the type of popularity that attracts sponsors to his game.

“Andrew Odoh, Olapade and a few have sponsors, but there are many others who can do as well these guys, but they don’t have that opportunity to go out.”

Akakasiaka said he had managers, who handled the business side of his game and ensured he participated in tournaments for him because that was how they made their money.

“But we don’t have that type of managers here. Most sports, not only golf, are not developing the way they should.

“Many years ago, people came from all over the world to play at the Ogbe Hard Court, but today that doesn’t happen again. The same has happened to cricket, badminton, squash and others. Nigerian sport is down.”

Akakasiaka said the government could change the situation by encouraging companies to invest in sports through tax waivers. “That is what most countries do to encourage sports development.

“Big companies can put their money into sports and get tax waivers if their claims are verified.”

He also believes the game would come alive again if the PGAN and their partners implemented the entire programme they have marked out.

“They have come with something new for the very first time and I believe in them. I believe in another 10 years we will have somebody better than Tiger Woods. I sincerely believe in that.”

Akakasiaka is currently managing a golf course in Offa, Kwara State.

Lasisi, who is the resident professional at Abeokuta Golf Club, also believes corporate bodies have a big role to play in the development of the game.

He joined in the call on government to change the tax regime as it affects investors in sports, adding, however, that the players must work hard to attract these investors.

“The problem is sponsorship. There is no regular sponsorship at the amateur and professional level and so there is little avenue for the players to grow their game.

“But that should not stop the players from working hard because that is the only way they can survive in this game. You never know who is watching and talking note of the little you are doing.”

Lasisi, who made history in 1995 when he won the Nigeria Open, revealed that he still play the game at the professional level, adding, “I hope tis new arrangement between PGAN and Seven Sports will give us more competitions.”


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