Enthusiastic squash fans gathered at the inaugural John Hett Sports Foundation (JHSF) tournament to witness the impressive skills showcased by some of the top-rated players in the country on its opening day. This exciting event commenced on Wednesday at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Surulere, Lagos. The tournament holds the prestigious sanction of both the Professional Squash Association and the World Squash Federation.
Tomi Falase, Chairman of the Lagos State Squash Association, expressed his admiration for the high-quality play and his optimism for the tournament’s continuation in the coming years. He stated, “I’m really impressed; one is never sure what to expect. In a tournament like this, I expect a few upsets here and there, which is good for the development of squash. I’m certain that by tomorrow we’ll even see more impressive games. The organisers have done well. This tournament will actually serve as an opportunity for the players to put their acts together to prepare for the second edition of the Prime Atlantic Squash Tournament. We’re appreciative of all our sponsors in both the private and corporate sectors. 2023 came with a series of changes but we’re grateful that the squash community still stands strong.”
NAN’s reports highlight that in both the male and female categories, the prize money is the same: N400,000 for the overall winner, N200,000 for the runner-up, and N120,000 for the third and fourth-placed competitors. Players who qualify for the Quarter Finals receive N70,000, those in the Round of 16 get N30,000, and in the Round of 32, they earn N20,000 each.
Competing in the men’s category are notable players such as Onaopemipo Adegoke, Gabriel Olufunmilayo, Kehinde Samuel, Abel Shedrack, Faruq Sulaimon, Samson Ashade, Dominion Utukpe, and Temiloluwa Adegoke. Meanwhile, the women’s category features talents like Rophiat AbdulAzeez, Taiwo Ebifemi, Blessing Isaac, Favour Utukpe, Mistura Durosinlorun, Udeme James, Titilayo Akinleye, and Jadesola Olatunji, among others.
Adegoke, the number one ranked male player and recent winner of his first Professional Squash Association (PSA) tournament, breezed into the quarter-finals with a 3-0 victory over Shuaib Giwa in less than 30 minutes. Olorunfunmi and Abudurahman Olanrewaju also advanced to the finals by defeating Idowu Enimakure in 25 minutes, while Fortune La’ah was bested in 17 minutes.
Coach Tinu Adebayo expressed his delight at the players’ performances, particularly the female players, saying, “This has brought back good memories. These girls’ games have improved tremendously. I’m amazed by the crop of players we have now. They have the potential to rule the world. Perhaps they have the right motivation, the fact that both men and women are getting the same prize money may have pushed them. I applaud the organisers for the initiative.”
Yusuf Durosinlorun, the Technical Director of the Nigeria Squash Federation, eagerly anticipates the quarterfinal matches, stating, “I’m looking forward to tomorrow; I know it will be thrilling as well. The quarter-finals will thrill the spectators. Viewers will be treated to the best of squash.”
In the women’s category, AbdulAzeez Mistura, Utukpe, and others have also secured their spots in the next round. Wasiu Bello, the Tournament Director, expressed his satisfaction with the players’ composure during the tournament, saying, “I’m not disappointed with what I’ve seen here today; we wanted players to come out and compete among the best, and they have given us a tremendous show so far. A good match is an unpredictable match, and that was what the players gave their fans. Tomorrow’s match will be even better.”