It was supposed to be a friendly match between Oyo and Osun States in honour of a former Coach and Sports administrator in Oyo State Sports Council, Mr Tunde Adeleye who just clocked 70 years.
The tension, which characterized the Volleyball duel at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba, Ibadan, yesterday, January 22, 2021, however, almost betrayed the primary purpose of organizing it by a group of Old Oyo Veterans Volleyball Players drawn from Nigeria and in the diaspora.
At a stage, the Chairman of organizing committee, Mr Gbenga Akolade had to leave his seat and moved closer to the players’ bench for close monitoring of the proceedings. Nonetheless, the invited guests relished a relaxed evening and left the sports arena happily after the tight match.
The visiting team took the first set (25-22) while the host replied with 25-17 and 25-15 in that order. Apparently mindful of the implication of losing the fourth set and returning home with a sad tale, the Osun players rose from that disadvantage and equaled the score line with a 29-27 points. At two a piece, the teams entered the fifth set with caution and determination not to waste chances, let alone dropping cheap points to the opponent.
Remarkably, the officiating team was under heat of coaches, especially of the visiting team, who queried points considered controversial. In the end, Osun outscored Oyo with 15-12 and eventually carried the day.
A coach, who declined his name in print, expressed his dismay , saying the Osun team came to the match with mindset to win at all cost. “This match is to catch fun; it is not a competition in the real sense of it. But those people almost turned it to something else. Anyway, it is all over now. We thank them for coming and wish them a safe journey back to their state,” he said.
The Osun team Coach, Mr Lekan Adediran, conversely stated that he did not go into the match to win but to give all his players equal opportunity showcase their talents before the spectators, which, according to him, might include scouts. Though he admitted a certain difference with the official over a point he suspected was not recorded for his team, “we returned to our bench as soon as the point was recorded”. I commend organisers of the match for giving our players another exposure.”
The Chairperson of the Oyo State Volleyball Association, Dr Mope Akin-Taylor also said that the match was a friendly meeting of old friends, appreciating the two teams for featuring in the game. She expressed satisfaction at the outcome and promised that her association would work towards a monthly match for her team to continuously keep them in good shape.
“Although our players lost concentration at a point but I am saying the sky is the beginning for them to grow their careers here. The association has taken note of some things to correct, and we shall do the correction to help these young players,” she noted.
Mr Adeleye was a bit emotional while speaking with The Tabloid.net shortly before he left the premises. He said he was overwhelmed by the special attention which veteran players gave to his birthday, despite that he did not plan an elaborate event. He considered himself lucky to have received such unprecedented recognition, giving kudos to all members of the organizing committee.
“To say the truth is that I was caught unawares by what was put together this evening. My plan was a birthday with my immediate family, and that is all. I did not think what we had today would be done in my honour. It shows my past contributions did not go in vain. I thank the organisers profoundly for this privilege. God will bless them all,” he prayed.
In attendance at the match was the national Under-19 team Coach, Sanni Mohammed, a Nassarawa State-based, who came to watch and pick potential players for the national team. He said the President of Nigerian Volleyball Federation, Engineer Musa Nimrod gave him the directive to attend and commended him for “his genuine commitment to the development of Volleyball in Nigeria.”
“The president has proved to be a unique driver of the federation since he came on board, spending his personal fund on players and coaches. I am here on his bill and very happy I am here because I am able to see few players in both sides. There are talents in every state but there is always paucity of fund to scout for and assemble the talents,” he remarked.
Other dignitaries who watched the match included, the General Manager of Oyo State Sports Council, Mr Gboyega Makinde, Chief Waheed Ekun, Professor Femi Owolabi, Chief Ayo Adewoye, Mr Wasiu Ojuolape and members of the organising committee who later made presentation of a giant portrait to Mr Adeleye.