First Nigerian Tour For 30 Years Is A Huge Success

17/12/19: The first Nigerian players to tour the UK for 30 years spent five days playing Fives and making friends around the country last week.

Originally scheduled to bring two pairs to the London Tournament at the start of the month, a visa delay meant that the group ended up arriving at Heathrow last Wednesday evening. With only two days notice, a programme was hastily put together to try and give the tourists a flavour of Fives in the UK and the opportunity to meet and play with as many different Fives players as possible.

The touring party consisted of Ademisoro Oluwasegun Bode (Secretary General, Fives Federation of Nigeria), Dangaladima Abubakar Aliyu (President, Fives Federation of Nigeria) and three players in their early 20s: Aminu Abubakar, Abubakar Zulyadaini Zaki and Attahiru Bashar Mohammed. After a day visiting the sights of London, there was a huge sigh of relief from the schedule organiser when the group successfully managed to navigate their way to meet the waiting Ralph Morgan and Emily Scoones in the rain and dark outside Highgate Underground station on Thursday evening. Their first experience of British Fives was a rather difficult one, with the wet courts at Highgate making life tricky, but it was important for the success of the trip that the Nigerians got on court somewhere on their first day and Ralph, Emily and the other members of the Highgate Thursday night club did a great job in making them welcome and introducing them to Fives with gloves and a small ball (rather than the tennis ball traditionally used in Nigeria) for the first time.

Friday took them to Eton and a tour of the college in the company of Master-in-Charge of Fives Ralph Oliphant-Callum, former EFA President Dale Vargas and Old Etonian Chris Horne, who spent some time living, working and indeed playing Fives in Nigeria many years ago. There was a trip to see the original court on the outside of Eton chapel, a presentation of "A History of Eton Fives" from its author and the opportunity to play on the Eton courts in the dry and in daylight, with both the EFA ball and a tennis ball, and a first proper indication of the tremendous skills of the three younger players.

By Saturday morning, the visitors were becoming masters of travelling around London to find different sets of Fives courts, even getting to Orpington early (not something many UK Fives players can ever manage) to meet Howard Wiseman, their host for a day of Fives at St.Olave's. After their practice at Eton the day before, the Nigerian players were beginning to hit their stride. Having taken part in a club ladder in the morning, the top Nigerian pair then took on St.Olave's school first pair Isaac Jochim & Prajeeth Sathiamoorthy in a two game contest, with the Nigerians coming from 10-14 down to win 15-14 with the EFA ball and then winning 12-5 "Nigerian style" with bare hands and a tennis ball.

The final day of the tour saw a return trip to Highgate to take part in the Old Citizens "Festive Fives" celebrations. More matches were played, all in the festive spirit, although what the Nigerians made of the Christmas jumpers, santa hats and reindeer antlers being sported by certain players, who knows? The trip was completed with a meal at The Bull in Highgate to end an amazing week. The Nigerian officials described their trip as "memorable" and "a great success" and made a point of saying how much they enjoyed the sense of Fives fraternity and of being made welcome by fellow Fives enthusiasts, something they also felt when travelling around Nigeria to play.

After a thirty year hiatus since the last visits (click HERE and HERE for details), maybe this will mark the start of renewed and closer links between British and Nigerian Fives?

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