Ositelu: The Arena bows out
If the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, recall their first visit to Nigeria, they would almost certainly remember the compere at their exhibition game at the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club on November 2, 2012. The compere, Deacon Ayo Ositelu, had displayed a wide knowledge of the sisters at a press conference and during the game that he surprised the American visitors with his knowledge of their history in tennis.
Ositelu, popularly called The Arena, the name of his column in newspapers, was not a man of one sport; he was deeply knowledgeable in many sports. So, when the sad news of his passing hit Nigerians on Thursday morning, no one would deny that Nigerian sports had lost one of the most passionate journalists and administrators in the country.
Deacon Ositelu would have been 70 years on April 6, but his death on January 9 would not only mean his family and friends would miss him, it would also mean Nigerians would be denied of a one-of-a-kind analysis as the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations draws near.
As his wife, Aribike, narrated, the late Ositelu was watching the television around 7.30pm before complaining to her that he was suddenly not feeling well.
“He was not ill prior to that period,” she said. “But we quickly called the family doctor who was waiting for us at the clinic.
“Three doctors were on ground to attend to him when we arrived but despite their efforts to treat him, he gave up the ghost less than 30 minutes of our arrival. They checked his blood pressure in the process but it was normal.”
According to her, Ositelu was not a man given to unnecessary apprehension and was rarely in shock. Even though, being a sport addict as he was, he must have been waiting to watch the Nigeria versus Cape Verde friendly game, the anticipation of the game could hardly have had any effect on his health. He was a journalist that had seen and could predict any last minute drama in any Nigerian team. He was that good!
As a consultant with The Guardian, Ositelu never missed the opportunity to write on the tennis, especially the Grand Slams. But unknown to many, the Deacon was also a boxing addict.
Back in the 1980s, Ositelu presented sports programmes on the Nigeria Television Authority and he did this for years also presenting programmes on tennis.
…Nigeria Olympic Committee in shock
The Nigeria Olympic Committee has expressed deep shock at the death of one of Nigeria’s prolific writers, Deacon Ayo Ositelu.
The news of the flamboyant sports writer and columnist brought chilling silence at the secretariat of the NOC on Thursday.
NOC President Sani Ndanusa, who is also President of Nigeria Tennis Federation, a sport that Ositelu loved and wrote glowingly, broke down in tears; question what could have caused his death.
Ndanusa said, after calming himself, “He was a good man; an honest and gentle man. He loved tennis and gave his all to the sport. May Allah grant him eternal rest.”
NOC Secretary General, Tunde Popoola, was equally shocked at his death. “He was a master in all that he did. We’ll miss him and pray to God to give his family the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss,” Popoola said.