The Medicash Liverpool International Tennis Tournament 2012 may be best known for its star line ups and on-court action, but it also has a strong commitment to improving lives through the sport.
The tournament has worked with more than 60,000 youngsters in schools and youth clubs across the region since it began ten years ago, but this summer organisers are setting their sights further than ever before.
Not only will local youngsters get to train with world class American tennis coach Nick Bollettieri during a day event for youngsters on June 20 before the four day main tournament event, this year the tournament is also supporting two of Africa’s biggest rising tennis stars.
Japheth Anwasiba Bagerbaseh 18, and Albert Apreku Arthur, 23, are to play in England for the first time during the tournament – despite the fact that neither of them have ever played on grass before.
Their visit has been co-ordinated by Sam Jalloh, a professional tennis coach and former professional player from Sierra Leone who represented his country in the Davis Cup. Now based in Merseyside, Jalloh devotes much of his time to running sports programmes for underprivileged children in Africa through his charity, The Sam Jalloh Foundation.
He says, “Although both players have already represented their country at an international level in competitions across Africa, this will be the first time they will ever have played in Europe or on a grass court.
“I’m not worried though, they’re both very strong, ambitious players and they’re arriving a few days early to help them acclimatise and find their feet on grass with a few days of practice first.”
He explains: “It’s very difficult for African players to compete at a top level internationally, no matter how talented they are because the funding and support that young athletes get here, simply don’t exist over there.”
“South Sudan is an incredibly poor country, and it’s expensive to travel the world playing on the tennis circuit, so the opportunities for rising stars to play competitions and get their rankings up are few and far between
“It’s something I experienced firsthand during my professional career, and it’s incredibly frustrating to see world champion level talent wasted, which is why I set up the foundation. Part of what we do now, is help to create funding and opportunities to get young African stars like Jeff and Albert into the game at a professional level.”
He adds, “The Liverpool International is a very unique tournament, and it’s great that the organisers are so supportive of nurturing talented players, regardless of their background or circumstances. I don’t know of another European tournament with such an open attitude.”
For more information on the Sam Jalloh Foundation, please visit www.SamJallohSportsFoundation.com