Since becoming chairman, Lagos State Judo Association (LSJA), Sheriff Hammed has brought vibrancy to the sport with several initiatives to popularise it in the state.
Under his watch, the LSJA board has been pushing for the growth of judo in Lagos through the ‘Judo that Works’ campaign through which it will host a maiden workshop/clinic for games masters and physical education teachers in schools this month.
Aside that, there are many other projects, which Hammed says, would make Lagos Nigeria’s number one judo hub.
Speaking to The Guardian at the weekend, Hammed said on assumption of office, he set out to have a better understanding of the sport and its current state of development, adding, “We have had various achievements from past chairmen and for me, I believe it is time to build structures that promote a judo with purpose culture.”
He believes there are many opportunities offered by judo to the youths that every responsible leader would want his people to key into.
“My plan is to make judo a household sport, one that every home in Lagos can easily relate with. This can only be achieved by building a judo culture across Lagos. This is my mission.”
Hammed says running Lagos judo has been an interesting experience, adding, “We have worked hard on building relationships with possible partners towards developing the sport.”
The search for partnerships has led Hammed and his team to the Embassy of Japan in Abuja and other organisations, including Kellogg’s. “We are also discussing with Japanese brands in Lagos, as they know what Judo could be for societal development.
“Our interest is to have a team approach to developing judo and this inspired our hosting MTN Nigeria to a judo demonstration at our Rowe Park Dojo in Yaba recently.”
He said the Tokyo 2020 Olympics helped his team’s developmental programmes, including building towards having Lagos judokas at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
According to Hammed, “For judo to work, there are three key components – training venues (dojo), which include the mats (tatami), easy access to judo uniforms (Judogi) and availability of coaches. Without these, it is almost impossible to promote Judo in any society.
“We currently have only two standard dojos in Lagos – Rowe Park Dojo and the one in the National Sports Institute (NIS). Tatami and Judogi are quite expensive, and we have only a few qualified judo coaches available.
“We took advantage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and rode on the event’s popularity to also help people know more about judo. Without awareness, it becomes quite tricky to get the required support to develop the sports.
“I have also worked on seeking collaborations – with visits to the Embassy of Japan in Abuja for support on access to training materials and capacity development for coaches in Lagos while seeking partnerships with companies in telecommunications and nourishment sectors.”
Hammed explained that the Judo that Works” is his association’s campaign towards creating awareness for judo and the possibilities in Lagos State.
“In a simpler way, it is judo with purpose. I believe that offering value through sports is the best way to develop sports in any society. We have three aims through the Judo that Works campaign, which is to use judo to enhance the learning experience of students in Lagos; to make judo available as a recreation experience and to utilise judo as a tool for (youth) development.
“We believe it is in pushing these that we would create opportunities to showcase the values of Judo and also discover talents that can be nurtured towards becoming national and international champions.”
Projecting for the future, he said he wants to build an enduring programme that could be expanded by his successors, adding, “I want judo to become as useful as it is in developed countries like France – which has more active professional judokas than the founding country – Japan.
“Again, it all boils down to the values created through sports development. France has a robust sports development programme that helps to discover, nurture and empower talents and this is also something we want to do in Lagos State.
“We have the best judo dojo in Nigeria, which helped us to produce great judo athletes in the past. The location of this dojo has also made judo very popular around the Yaba axis, and one of our strategies is to build judo dojos through partnerships, across all the regions of Lagos State, as it would help us achieve our campaign aims.”
Another project aimed at developing judo from the grassroots, he said, is the Judo2Schools programme, which mandate is to establish judo clubs in Lagos schools.
“We would also seek collaborations with recreation clubs to set up their judo programme, which would provide them with more sports offerings, especially for their children, where they can learn judo values and participate in a robust experience for physical and mental development. This would help to provide jobs for our athletes that are interested in coaching, beyond their fighting days.”
On the seminar/clinic for teachers and games masters scheduled for September 29 and 30, Hammed said LSJA would be the programme to drive “our Judo that Works campaign, especially in line with enhancing the learning experience of students in Lagos.
“The participants will be introduced to judo, its history and basics as a step towards our Judo2Schools programme. It will help to create the much-needed awareness for judo, which is truly more than a martial art and sport, in Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole.”