The Akpans: Nigeria’s squash brothers


You may have heard of sisters Serena and Venus Williams, who dominated tennis at their peak. In Nigeria, precisely in Alaka Estate, Surulere, Lagos, Elisha and Joshua Akpan are brothers who are writing their own story at another racquet sports, squash.

Elisha (14) and Joshua (13) started playing squash in 2018 and have never looked back; they simply want to play for fun and be the best they can.

The two boys spoke with PUNCH Sports Extra about their love for the sport, highs, lows and their goals.

When asked why they got into the sport, the boys gave simple answers as one would expect from boys so young.

“I just like the game because it’s very interesting,” Elisha said, while Joshua added, “The game is fun.”

Elisha most recently claimed gold at the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo tournament, which took place in Abeokuta from August 9 to 13.

Joshua was champion at the Sports Expo in Kwara State in March and was handed his trophy by the state Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.

Elisha says his happiest moments are when he makes a ‘winner shot’ – a term for shots that athletes hit and don’t come back and is not touched by the opponent.

When I play the ball back to my opponent and they cannot pick it and I get my winner shot; that’s what makes the game interesting and it always makes me happy.”

Although Elisha started training two days before his younger brother, Joshua, he found it more difficult than Joshua did.

“It was not easy. For me it was not easy maybe for him because he’s playing U-13 and I am in U-15, that’s why.”

When asked how often they train, Joshua said, “Now that we’re on holidays, we play (train) from 9am to 4pm on Monday till Saturday.”

For their goals, Elisha said, “My goal is that I should keep on the hard work in squash, that one day I could become a world champion.”

Joshua mirrored his brother’s response saying, “I think I can be a Nigerian champion.”

The kids’ coach Sanni Kabiru, popularly addressed as Coach Ebaa, spoke well of the boys.

The only thing for me to do is to bring them up to the national or to senior level so they can contest with anybody. Once they are coming to training regularly, there’s nothing there.

They are already very experienced and they can contribute more than many other players here. I am also encouraging them to go school and improve on their education,” the coach stated.

Daniel Akpan, the boys’ father, said initially he complained when they showed interest in squash.

“You know when they started, I always complained but when I knew they wanted to do it seriously, I decided to leave them.

“I left them but now I’m afraid because I don’t want their lives to be like mine and I’m very happy with what they’re doing.”

He believes now that they can succeed at the game.

“I believe they can succeed and make it far with squash because that’s their talent and they put their efforts into it. I believe they can go from there and become better.”