Father of two tennis prodigies calling on Qatar to finance their talents
The father of two talented British-born girls is looking for sponsors in Qatar to support their promising tennis careers.
Patrick Manga, a relative of French tennis great Yannick Noah, says he is even willing to relocate to Qatar if Marley, 13, and Lea, 10, get the backing of an organisation willing to bear their training and tournament expenses.
Dubbed “Europe’s Williams sisters” after US greats Serena and Venus, the precocious siblings have taken Britain and France by storm with their stirring performances on the tennis court.
Marley won the British under-11 championship a couple of years ago, while Lea took the under-9 title, but since then the family has shifted to France where their father works two jobs to support them.
“Marley and Lea do get financial support from the French tennis federation but that is not enough for them to play enough tournaments to keep improving their rankings,” Manga, who has twice remortgaged his home to support his daughters, toldGulf Times by phone from France.
“They need to travel all over Europe and play as many tournaments as they can but because of financial constraints it is not possible now,” Manga said.
Manga says he works for a security company which pays him 1,250 euros a month, while his wife is completing her studies.
“I work seven days a week and in the summers I do two jobs to support the family. I have to pay the rent and manage other expenses,” says Manga, a former footballer who played for the semi-professional Hendon FC for two years and trialed for Arsenal before a back injury cut short his career at the age of 22.
“Moving to the Middle East is my dream,” added Manga, who is of Cameroonian descent. “If we get a sponsor there and if we are asked to move there we will love to do so.”
Manga says it was Noah who inspired him to introduce little Marley to tennis after the French great noticed she had a tennis player’s hands when she was only a few months old.
“Yannick took one look at her and remarked she had the hands of a tennis player,” Manga recalled. That was the spur Manga needed. At eight months Marley had learned to catch and by the time she was three years old, she had started hitting sponge balls with a plastic racquet.
The parents then took Marley to the local park (in Sussex), and every time she played with her dad, the court was surrounded by spectators. Someone phoned the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and they came to see Marley. Impressed, they asked her parents to move her to a local club, David Lloyd Leisure, and soon the local newspapers got involved.
She won her first tournament as a four-year-old playing against seven-year-olds. However when Marley was 11, her parents decided to move her to France because of the better system there.
Manga spoke of his frustration with the British tennis body in an interview with London’s Guardian newspaper more than two years ago.
“My girls are English, they are born here, we love the Queen, we love everything in this country, but when it comes to tennis we need a big change,” Manga said
“I don’t want my daughters to just be British No1s, I want them to be in the top five in the world. There’s something wrong here, a big country like England, there’s a question somewhere.”
But Manga told Gulf Times that even what the French federation pays (9,000 euros every year for each girl) is not enough to meet their expenses now.
“Tennis is a terribly expensive sport with a lot of travel involved. It’s time the girls found solid sponsors so that they can live up to their promise.”