BusinessDay

Remembering Fabio, the ‘grandmaster’ sports commentator

Fabio Adeshola Lanipekun, whose success as one of the country’s best sports journalists and/or commentators earned his reputation as the media grandmaster covering many international sports events has died. He was 80.

The accomplished sports journalist died on March 6, just four days after celebrating his 80th birthday.

Fabio, as he was popularly known sprouted into the limelight like the tendril manoeuvring through the hard and harsh path of success.

He was a soccer commentator in the mould of the also legendary soccer commentator, the late Ernest Okonkwo, of blessed memory. He helped revolutionise soccer commentary in Nigeria. His style of commentary brought vivid descriptions of soccer events in a way that gave the soccer fans and listeners the impression they were watching the match live.

Fabio was a very diligent and meticulous broadcaster, that leaves no stone unturned in carrying out his duty. He did his job with such vitality and consuming passion that brings the best out of whatever he did.

He was not just a good broadcaster but was also a good discoverer of soccer talents. A lot of Nigerian players who became great in their careers were earlier on recognised by him as potentially good players, with a great future in the game.

Fabio, who could best be described as an oracle of the industry covered the Nigerian National Sports Festival from 1973 to 1991 and the All Africa Games in 1973, 1978, 1987, 1991, and 1995.

He also covered the Olympic Games in Moscow (1980), Los Angeles (1984), Seoul (1988), and Barcelona, (1992). The doyen of sports journalism in Nigeria was also at the FIFA Championships, Moscow ‘85; Canada ‘87, Saudi Arabia ‘89, and Scotland ‘89, together with three World Cup tournaments in Mexico ‘86, Italy ‘90, and USA ‘94.

The veteran journalist served as the chairman, of the Welfare Committee, Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) in 1975. He was, among others, a member of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the FIFA World Youth Championships held in Nigeria in 1999. He was a founding member of the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN) and the Association of International Sports Press.

Adeshola Lanipekun, who adopted the name Fabio from a novel he read when he was in secondary school, was born on March 2, 1942, in Lagos.

He attended Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Okepopo, Lagos, from 1947 to 1955, and the Methodist Boys High School, Lagos, from 1956 to 1961.

He had his higher education at the Regent Street Polytechnic, London, where he graduated in 1966.

The eminent journalist began his career in 1962 at the now-defunct Daily Express in Lagos. At the Concord Press where he had a stint, he rose to the rank of Group Sports Editor. He was an associate editor, African Observer, London, from 1965 to 1966.

He was one of the pioneering Nigerian media practitioners to train specifically in sports journalism. Fabio joined Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) on February 17, 1969.

On May 18, 1969, he had his first coverage of a football match for the WNTV when he ran commentaries of Ghana versus Nigeria World Cup qualifying match in Accra.

At various times, he served as a reporter for the Daily and Sunday Express; associate editor, African Observer, London; news assistant, BBC world service; and sub-editor, Radio Nigeria.

He became the first sports editor of the Western Nigeria Television and Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service, Ibadan, in 1969. He became the controller of sports, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in 1983 and rose to the position of manager, sports, in 1984. He retired from the station in 1995.

The veteran media practitioner who was regarded by many as a leading light in broadcast reportage and production inspired many people and motivated Nigerians to sports broadcasting and live commentaries in his active years.

Like the nightingale his voice was unmistakable, his passion infectious and his command flawless amongst many followers in the sporting fraternity.

Read also: Building sports career pivotal to youth’s development – Ned Nwoko

Fabio was an associate of the International Sports Press, and Island Club, among others. His hobbies were music and draught. He was the chief executive officer of the Fabio Lanipekun and Associates, and Fabilan Enterprises.

Samuel Ameh, a former sports editor of Champion Newspapers described Fabio as a stickler for excellence and a man that will go out of his way to help others, especially his subordinates and juniors in service.

Mohammed Sanusi, the general secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had this to say about the late broadcaster,

“To read about the death of Mr Fabio Lanipekun, only days after we celebrated him for reaching the landmark 80 years, was a painful thing. It was hard to believe. We all read the history of how he blazed the trail in sports broadcasting starting from his time at the WNTV in Ibadan, and his distinguished and stellar career at the Nigeria Television Authority.

“He was an oracle of the industry. We are consoled by the fact that he lived an exemplary, fruitful and fun-filled life. He was a professional to the core and loved his job deeply.”

Fabio is survived by Mrs. Olaronke Lanipekun, (wife).

Adetomi Lanipekun, Adesola and Olayemi, Adebayo and Oluwatumiminu Bello, Olaoluwa and Omolola Fanu (Children

While David Lanipekun, Olorefeoluwa Bello, Oreoluwakitan Fanu, and Oluwagbemileke Lanipekun are his grand-children.

He was laid to rest on Thursday, April 27, 2022, after a burial service at the City Mission Methodist Church, Masha – Surulere in Lagos State.

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