Africa’s best player wants to retain ITTF cup

By Anulika Menanya, Lagos

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Nigeria’s top table tennis player Aruna Quadri during the press conference in Lagos.

Nigeria’s top table tennis player Aruna Quadri, will begin his quest to defend the title at the 2019 ITTF Africa Cup on Saturday.

The African champion will lead an array of players from 15 African countries to the three-day event holding at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.

Quadri, who claimed the title from Africa’s No 2 player Omar Assar of Egypt in Mauritius, says “he wants to win to retain the title.”

The 30 year old, who beat Egypt’s Ahmed Saleh to the crown, wants to prove it was not a fluke and promises to give a hundred percent.

Quest begins

Quadri would begin his quest against Bangoura Abdoulaye of Guinea.

“Just like everyone wants to win, I want to win also but the only assurance I can give is that I’m going to be giving my one 100 percent just like I have always been doing whenever I represent Nigeria,” Quadri said at a press briefing in Lagos.

Quadri acknowledges he will face stiff challenges from visiting players but is counting on home support.

He said; “Of course, it is always very difficult to play in front of the home crowd, similarly there is nothing as good as playing in front of home crowd due to their support. Just like we did it together last year, I strongly believe it is very possible to do it.

“There is no strange face coming this time around I know almost all of them just like they know me it is like 50-50 but nothing is for sure but of course I have the better advantage.”

Team Nigeria will be represented by Quadri, Bode Abiodun, Segun Toriola and Olajide Omotayo in the men’s category while the women’s team is led by Edem Offiong, the country’s highest ranked female in the world. The team also has Germany based, Funke Oshonaike, Ajoke Ojomu and Fatimo Bello.

Africa’s top female player

Africa’s best female player, Dina Meshref of Egypt, who is a regular in Lagos and has won the title in the last four years, said she was excited to be back.

“I’m very excited to be here because of the spectators and the very nice atmosphere. I hope I will try my best this year and win some medals,” said the No.58 ranked female player.

Other countries expected in Lagos are; Algeria, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Congo DRC, Ghana, Guinea, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.

Winners in the men and women singles event will represent Africa at the ITTF Men and Women World Cups in China later in the year.

Three in one event

Asides the African Cup, Lagos also held the ITTF Africa Club Championships with the Nigeria Open ITTF Seamaster challenge coming up next week on August 7.

In view of this, the Lagos State Commissioner, Kweku Tandoh, says it is a great privileged for the State to host the events.

He said; “Over the years Lagos state has continued to position itself as a veritable hub for sports in Africa and we want to thank the ITTF and the ATTF for the support that they have been giving us. We also here at the Lagos state sports commission to express our appreciation to his Excellency, Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu, for giving us all the support that we require to ensure that we are able to host this three-in-one event… This is the first time that we will be hosting this back to back event in Africa and for us in the state it is another challenge and opportunity to show that we are indeed the sporting hub of Africa. We welcome all the players that have come for these three events to Lagos State, the officials, the umpires, the ITTF organisers and we want to also enjoin you to also come and visit the sights and sounds of Lagos apart from playing table tennis.”

Mr Tandoh highlighted the benefits of Lagos hosting of the event including improving the tourism sector, capacity building, economic improvement and exposure for young talents.

“Tourism is one of the major benefits of this event and when you talk about tourism you look at it in terms of foreign arrivals to the country and return visits.

“Opportunity for capacity building is another benefit, for the past eight to nine years this started, we have been able to build capacity among the staff of the Lagos State Sports Commission to the extent that organising any international event now is not a strange thing, and they are used to it. We have been able to develop a pool of men and women who are now well versed in putting together and organising such events because of the association with the ITTF Challenge Open,” he stated.

“The economic benefit to the people of Lagos state is also there. We cannot over emphasise this, the local food seller does a little bit more  business during the competition if you look around people are setting up stalls around the stadium and the hotels have more occupants and even transportation is improved. Another is the exposure that the state’s table tennis players will have. The NTTF (Nigeria Table Tennis Federation) always gives us a concession every year to enter at least 20 young tennis players to take part in this event,” he added.

While organisers promised to deliver a wonderful event, the NTTF President, Ishaku Tikon said Nigeria would continue to raise the standard of table tennis with the hosting of other major competitions in Africa.

Tikon said the world now looks toward Nigeria in terms of organisation of world class competitions.

“We will continue to raise the bar as regards table tennis in the country and Africa, Tikon stated.

The ongoing ITTF Africa Club Championships ended on Friday, August 2, after which the Africa Cup started between August 3 and August 5.

The three in one series of events would climax with the Nigeria Open that serves off on August 7 till August 11.

 

Sammie Idika