2019 ITTF Africa Cup: Teenage sensation Mati makes Team Nigeria list

2019 ITTF African Cup

Mati Taiwo

African cadet champion, Taiwo Mati is the surprise inclusion in Team Nigeria for the 2019 ITTF Africa Cup serves off on August 3 to 5 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.

Mati, who also emerged as the best male player at the All African Games trials was at the weekend crowned the national U-21 champion, will be making his senior international debut at the continental showpiece which is the qualifying tournament for the 2019 ITTF World Cups.

The five-man team will be led by African champion Aruna Quadri while others are Bode Abiodun, Segun Toriola and Olajide Omotayo.

According to the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), the inclusion of Mati in the team became necessary in order to expose the youngster to international competition tournament at senior level.

The Ondo State-born southpaw believes he has the capacity to step into the shoes of Aruna Quadri, whom he described as a role model to young players in the country.

Quadri as the defending champion of the ITTF Africa Cup will be aiming to retain his title amidst the array of stars coming to Lagos for the three-day tournament. Nigeria as host is expected to present four male and four female players while other participating nations will registered two male and two male for the tournament.

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.

For the female team, Edem Offiong who is the highest ranked Nigeria in the world will lead the team. Others are Germany-based Olufunke Oshonaike, Ajoke Ojomu while national female champion, Fatimo Bello completed the four-man list for women.

Also African women champion, Egypt’s Dina Meshref has expressed her desire to hold on to the title. “I will just try to give my best; I am trying to prepare thoroughly for the competition. Of course it won’t be easy in Lagos. I expect all players to be very well prepared for the event, especially that it’s a few days prior to another important event. I consider all players competing in the event as my potential rivals and strong competitors. It’s actually very exciting to compete in Lagos, as there are always lots of spectators and fans who really admire the sport, it brings the best out of players,” she said.

Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open: Players relish Lagos experience at Nigeria Open

Players relish Lagos experience at Nigeria Open

Molade Okoye Thomas Indoor Sport Hall, Teslim Balogun Stadium Surulele, Lagos

Lagos has registered itself among the cities that is fans’ friendly. The city has now been regarded as the ‘Mecca of table tennis in Africa’ considering its huge fans presence whenever it hosts the annual Seamaster ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open.

A tournament which started as a pilot competition in 2013 has now grown to become one of the pioneer tournaments in the ITTF Challenge Plus.

From the few numbers of countries that featured in the 2014 edition, hundreds of players from 32 national associations are expected to converge in the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria – Lagos for the five-day tournament.

Among the players that had graced the tournament and are still eager to be part of its are Antoine Hachard of France, Mudit Dani of India and Sarah De Nutte of Luxembourg.

For Mudit Dani, the excitement in Lagos is incomparable.

“The crowd at the ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open was the biggest highlight and difference between this event and other ones. Everyone was super energetic. Not only did they support Nigerian players, but it seemed like they came to support the game. It was a truly special feeling to play in Lagos. The crowds, their energy, the atmosphere is electric. It is like no other tournament I have played anywhere in the world and this is the feeling shared by many players who I have spoken to,” said the young Indian.

For Sarah De Nutte, the energy display by the Lagos fans has been awesome. “The atmosphere in Lagos is great; there are not many tournaments with that many spectators like in Lagos. I think it’s so nice to play there because the crowd is always fun and excited to see some table tennis matches and are always cheering the players, no matter where they are from,” said Sarah De Nutte.

Despite confirming his absence at this year’s tournament, Antoine Hachard would forever cherish every moment he spent in Lagos in 2018 as a finalist. “The atmosphere in Lagos was crazy, people are screaming for you, which are unusual and amazing. It is a special atmosphere as the fans are so involved and they want you (player) to fight until the end,” said the Frenchman.

Apart from the fans’ engagement in the sport, the organisations coupled with the Lagos hospitality were the high points for the visitors.

From Mudit Dani, “It is a very well organised event. The hotel and food are good, the hall is nice and always filled with energetic crowds and players are well cared for in terms of transport, lounge and security among others. My experience at the 2018 Nigeria Open was great! The crowd, playing conditions and hospitality were all perfect. Being my first ever senior pro tour event made it even more special. If I had to put it briefly, I hope to be back again this year because it was one of the most memorable weeks of my life,” said Mudit Dani.

African Games Justifies

Ernest Mawutor Quarcoo
Enerst Mawutor Quarcoo - Winner of the Chairmans Cup (Photo - Lord Kinful)

The 12th African Games will take place from 19th to 31st August 2019 in Rabat, Morocco. The African Games serves as a platform for athletes in Africa to compete and win laurels. In readiness towards the African Games, the Ghana Table Tennis Association has started a justify your inclusion tournament of top Table Tennis players in the country. 

The justifies, are in three stages, the group stage, which commenced on 3rd and concluded on 4th July 2019, the round robin stage, which commences from the 10th to 12th of July 2019 and the final stage which would commence from 17th to 18th July 2019.

3rd July saw thirty two male and eighteen female players parade the Hathiramani sports hall for what turned out to be a festival of Table Tennis. Our spot light was on the junior players who participated in the World and African Junior Cadets competition held in the Trust Emporium, in Accra Ghana.

Emmanuel
Emmanuel Ofori - National Under 21 Champion (Photo Lord Kinful)

The national under 21 champion, Emmanuel Ofori was one of the junior players who qualified from the group stages after two days of justifies. He played arguable the point of the justifies thus far when, he dispatched Enerst Mawutor Quarcoo by three games to one (3 : 1), in a match which was characterized by long rallies from both players.

Although both players have qualified for the second stage of the competition, the contest was fierce since the bragging right of who tops the group was ups for grabs.

Matilda Fodu (Photo Lord Kinful)

At the female side of the draw was Matilda Fodu, who also took part in the ITTF World and African Juniors Championships. A heavy underdog, who found herself in a group filled with senior players.

Possessed with the desire to achieve Matilda qualified out of her group as the third best player. The highlight  of her performance was when she defeated Linda Anoh a seasoned contender and a player who has traveled with the national team on several occasion by three games to one (3:1), in a keenly contested match.

The second stage of the justifiers resumes on 10th – July 2019 and concludes on the 12th – July 2019. It’s a round robin stage, which includes the top 16 male and top 9 female players in the country.

Will the status quo remain? Or we are going to see a new set of players don the national colors. The current male national team players who represented Ghana in the Common Wealth Games, made up of Bernad Joe-Sam, Derek Abrefa, Felix Lartey and Emmanuel Asante and the female national team players made of Celia Baah Danso and Cynthia Kwabi have all qualified out of the group stage.

Felix Lartey
Felix Lartey - Member of the National Team (Photo Lord Kinful)

Felix Lartey, has represented Ghana at the international stage, for more than a decade. He is in fine form and still has the hunger to achieve and to don the national colors. A member of the team which won bronze medal in the last African Games hosted in the Congo. The highlight of Felix’s performance was when he defeated his long time friend and team mate Derek Abrefa by three games to zero (3:0) in a contest which saw both players qualify for the next stage of the justifies.

Emmanuel Asante
Emmanuel Asante - Member of the National Team (Photo Lord Kinful)

Emmanuel Asante is relatively new addition to the national team. He was part of the contingent which represented Ghana in the Common Wealth Games held in Gold Coast Australia. He is in the form of his life and determined to maintain his position in the national team. The highlight of his performance was when he defeated Bernard Joe-Sam, in a thriller which saw him win by three games to one (3:1). This performance saw him qualify on top of this group with Bernard coming in second.

Join us at the Hathiramani sports hall on 10th to 12th of July 2019 for the second round of the justifies. The games begins at 10:00 am don’t be late for there are limited seats available.

2019 Seamaster ITTF Challenges Plus: Nigeria Open gets improved prize money

Improved Price Money
Aruna Quadri of Nigeria
As one of the Seamaster ITTF Challenge Plus tournaments in 2019, the prize money for this year’s Nigeria Open has been jerked up to $60,000 (N21m). Also, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has named a three-man referees team for the Africa’s elite championship holding on August 7 to 11 at the Molade Okoya-Thomas Hall of Teslim Balogun Stadium. It would be recalled that the success recorded at previous Nigeria Open promoted the world table tennis ruling body to list the tournament among its Challenge Plus with an improved prize money and global coverage. From the $46,000 (N16.1m), players will now share $60,000 at the five-day championship as total prize money. Winners in the men and women singles will now get $7,000 (N2.45m) each for their efforts. Aside the prize money, there is also an improved ranking point for every player that features in the tournament and this will help to attract top players across the globe. This development has made Nigeria the first African country to stage the ITTF Challenge Plus while Morocco will host one of the ITTF Challenge late this year as well. From the six events, the event has been increased to seven including mixed doubles. Algeria’s Abdallah Boudjahem will head the referee’s team while South Africa’s Rodrique Volkwyn is the Deputy Referee and Nigeria’s John Peters as assistant referee. For the chairman of the Local Organising Committee (LOC), Wahid Oshodi, the management of the global sponsor – Seamaster and ITTF should be commended for considering Nigeria as one of the host of the Challenge Plus due to the excitement that the Nigeria Open continues to attract globally. Prior to the Nigeria Open, Lagos will also be hosting national junior and team championships while the African Club Championships and ITTF African Cup will hold on July 31 to August 5 with the ITTF African Cup serving as the continent’s qualifiers for the 2019 ITTF World Cups in Chengdu, China.

Media Training

Media Training & Internships for Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open

Media Training

The Main Organising Committee (MOC) of the Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open is offering media training and internships for this summer’s event.

Successful candidates will undergo a one-day media training on 30 July before taking part in the five-day tournament to be held in Lagos between 7-11 August 2019.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for aspiring, young media professionals to be trained and gain experience at one of Africa’s elite tournaments.

Candidates

The MOC is looking for candidates, aged 20-30 and residing in Lagos, with a focus on undergraduates and practising young journalists in the fields of media, journalism, broadcast, film or sports management (or equivalent), who have an interest in sports, table tennis and large sporting events.

Candidates must have a good level of English proficiency (spoken and written). Additional languages are a plus.

 For the internship, the selected candidates must feel comfortable completing the following tasks:

  • Interviewing players and taking flash quotes;
  • Writing feature articles;
  • Creation of daily summaries to be sent to fans and media;
  • Organising creative video filming with the players;
  • Assisting with the writing of press releases;
  • Assisting with the running of social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram);
  • Assisting with the creation of media documents in the lead up to the event;
  • Assisting with the management of the media areas such as the mixed zone and press tribune;
  • Monitoring global media activity and providing daily reports.

Application Process

To apply, please send the following:

  • Max. 300 words about yourself and your passion for sport and media.
  • Max. 200 words explaining why you are interested in the media training and internship on offer.
  • Your CV.

The above documents must be signed and stamped by your HOD, then please send to locittfnigeriaopen@gmail.com.

 Deadline

Applications must be sent before 20 July 2019.

Selected candidates will be contacted by email.

 

Table Tennis Festival to Ignite Lagos – Wahid Oshodi

Table Tennis Festival

Wahid Oshodi

The annual Seamaster ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open has continued to attract world class players to the commercial never centre of Nigeria, Lagos in the last five years and this has made the tournament to be regarded as Africa’s elite table tennis championships. With the upgrading of the tournament to Challenge Plus by the world table tennis ruling body, chairman of the Main Organising Committee (MOC) of the tournament, Wahid Oshodi believes the quality of players coming this year would surely ignite the tournament. Particularly, with the hosting of the African Club Championships and Cup alongside the Seamaster ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open, Oshodi says Nigerian fans are in for a super treat.

For Wahid Oshodi, table tennis has made Lagos the ‘official’ home of the sport in Africa particularly with the consistent staging of the Seamaster ITTF Challenge Plus Nigeria Open and this he said would continue to help local players to test their might against the world’s best.

“The knowledge and experience our home-based and young players gain from watching and playing against some of the best players in the world is invaluable. This in part makes up for the fact that our players lack the necessary exposure which comes from travelling and playing on the circuit. We have been seeing the gains of staging the tournament in the good performances of our younger players on the Junior Circuit. We can see players like Olajide Omotayo, Tobi Falana and Nurudeen Hassan who have improved enough to gain entry into the senior national team. Also importantly thousands of passionate fans and recreational players get to see their heroes at close quarters, thus creating one of the most exciting events in our country,” Oshodi said.

The Chairman of the ITTF Nomination Committee however, acknowledged the challenges. “There are various challenges in staging a tournament of this magnitude but some of the most critical include funding and infrastructural challenges. The tournament has grown in leaps and bounds since it was first conceived and that has led to a need for more funding and an upgrade in terms of the size of the hall and other facilities. The number of people working on the event also grows in tandem with the growth in number of the participants. We are very grateful to all the partners who keep supporting the growth of the event,” he added.

For 2019 edition, he said: “”We expect a lot more top players. The tournament is now an ITTF Challenge plus tournament. Lots more prize money $60,000 and the all important increased points which all the players are aiming to get in a bid for Olympic qualification. This year also with three tournaments preceding the Nigeria Open it will be a fantastic festival of top class table tennis. The Nigerian fans are in for a super treat. 
“This year we have the ITTF Africa (Western Region) Singles Championships, the Africa Clubs Championship and the Africa Singles Cup which is a qualifier for the World Cup all coming up before the Nigeria Open. All packed into two weeks. From July 29 to August 11, we are assured of the best players on the continent and top players from all over the World. Omar Assar returns this year to try and claim the title from Aruna Quadri. A lot of sub plots going on. But importantly we have a top level training course for our umpires to be conducted by ITTF”s leading expert which will help improve their knowledge and also a training workshop for our young journalists to better assist them in reporting our sport. It’s a bumper packed fortnight,” Oshodi explained.

Keeping an insight into the pedigree of players expected in 2019, Oshodi said: “From the inquiries we have received so far we are expecting entries from the cream of World Table Tennis. Apart from the top players in Africa, we are expecting players from all over the world.  We had 27 countries last year and we expect to beat that number this year by some margin. A lot of players ranked within the top 50 of World table tennis have indicated their interest. Once the prospectus is released in the next couple of weeks we expect the entries to flow in.” 

Oshodi believes with the present form of African Champion, Aruna Quadri, he has the wherewithal to retain the Nigeria Open title. “Aruna Quadri is getting back into good form after recovering from his hamstring injury which kept him out of the game for a bit. From his latest performances he is in good form and with the Nigerian fans right behind him and all the other Nigerian players he is capable of retaining the title. Last year was a real dream of a tournament for him. It will be tough though with the quality of players expected but you can never rule him out. Aruna is a class act and one of the biggest stars in the world. Playing at home before the ebullient lagos fans you can fancy him against anybody in the world,” Oshodi enthused.