By Neha Aggarwal
Men’s Team Event
The match went on as everyone was expecting it to be, irrespective of the final results. Everyone knew that the Men’s Team final will be the most thrilling one. And yes, it was. Egypt beat the mighty Nigeria in a nerve wracking final that went on to the deciding match. World number 25 Quadri Aruna showed no mercy as he won both his matches against Egypt’s El-Beiali Mohamed and Omar Assar.
But Segun Toriola, despite putting up a great show bowed down both the times putting Egypt in a dominant position. The third singles match, which is considered the most important one in such close matches, went in favor of Egypt. Saleh Ahmed beat Obiodun Bode in a match that went up to five games (11-8, 11-8, 7-11, 8-11, 11-4).
Post winning the title he said, ” We knew from the start of the match that Segun Toriola is a dangerous player and we planned that we could take the lead 2-1 and hoping that Omar Assar will defeat Quadri Aruna in the fourth game. Unfortunately Omar Assar lost and we were confidence that Mohamed El-Beiali will deliver and I am so happy that he did it for us.”
“This is victory is sweet because that was our main mission in Morocco to reclaim our men’s team title which we lost to Nigeria at the 2015 African Games in Congo Brazzaville. I am so happy that I am part of this team and I will cherish this victory for a long time.” – Saleh Ahmed (EGY)
While at one hand Egypt won the title proving their supremacy, Nigeria, on the other hand, won hearts by giving in their best.
Women’s Team Event
The women’s team from Egypt had a fairly easy outing in the finals as they beat Tunisia in straight games. The team of Dina Meshref, Yousra Helmy and Abdel-Aziz Farah beat Tunisia 3-0 to clinch the women’s team title.
An elated Helmy Yousra said, “I think winning the title this year was a bit easier because of the absence of strong teams like Nigeria and the absence of some of the top players from Congo Brazzaville. Tunisian team was not a pushover because they are the better side in the team event.”
She further continued,
“I feel very proud to be part of this team again to retain the title because in all the matches, I won all my games and my teammates also played well. As a team, it was not easy for us because Nadeen El-Dawlatly was not part of the team because of her knee surgery. We really missed her and I am sure she will be happy that we were able to retain the title despite her absence.”
Three of the top four spots in the mixed doubles was captured by Egypt, as the rankings suggested as well. In the semi finals, the pair of Dina Meshref and Omar Assar from Egypt beat teammates Khalid Assar and Yousra Helmy in 6 games (11-4, 12-10, 8-11, 8-11,11-7, 11-8) to move to the final spot.
In the bottom half, El-Beiali Mohamed and El-Eraky Reem (EGY) were halted by Nigerian pair of Segun Toriola and Olufunke Oshonaike in five games (6-11, 11-13, 7-11, 11-9, 5-11). After their win, Olufunke Oshonaike said, “It was not that easy beating the Egyptians particularly the female player who most times put the ball on the table for us.It was tough but experience saw us through.”
They will now face Dina Meshref and Omar Assar in the finals. Ahead of the match, Olufunke cautioned,
“In the final, we are just going there to win the first title for Nigeria and it will be good that it is going to be Toriola and I that will win be playing and hoping to win the title. But I must also acknowledge the quality of Assar Omar and Meshref Dina as the defending champion and we will surely try our best in the final.”
Will Nigeria be able to win their first title at the 2016 ITTF Africa Championship?