by Simon Daish
Involved in Men’s Singles action at the African Championships, Emmanuel Gboyah has recently been competing at one of the biggest tournaments in the continent and the Sierra Leone representative also holds the honour of having participated at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games in Prune India.
Gboyah, who is an Electronics graduate of Freetown-based Milton Margia College of Education, Science and Technology painted a picture about some of his early table tennis days and just how important the sport is to him, “I love table tennis and it is my passion. In my family, we play football but I decided to embrace table tennis because it is my life.”
“When I started playing the game in my secondary school, we used to play on a concrete floor,” added Gboyah. “Later I suggested to my teacher that we could contract a carpenter to make a wooden table for us which we did and since then, I have taken much interest in the sport.”
While Gboyah admits that football is very much considered to be the number one sport of choice for the people of Sierra Leone, the 24-year-old is also optimistic that the country will learn to embrace table tennis as a major sport in the not too distant future, “In Sierra Leone most people play table tennis for pleasure during their leisure period break and this has not really helped the sport. But since the assumption of office of the new President of Table Tennis, the sport is starting to get a new lease of life.”
Emmanuel Lebbie, the Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Table Tennis Association, is also pushing to see the country succeed on the international stage: while Lebbie believes that a lack of equipment is holding many players back, he is quietly confident of a positive future for the sport in Sierra Leone:
“I can tell you categorically that a lack of equipment has been a major problem for us. For now, we are still using some of the older players because we don’t have the platform to groom new players. But with the planned new sports structure, I believe things will change… We are also hoping that with the planned Olympic Solitary Training put together by the ITTF, that we can have one-month of intensive training to unearth talents in the sport” – Emmanuel Lebbie (Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Table Tennis Association).