by Wade Townsend
Nigeria, a powerhouse of African table tennis, was absent from the ITTF-African Junior & Cadet Championships. Wahid Oshodi, President of Nigeria Table Tennis Federation, expressed his frustration at being unable to attend due to last minute problems with funding.
“I think this sad situation has actually been my lowest point in sports administration in the twenty years I have been involved. To prepare programmes and get the children and the national team coaches working hard for three months and bringing the players to a great condition and then have the rug pulled out from under our feet because of funding issues at the last moment. It is a real blow to our development. A lot of personal and private funds went into our preparations and it all seems a waste now. To explain to these young teenagers that they can’t go to the tournament after all the hard work was really difficult. I have never felt worse. We can only continue to encourage them that there will be other chances in future. I hope this will not push some of them out of the game,” says Oshodi.
With such a missed opportunity to gain experience for the young athletes, Oshodi knows that ensuring the future of the sport means securing funding.
“It’s the funding to continue to expose them to the best coaching, better tournaments and of course to keep them equipped. We must continue to try and find the money to get them playing on the junior professional tour. That is what the best countries do and we can’t do it differently. I thank the good people who continue to assist the players but the government has to find a way to take the lion’s share in funding the junior players and helping the development of the game from the grassroots up. We have the talent and we must now back that talent up with the money to develop it.”
Despite the difficulties, two Nigerian juniors have secured places for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
“It’s a great reward for all the hard work that the table tennis family has put into supporting and developing these young players. It just goes to confirm that the future for table tennis in Nigeria is bright. I am happy for Tosin Oribamise. She has competed well and her talent is not in question. I would like to see her continue to develop and become a fixture in the senior national team. She is a very gifted young lady and she now needs to couple those gifts with hard work and discipline.”
Quotations from www.thecable.ng