by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor (Interview: Olalekan Okusan)
It was for Naim Karali, a totally new experience, even though earlier in the year he had finished in runners up position in the Under 21 Men’s Singles event at the 2017 African Under 18 and Under 15 Championships.
“This has been my childhood dream since I was 10 years old that I would play at a World Championships. It was indeed an awesome atmosphere with the setting, coupled with the number of journalists and television cameras all over the place. You cannot compare this experience with any other competition as it is the biggest tournament in table tennis.” Naim Karali
A problem for players in such a daunting atmosphere is to focus on the reason you are there; to win. However, that is easier said than done; the theatre-like presence is quite awesome for a newcomer.
“I am proud representing my country in this big championship particularly considering the quality of players taking part. Now that I had played my first game in the Mixed Doubles event of the tournament, my dream has become a reality and I hope I can qualify from the group in the Men’s Singles.” Naim Karali
A first for Naim Karali, it is a return to action of Islem Laid who has been absent from the international scene since the Rio 2017 Olympic Games African Continental Qualification tournament.
“I am very proud to represent my country again because I worked hard to win my place in the team. Particularly that I am returning to the team for the World Championship, which remains the dream of every player in table tennis. The World Championship is a unique tournament where the world’s best converge. At times you will be training together or eating in the same hall with the likes of Ma Long or Ding Ning. It is not only competing that makes the tournament special for every player, it is the kind of atmosphere and the quality of play that fascinate most of us.” Islem Laid
A special atmosphere, a special occasion; the theme of Thomas Weikert’s speech at the Opening Ceremony one day earlier endorsed, one game, one family.