by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The performances at the Liebherr 2014 Men’s World Cup in Düsseldorf and at last year’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games stand out; on both occasions he reached the quarter-final stage in two of the most celebrated tournaments on planet earth.
Notably in Düsseldorf he beat Japan’s Kenta Matsudaira, Russia’s Alexander Shibaev and Hong Kong’s Tang Peng before losing to the eventual winner, China’s Zhang Jike. Similarly in Rio de Janeiro, it was the eventual champion who halted progress. After beating Slovakia’s Wang Yang, Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An and Germany’s Timo Boll, he lost to Ma Long, like Zhang Jike from China.
Does that make Quadri Aruna, the best ever Nigerian, the best ever African? Not in his opinion when interviewed by Indian Express.
He believes the accolade belongs to the now 57 year old Atanda Musa.
“I think during the time of Atanda Musa, table tennis became more popular in Africa and Nigeria. He is one of the greatest ever from Nigeria. After his time, the sport did not do well for some time. But the situation is better now. I have won many medals and laurels. But what he did for the sport is unique. For many like me, he was an inspiration. He was there to look up to when nobody knew about table tennis.”. Quadri Aruna
Now the best ever world ranking for Atanda Musa was no.40 in 1981; in that respect he cannot match Quadri Aruna but consider the players he beat.
At the 1981 World Championships in Novi Sad he accounted for Frenchman, Jacques Secretin in the opening round.
However and perhaps there is a parallel to be drawn with Quadri Aruna; Atanda Musa excelled at the Men’s World Cup. In 1984 he accounted for Sweden’s Erik Lindh, in 1985 he put an aspiring young Swede firmly in his place. He beat a certain Jan-Ove Waldner and repeated the feat in the same year at the United States Open. One year later, again on Men’s World Cup duty, he accounted for Croatia’s Dragutin Surbek, in those days representing Yugoslavia.
Furthermore, like Quadri Aruna, Atanda Musa enjoyed Olympic Games success; in 1988 in Seoul when groups of eight players were the order of the day in the first stage, Atanda Musa overcame Croatia’s Zoran Primorac.
The best ever Nigerian, even the best ever African? Atanda Musa or Quadri Aruna?