by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa Press Officer
Less than two months to the event, for which the winners will qualify for the respective Men’s and Women’s World Cup tournaments to be held later in the year, Andrew Mudibo, the President of the Kenya Table Tennis Association, is confident that his country is ready to stage one of the continent’s most prestigious events.
“Now 90 per cent of the preparations have already been completed; we remain with just a few loose ends to tie up. The venue that will host the tournament is the Kasarani indoor Gymnasium at the Moi International Sports Stadium in Nairobi; the Kenya Government through our Ministry of Sports is fully committed to staging a strong event, their support in the areas we have requested has materialised, this process is continuous.
Kenyans who you talk to are looking forward to watching the best players in Africa; this is good for us as most of the times it is the strong sports like football, rugby and athletics that draw large crowds. We hope the Kenyan fans will come and be part of the legacy that this tournament will leave behind. The Kenya Table Tennis Association will go all out to publicize the event to the Kenyan public for them to come and enjoy the matches.
We shall also be giving access to schools to bring their students to watch and maybe some of them will pick up the sport and be the next Segun Toriola, Quadri Aruna, Omar Assar or even Olufunke Oshonaike.
As an association, the hosting of the tournament is part of our development strategy that we have been working on. Kenya will continue to hold high profile events, our plan is to grow and tap the raw talent that we have in the country.
The hosting of the event will assist us to amplify the work we are doing at grassroots level. For example we have a project that is called “Let the girls shine” that involves girls from the underprivileged areas of the society. Our target is to get at least 5,000 girls below the age of 12 years playing table tennis. The support that we have so far received from Sports for Tomorrow, TIAS of Japan and also the German Embassy here in Nairobi is quite encouraging, also not forgetting an equipment donation from Ping Sans Frontières and also the philanthropist Jan Berner of Sweden.
We are working round the clock to ensure everything is in place; our target is to make sure we are ready to roll by the second week of February in all areas. Kenya has always hosted successfully major table tennis tournaments in the past. We have always been good hosts and I believe we shall continue to pick up from the previous events that Kenya hosted in the past; this included the World Cup in 1989, the first World Cup to be hosted in Africa for any sport.
When we agreed to host the event our main aim was for this tournament to leave a legacy on which we can build, exposing the game to more Kenyans and the business world, so that we can get the required support to be able to compete with the rest of Africa and, in the not too distant future, the world.
The ITTF and ATTF have provided high class equipment for the tournament and the equipment will remain with us here in Kenya after the event; this support is very good in terms of assisting in the growth of the sport and reaching higher levels. We do really appreciate the assistance.
I have a strong team which I believe in; they have all been working hard to ensure that we give the best. Africa is known for its hospitality and to offer great hospitality then you have to be prepared. The support that I have received not just in Kenya but also from our friends from the other countries has really pushed us forward. We shall know how we did when the event ends on Saturday 3rd Match.
We shall also be having two subsidiary events taking place at the same time. There will be a Media Symposium and Women in Sport Conference. Both of these subsidiary events are part of the legacy that the Africa Continental Cup will leave behind in Kenya; as you can see we are really determined to ensure that table tennis moves a notch higher; this is what we all want, it’s good for the sport.
A good performance by our players at the ITTF Africa Eastern Region Championships in Mauritius has encouraged us. Our players are on the right path and will not be overrun by any of the players who are coming for the tournament.
The message from our players to the rest is for them to come and enjoy playing in Nairobi; let the tournament be a memorable one for all and as we say in Kenya “Tucheze Tebo”, let’s play table tennis.
The Nairobi event must produce African Ambassadors for the game.”