by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer
The trained electrical engineer was part of the Kenya national team between 1987 to 1996 when he played alongside Mariga Mwanga and Noel Carvalho. Additionally, he was an integral member of the Kenyan outfit at the 1996 Commonwealth Championship held in Nairobi.
Proud to be on duty in Nairobi, Daniel Mwangi believes the efforts made under the leadership of Andrew Mudibo, the President of the Kenya Table Tennis Association, has brought life and interest back to the game.
“When we started playing, there was no encouragement at all. We did not have the opportunity to attend major championships across the globe; table tennis was seen as a lesser sport, so the sport was starved of the needed support. We loved the game, the players were dedicated.
Fortunately, I had the privilege to attend an international tournament in Lagos, Nigeria in 1989 and 1990 known as the Bornvita Cup but when we hosted ITTF World Cup in Nairobi in 1989, it was only Noel Carvalho who represented Kenya in the tournament. Later we had a Chinese coach, Jiang Jialing, who tutored us for two years.
At 23 years of age I made the national team but I never had the opportunity to attend international competitions because of the lack of support the sport was getting from the government. In those days, we were dedicated to the sport, not because of what we could benefit but for the desire to represent Kenya.
After I stopped playing for the national team, I coached in some clubs in Kenya; the present Kenya Table Tennis Association President, Andrew Mudibo was one of my players at the St Theresa’s Club; aside that I also did umpiring which helped me more to understand the rules of the game.
Notably, I visited Nigeria and I saw the way Atanda Musa and Yomi Bankole were playing, I could not sleep throughout that night. I just told myself that I must work hard to be like them. The Nigerian players were inspirations to us because they use to defeat some top players in the world.
Sport has a long lasting impact on any athlete and for me it was playing table tennis, I made friends I could never imagined I would meet; I gained a lot of life experiences which are still part of me till date.
I am surprised with the way Segun Toriola is still playing despite his age. I believe having a good foundation really helped him to still be performing the way he is doing at present. Also for Quadri Aruna and Omar Assar, I am really pleased that despite their rising global profile, they are humble and mix with other players. It shows that African players and table tennis players are indeed role models for the youngsters.
Moreover, I am particularly happy that I am part of this tournament because it has given Kenyan players the chance to rub shoulders with the continent’s best, as well as showcase the country as a sports loving nation.
Also the event has revealed the challenges still being faced by the sport in Kenya. Our players need quality coaching, exposure and incentives to be their best in the sport.
However, I am happy to be part of history. Now 29 year after hosting the 1989 World Cup. Kenya is staging another major tournament.”