by Olalekan Okusan and Nathaniel Somuah
The host nation player’s progress to the main draw of the Junior Boys’ Singles category was stalled when Cherif Gbane lost to Ziad Elshawa of Egypt (8-11, 9-11, 9-11) and to his Cote d’Ivoire compatriot Nomel Sie (5-11, 8-11, 8-11).
Out of the main tournament and into the Consolation event it was, but to every opportunity given, Cherif Gbane had to make the best out of it. Three consecutive victories over Jean Pierre Bayala, Emmanuel Beugre and Michel Ange Seri resulted in a podium finish for Cherif Gbane.
Against Jean Pierre Balaya, he won by three games to nil (11-2, 11-5, 11-9), before defeating Emmanuel Beugre (11-7, 6-11, 11-4, 12-10) to set up a final encounter with Michel Ange Seri. It was a final worthy of praise as both players displayed great skill and understanding of the game. Eventually, Cherif Gbane defeated Michel Ange Seri by three games to one (11-8, 11-3, 9-11, 11-9).
“This is my first international competition and it has really helped sharpen me. I would be very grateful if I am given an opportunity to go for an internship in China or any other country with facilities and coaches to develop me into a better player. At the moment I feel very happy because I worked very hard. I studied the shortcomings of my opponents when they were playing their various games and this helped me when I was playing with them. I must say that I am really happy that I won this tournament…”
“… All my opponents were very tough and determined, but I think I was much better concentrated on the game than them. This competition is a good experience for me, and in life you don’t have to give up no matter the difficulties you face in trying to get to the top. These experiences gathered will make me a better player. I have learnt a lot from this tournament. When I watch the Egyptians play, I see that there is a very big gap between my play and how they play. This means that I have to put in a lot more effort to get to the top…”
“… I want to train hard so that one day I can become the best player in my country and Africa. I want to tell all my supporters to keep supporting me and my colleagues. In life, everything is a matter of hard work and dedication. When you are giving the opportunity to showcase your skills and talent, you have to be grateful and not joke with it. I want to dedicate my performance to the people of Cote d’Ivoire, especially our table tennis president for putting this tournament together and making us exhibit our talents. One day, we will bring medals to our nation,” Chérif Gbane.