by Ian Marshall Editor (Interviews by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer)
Both outfits have very much star names on whom they will be relying to deliver the goods; for the women it is Egypt’s Dina Meshref, for the men, the name to note is Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna.
However, cast your mind back to Monday 9th April and the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Men’s Team semi-finals; no Quadri Aruna in the line-up, selecting Bode Abiodun, Olajide Omotayo and Segun Toriola a three-two win was recorded against England, who fielded their top trio of Paul Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford and Sam Walker.
The win underlines to overall strength of the Nigerian team. Furthermore, in Mauritius, with Bode Abiodun, Quadri Aruna and Segun Toriola on duty, a most comprehensive three-nil semi-final win was posted against the Algerian outfit comprising Larbi Bouriah, Sami Kherouf and Mohamed Lazazi.
It was a contest that left Sami Kherouf in doubt as to the name of the favourites.
“I think Nigeria will win because they have strong players. Quadri Aruna can win two matches while Toriola can take down Khalid Assar. For me I give it to Nigeria because they are a complete team in this competition.” Sami Kherouf
Nigeria, the top seeds, start as favourites but just as Nigeria posted three-nil wins in every fixture en route to the final, so did Egypt. They select from Youssef Abdel-Aziz, Ahmed Ali Saleh, Khalid Assar, Aly Ghallab and Mohamed El-Beiali.
Also, let us not forget that at 2015 African Championships in Cairo, the player to end the progress of Quadri Aruna in the Men’s Singles event was Mohamed El-Beiali; in Mauritius he is in a confident mood.
“I think tomorrow’s match against Nigeria is a big match and I must admit that it is a 50-50 match, it can go the either way. It is going to be a different match because of the absence of Omar Assar. Even so, I am confident that we can beat them. We will not underestimate the quality of the Nigerian team because they have strong players, a combination of experience and youth but we are going into the match with everything we have and we will try our best to win again this year. I also think the Togo semi-final match was a good test for us ahead of the tie against Nigeria.” Mohamed El-Beiali
Similarly, in the Women’s Team event both Egypt and Nigeria were untroubled on their journey to the final; in particular Farah Abdel-Aziz and Yousra Helmy provided valuable support for Dina Meshref, a player with a debt to settle.
Two years ago in the final of the Women’s Singles event at the 2016 African Championships, Dina Meshref experienced defeat at the hands of Olufunke Oshonaike. She will no doubt lead Nigeria in the final with Offiong Edem also on duty; the question is as to who will complete the line up; will Ajoke Ojumu be preferred to Janet Effiom?
Both finals are scheduled for Wednesday 5th September, the Women’s Team contest at 5.00 pm, the Men’s Team title decider at 7.00 pm.
2018 ITTF African Championships: Newsletter – Monday 3rd September
2018 ITTF African Championships: Newsletter – Tuesday 4th September